By: Gretchen Adams, a regular contributor to The UMA Blog
Healthcare is an essential part of life. Patients need proper care from compassionate people, and healthcare providers need to find the right people to fill those positions.
As people get older, their healthcare needs often increase. This creates a higher demand for all kinds of health-related services. That’s why healthcare is a field with so many career opportunities.
Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that healthcare jobs are expected to increase by 18% from 2016 through 2026. This means that the industry will add about 2.3 million new healthcare jobs.
It’s an exciting time to pursue a career in healthcare. This field will add more employees than any other occupation in the coming years, according to the BLS.
Career growth isn’t the only reason many people work in the healthcare field. It’s also a field that lets you help many people. Healthcare professionals get to make a difference every single time they go to work. It can be a rewarding career path with a sense of personal fulfillment.
This guide can help you navigate through your journey toward a career in healthcare. Learn how to find the right path for you, and the education you’ll need to follow that path. Discover career options and tips for landing a job, as well.
Choosing a career is a major decision that requires thought and planning. Use this guide to help you think through your options and find the career that meet your needs. Once you know what you want to do, this guide offers actionable steps to help you reach those career goals.
Is Healthcare for You?
Start your career path by asking yourself a few questions. Do you want a career that allows you to help others? Are you looking to work in a field with higher than average projected career growth in the coming years? Would you like to choose between a wide variety of career options?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then healthcare could be a good career fit for you.
It can be difficult to know where to start since there are so many types of healthcare careers to choose from. A simple first step is to look at the broad career paths and see which ones fit best with your needs and goals.
Here are a few overviews of the different fields in healthcare:
Allied Healthcare Overview
Allied healthcare is a dynamic field with a lot of career options. Some of the positions involve direct patient care. Other allied health jobs focus on assisting healthcare practitioners and helping medical offices and facilities run smoothly. Still others allow you to work with electronic healthcare records and healthcare technology.
Jobs in allied healthcare can suit a variety of skill sets, since there are so many different paths to choose from. Medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, dental hygienists and home health aides are all examples of allied health careers.
Healthcare Technology Overview
Advances in technology impact the entire medical field. Healthcare lets people build a career around the technology they love. Many people find opportunity to build a career in healthcare technology as a result of technology improvements.
There are positions that focus on healthcare technology systems, while other jobs deal with healthcare technology support. Many positions also work with electronic healthcare records and management systems to help keep patient records accurate and private.
Healthcare Management Overview
Hospitals, healthcare facilities and other medical practices need strong leadership. Consider healthcare management if you’re driven, organized and good at communication.
Healthcare management may include budgeting, creating processes, communicating with leadership teams, managing the healthcare staff and other business-related responsibilities.
Careers in healthcare management include office managers, front desk supervisors, medical records clerks and accounts receivable specialists. There are a variety of leadership positions available in the healthcare management field.
How to Find the Right Career Path
Now that you have a broad overview of the career options in healthcare, it’s time to narrow down your choices. Answer these questions to help point you toward the right career path.
- How long do you want to attend school?
- What kind of salary suits your lifestyle?
- What is the career outlook for your desired position?
These questions can help you find the career option to best meet your needs. This guide uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to explain education requirements, salary information and job outlook projections for different healthcare careers.
You might also want to keep in mind where you intend to live in the future. Some cities may have increased need for certain positions. It can be helpful to know if particular positions are in-demand where you plan to live.
Healthcare Career Options
Deciding your general career path can help you figure out what you want from a healthcare job. Next, you can narrow down the specific career options that meet your needs.
Here are some promising career options in the healthcare field. Use the provided data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the career that matches to what you’re looking for.
Dental assistants do a variety of tasks to help dental practices run smoothly. They may work with patients, help keep office records, and schedule appointments.
A dental assistant is most often a full-time position and takes place in a dentist’s office. Dental assistants may also sometimes work in schools, hospitals, or nursing homes.
As of May 2016, dental assistants earned a median wage of $36,940, or $17.76 per hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Dental Assistants
The BLS estimates that the need for dental assistants will increase by 19% from 2016 to 2026. Research continues to show that oral health is linked to overall health. That’s why the need for preventative dental health services is expected to see continued growth.
In order for dental practices to meet the growing demands, dental assistants are crucial. They work on the tasks necessary to keep the office running so dentists can keep up with a growing number of patients.
Skills Needed for Dental Assistants
According to the BLS,some skills that dental assistants need include:
- Focus on details
- Listening skills
- Ability to work with your hands
- Organization skills
- Good interpersonal abilities
Education Requirements for Dental Assistants
The exact education requirements for dental assistants vary from state to state. However, the BLS states that this position usually requires graduation from an accredited program and for the student to pass an exam.
For some states, it could be a one- or two-year program from a vocational or career training school. Other states may require an associate degree, though this isn’t as common.
Job Options for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants may find work in a specialized position. For example, pediatric dental assistants specialize in working with young patients, while surgical dental assistants assist during dental surgery.
These specialized positions may require additional skills or job experience.
Phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood from patients. This could be for routine tests, medical research, blood transfusions, or blood donations.
Hospitals are the most common place for phlebotomists to work. Other common workplaces include laboratories, doctor’s offices, and blood donor facilities. Phlebotomists often work full-time.
