Top 50 Healthcare Careers for 2019 and Beyond
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The healthcare sector is booming, due to a growing population that will require increasing care with age. Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—are retiring at rate of thousands per day. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center documents that Millennials (ages 23 to 38) currently make up the largest portion of the U.S. labor force, having surpassed Generation X in 2017. That correlates to about 35 percent of the workforce in the height of the childbearing years.
With large segments of the population entering the elder years and another comprising growing families, health professionals will be in demand to meet these increasing needs. Fortunately, there is no shortage of promising healthcare careers.
List of Top Careers in Healthcare for 2019
- Physical Therapist – Physical therapy tops this health career list because it is a lucrative position with tremendous growth expected in future years. It also offers a relatively flexible and comfortable lifestyle. As of May 2017, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $86,850 and demand for these health professionals is expected to grow by 28 percent in the decade preceding 2026. Unlike some other health professionals, physical therapists are often able to make their own hours, choose their clients, and are more likely to be self-employed.
- Dental Hygienist – Between 2016 and 2026, more than 40,900 new dental hygienist jobs are expected to be available. That represents an impressive growth rate of 20 percent, which is considered much faster than average. Dental hygienists earn a median annual wage of $74,070, and typically hold at least associate’s degrees.
- Physician Assistant – Not to be confused with medical assistants, physician assistants are highly trained health workers with advanced degrees who work closely with medical doctors to diagnose and treat illness. In 2017, the median salary for a physician assistant in the U.S. was $104,860, helping to make this challenging career one of the most lucrative in healthcare.
- Nurse Practitioner – In many states, nurse practitioners are licensed to do much of what physician can do. As the demand for healthcare services increases over the next decade, the demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase 31 percent. With a median salary of $110,930, this career is even more lucrative than that of physician assistants, particularly for in-demand specializations.
- Physician – Becoming a physician carries a great deal of prestige and requires a significant investment of time and financial resources. But the tangible rewards in this field are also pronounced. The median salary for a physician in 2017 was more than $208,000 annually. It should be no surprise that this is among the top healthcare careers available. Please note that most physicians require 11 to 15 years of postsecondary schooling and training, and tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.
- Registered Nurse – As of 2017, there were nearly three million registered nurse jobs in the U.S. and that number is expected to swell 15 percent through the year 2026. Nurses enjoy a median salary of $73,550 for their work providing and coordinating care, as well as educating and supporting patients in their wellness journeys.
- Occupational Therapist – The BLS has noted that demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow “much faster than average” at a rate of 24 percent by the year 2026. This growth coupled with a relatively high median salary of $86,200 per year make this a highly desirable career pursuit. OTs typically have at least a master’s-level of education.
- Home Health Aide – Not every health worker spends every day in a hospital or clinic. Home health aides have the opportunity to assist patients in the comfort of their own homes and while doing so enjoying a wide open employment market with a 41 percent projected growth-rate. Although the salary is just slightly higher than the minimum wage of many states ($11.12 hourly), with 1,208,800 jobs being added by 2026, there are expected to be many opportunities in this field. Highly accessible, the educational requirement for home health aides is a high school diploma or an equivalency exam.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer – Diagnostic medical sonographers get to work closely with physicians but do not require nearly as much training, meaning a faster track to employment. Demand for these professionals is expected to grow 17 percent through 2026, which translates into ample opportunities for graduating students. Sonographers generally have at least an associate’s degree and certification. They earn a median annual salary of $65,620 and work in hospital, laboratory, or medical office settings.
- Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse – It is no secret that the demand for all types of nurses is high, with some even terming the shortage a “crisis.” In response, the demand for licensed practical and vocational nurses is expected to climb, with nearly 88,900 more jobs being added between 2016 and 2026. Working under the supervision of RNs and physicians, LPNs and LVNs provide nursing care to individuals of all ages.
- Physical Therapist Assistant – With a high demand and salary for PTs, it should come as no surprise that physical therapist assistants are not far behind. The median salary for this career comes in at $46,920 and demand is expected to grow by a whopping 30 percent through 2026. Similar to LPNs, PTAs work under the guidance of a physical therapist to assist patients with mobility and pain management.
- Dental Assistant – The field of dentistry is growing and dental assistants are in demand. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $37,630 and have 19 percent expected job-growth between 2016 and 2026. With no graduate degree requirements, this job is a relatively quick way to start working in dentistry.
- Medical Assistant – A medical assistant can work anywhere from a physician’s office to an emergency room, giving this career a lot of variety. More importantly, 183,900 jobs are expected to be added to this profession by 2026, meaning there are plenty of spots to be filled.
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technician – As medical technology expands, the need for trained professionals to use that technology to perform lab tests, interpret the results, and assist in diagnoses, grows. That is why the demand for medical and clinical laboratory technicians is expected to increase by nearly 13 percent in the coming years.
- Pharmacist – While the need for pharmacists is not expected to grow faster than the average across all professions (only 6 percent through 2026), the salary is much higher than most. The median income for this health career is $124,170, making it an attractive opportunity for students willing to pursue an advanced degree.
- Surgeon – A career in surgery is certainly not one to take on lightly. It requires years of schooling as well as specialized training. However, surgeons can expect to earn more than $208,000 per year.
- Radiologic Technologist – Diagnostic imaging techniques such as x-rays have been around for many years, but it is still one of the most effective ways to diagnose certain ailments. Radiologic technologists are expected to be in high demand, with 30,300 expected positions added through 2026. Radiographers also earn a decent living at $60,070 yearly with an associate’s degree.
- Surgical Technologist – While we know that surgeons are well compensated, their assistants, who require much less school and fewer training hours, are also in-demand. The demand for surgical technologists (also known as “operating room technicians”) is expected to grow by at least 12 percent through the year 2026.
- Dentist – With more school required and less job growth expected, dentistry is a bit lower ranked than dental hygienist or dental assistant. However, on average, dentists make an annual salary of $158,120 and may own their dental practices, which makes it relatively flexible for scheduling.
- Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic – The life of an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic is certainly never dull. These life-saving health professionals are also in high demand with more than 37,400 jobs expected to be added through the year 2026. With training required beyond high school (non-degree), EMT and paramedic services may be a good career path for individuals contemplating a career in the medical field or who thrive on adrenaline and helping others in crisis.
- Nursing Assistant – In another instance of nursing skills being in high demand, more than 177,700 new nursing assistant jobs are expected to be added to the field by the year 2026. Nursing assistants also have a range of work environments available to them, including nursing homes, hospitals, and private physicians’ offices.
- Family Physician or General Practitioner – A physician does not have to be highly specialized to be in demand with an enviable salary. Family physicians and general practitioners, many of whom are self employed, can earn an average salary of more than $208,000 per year.
- Speech-language Pathologist – Also known as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists are certainly in demand with an expected growth-rate of 18 percent through 2026. While a master’s degree is required to start this career, speech-language pathologists earn a median annual salary of $76,610 per year.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant – With an expected growth of 28 percent through 2026, occupational therapy assistants are one of the most in demand careers in all of healthcare. Occupational therapy assistants earn a median annual salary of $56,690 and with a minimum requirement of an associate’s degree, this can be an attractive career for anyone seeking relatively quick employment in a helping profession.
- Anesthesiologist – The only physician specialty that is higher paid, on average, than general surgery is anesthesiology. These highly trained physicians earn a median annual salary of $265,990. While the overall demand is less than some other careers, the salary was in important factor in ranking this job.
- Medical Records or Health Information Technician – Not all health professions involve a high degree of patient contact. Medical records and health information technicians work to organize and manage health information data, usually far from patients. The demand for these professionals is expected to grow at least 13 percent through 2026, with 27,800 new jobs being added during that time-span.
- Nurse Anesthetist – Just as anesthesiologists are in high demand and command high salaries, nurse anesthetists are also needed around the country. Nurse anesthetists garner a median salary of $110,930 and require a master’s degree.
- Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician – Another career that specializes in medical imaging is the cardiovascular technologist and technician career. These professionals most often work full-time in hospitals, maintaining and running cardiovascular monitoring equipment. The demand for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is expected to grow 17 percent through 2026.
- Phlebotomist – With an expected growth rate of 25 percent and a median annual salary of $33,670, phlebotomists are situated firmly in the middle section of this list. Although training is generally no more than a postsecondary certification, the somewhat low salary hurts the ranking for this blood-drawing profession.
- Pharmacy Technician – A pharmacy technician is an assistant to a pharmacist with much less training. As the need for prescription medications expands, so too does the demand for this particular career. About 47,600 jobs for pharmacy technicians are expected to be added by 2026.
- Health Technologist or Technician (Other) – The Bureau of Labor Statistics created this category for those technicians not explicitly named in other classifications. An example would be the dialysis technician. The need for these technologists and technicians as a whole is expected to increase 13 percent from 2016 through 2026.
- Massage Therapist – Individuals interested pursuing a health career who want to work for themselves may consider a career in massage therapy, as nearly half of all massage therapists are self-employed. The demand for massage therapists is also high—expecting to increase more than 26 percent by 2026.
- Optometrist – Another career requiring a doctoral degree, optometrists can expect to earn about $100,000 annually. The demand for these specialists is also high, with more than 7,000 jobs expected to be added by 2026. In addition to performing eye exams, optometrists diagnose and treat problems with vision, eye diseases, injuries, and disorders.
- Respiratory Therapist – There is no life without breath, which is why respiratory therapists are so important. To pursue this career, students must earn at least an associate’s degree and can look forward to a median salary of $59,710 per year.
- Veterinary Technologist or Technician – Of course, not all health careers involve taking care of humans. Veterinary technologists care of animal patients of all shapes and sizes and are rewarded for those efforts with a median salary of $33,400. The demand for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow by almost 20 percent by 2026.
- Physical Therapist Aide – A physical therapist aide does work that is slightly different from that of a physical therapist assistant, but the position is still in demand. Through 2026, a 30 percent increase in demand in this particular career is expected, which means more than 42,700 new jobs around the country.
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Scientist – The career of a medical or clinical laboratory scientist can prove a rewarding one. With a 13 percent expected increase in openings by 2026, it’s expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers. These positions pay a median annual salary of $51,770.
- Therapist – The therapists in this BLS category may include music and art therapists, or others that do not fit into another category such as psychologists. This is another job with a great deal of flexibility since more than half of these therapists are self-employed and can still command a median salary of more than $48,000. Minimum education requirements for therapists usually include a master’s degree.
- Dietician or Nutritionist – Working with patients to help them live healthier lives can be extremely rewarding, as any dietitian or nutritionist will know. These professionals have a job that is expecting to see a more than 15 percent increase in demand by 2026.
- Optician, Dispensing – A dispensing optician assists people in finding and fitting eyeglasses and contacts by following the prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists and optometrists. More than 11,000 dispensing optician jobs are expected to be added by 2026.
- Internist, General – A general internist, who may also be known as a doctor of internal medicine, can earn about $200,000 per year with the proper training. The primary role of internal medicine doctors is to provide non-surgical treatment of injuries and diseases of the internal organs of their adult patients.
- Audiologist – Although audiologists do need an advanced degree, they do not require a medical degree. These hearing and balance specialists earn a median salary of $75,920 per year and there is expected to be 21 percent growth nationally in opportunities for these medical professionals between 2016 and 2026.
- Veterinarian – Though veterinarians do not have quite the job outlook of their related technicians, they can expect a higher-than-average salary. The median annual salary for a veterinarian is $90,420 and 19 percent growth is expected through 2026.
- MRI Technologist – MRI Technologists get to work with some of the most sophisticated medical equipment available, alongside physicians, to diagnose and treat patients. With just an Associate’s Degree, new MRI Technologists can enter this well-paid field that is expected to grow by 13 percent by the year 2022.
- Ophthalmic Medical Technician – Another growing job is that of ophthalmic medical technicians. The demand for this specialized career constructing, fitting, and repairing eyeglasses is 13 percent through 2026.
- Radiation Therapist – Working with cancer patients and individuals with other serious illnesses is not easy, but can be very rewarding. Radiation therapists, for their hard work, earn a median salary of $80,570 per year and 2,400 radiation therapy jobs are expected to be added nationally by 2026.
- Pediatrician – Physicians who specialize in working with children can be among the most compassionate individuals. The demand for pediatricians is expected to grow 10 percent, with median salaries of $187,540.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist – Nuclear medicine technologists are one of the highest paying healthcare careers that does not require an advanced degree, although an associate’s degree and 1,300 practice hours are required. Growth for this career is projected to be strong nationally (10 percent by 2026), although jobs are concentrated heavily in certain regions. The median pay for these skilled professionals is $75,660 per year, which is equal to $36.38 per hour in a 40-hour work week.
- Orthotist or Prosthetist – Orthotists and prosthetists, or O&P professionals, design devices that support patients with a medical need, including prosthetics. The demand for these skills is expected to increase by 22 percent, which is much faster than average, through 2026. O&P professionals have master’s degrees and must have completed an internship or residency prior to employment in the field.
- Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a physician who is specially trained to deal with mental and other psychological illnesses. These physicians can command a median salary of more than $216,000.
A number of factors drove the following selection.
Career growth, as predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was taken into consideration, since having a positive employment outlook is an essential component of making a career an attractive path. These measurements included both the projected growth percentage as well as growth in the absolute number of jobs available.
Salary was also a factor, with higher paying jobs getting a boost even if their demand outlook was not as strong.
Flexibility and the return on investment also influenced the selection of careers, although less so than projected career growth and salary. Physical therapy, for instance, affords practitioners the flexibility to determine and adjust their own schedules.
Please note that unless otherwise specified, all BLS career growth figures are projected increases in jobs in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026, and all salary figures are from May 2017—the most recent data available as of January 2019.