As of May 2017, the median salary for this job was $32,710, or $15.72 an hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Phlebotomists
Bloodwork is a critical part of the healthcare industry. It is used to help diagnose patients and perform crucial medical research.
That demand is why phlebotomists are expected to have a 24% increase in jobs from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Skills Needed for Phlebotomists
Phlebotomists need these skills, according to the BLS:
- Caring toward others
- Strong hand-eye coordination
- Ability to focus on details
Education Requirements for Phlebotomists
Professional certification is often a requirement to work in phlebotomy. Vocational and career training schools, technical schools, and community colleges are popular options for phlebotomy programs.
These programs typically combine work in the classroom with hands-on clinical work. Students can typically complete phlebotomy programs in one year.
Job Options for Phlebotomists
Phlebotomists are sometimes known as phlebotomy technicians. There are leadership positions available in the phlebotomy field, like phlebotomy directors or phlebotomist supervisors. These positions could require additional training or education.
Pharmacy technicians are instrumental to pharmacies. They help patients or medical professionals fill prescriptions and get the medicine they need.
Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies, usually with full-time hours. They could be located in pharmacies and drug stores, retail establishments like grocery stores, or hospitals.
The BLS reports that as of May 2016, this position had a median salary of $30,920, or $14.86 per hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy technicians are expected to see a 12% increase in hiring from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the 7% average job growth that the BLS projects across all occupations.
As people get older, they tend to need more medication. To provide this mediation, pharmacies will need to be well-staffed. That’s why this career field is expected to grow over time.
Skills Needed for Pharmacy Technicians
According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians need the following skills:
- Attention to detail
- Basic math skills
- Good communication
- Organization skills
- Strong customer service
Education Requirements for Pharmacy Technicians
Many states require pharmacy technicians to pass an exam or participate in formal education. Technical or career schools can help students learn the skills they need to become a pharmacy technician.
These programs may be completed in one year, though students can go on to get an associate degree if they choose, which could make them more competitive candidates.
Job Options for Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy technicians could work in retail settings, hospitals, or even mail-order facilities. Though the basic job is the same, there could be varying duties based on the specific workplace.
Nursing assistants help to care for patients. They assist with tasks like checking patients’ vital signs and helping patients stay clean. Different workplaces may offer different responsibilities, like giving patients their medicine and helping them to eat.
Some nursing assistants work in hospitals. Others work in nursing homes or other residential facilities. This is most often a full-time job and may require working nights, weekends, and holidays.
As of May 2016, the BLS reports that nursing assistants made a median of $26,590 a year, or $12.78 per hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Nursing Assistants
Nursing assistants are projected to see an 11% increase in available jobs from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. This increase is due in part to the rising number of baby boomers reaching an age that requires more medical attention.
As more people experience medical issues like dementia or chronic illnesses, they are more likely to need care. This increases the need for nursing assistants.
Skills Needed for Nursing Assistants
Nursing assistants require skills like:
- Strong communication
- Ability to provide compassionate care
- Ongoing patience for the people being cared for
- Ability to handle physical tasks and stay on your feet during your shifts
Education Requirements for Nursing Assistants
Each state has its own specific program requirements and competency exams needed to become a nursing assistant.
These programs are offered at a variety of schools, like high schools, community colleges and vocational and career training schools. Some nursing homes or hospitals may offer their own programs, as well.
Once you’ve completed the state-approved program, you’ll have to pass a competency exam, which usually allows you to be listed on a state registry.
Job Options for Nursing Assistants
Nursing assistants are sometimes known as nursing aides or Certified Nursing Assistants, depending on the state.
You could also become an orderly. This is a similar job, where your responsibilities include helping move patients around the healthcare facility and cleaning medical equipment.
Medical transcriptionists help physicians and other healthcare employees to create reports and medical documents. They listen to recordings and use technology for voice recognition to get the information they need to create their reports.
Most medical transcriptionists work full-time in hospitals or doctor’s offices. However, the BLS reports that one in ten medical transcriptionists worked from home in 2014.
As of May 2016, the median salary for medical transcriptionists was $35,720, or $17.17 per hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical Transcriptionists
Advances in technology have changed the medical transcription field. The number of jobs for medical transcriptionists is expected to decrease by 3% between 2016 and 2026.
To help increase your chance of being hired in this field, the BLS recommends that students go through a formal education program. Job prospects could be better for people with experience and training in quality assessment and electronic health records (EHR).
Skills Needed for Medical Transcriptionists
The primary skills needed for medical transcriptionists include:
- Ability to manage time
- Comfortable using the computer
- Critical thinking abilities
- Good listener and strong at written communication
Education Requirements for Medical Transcriptionists
The BLS maintains that transcriptionists with proper education and training are more likely to be hired. One year certificate programs are available for medical transcriptionists. There are also associate degrees available in this field.
Students can find medical transcriptionist programs at vocational and career training schools, technical schools and community colleges. There are also online programs available.
Job Options for Medical Transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists are sometimes known as healthcare documentation specialists. Since technology has changed the function of the job, you will want to make sure you have the new skills needed.
Electronic health records (EHR) experience is especially important in the current medical landscape. You may need to help create EHR templates or policies for documentation, according to the BLS.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Medical records and health information technicians help keep health data well-organized, accurate, and updated, so doctors can make sound medical decisions and provide informed care. They typically input data and help keep patient records secure, as well.
Medical records and health information technicians often work full-time. They may be employed in a variety of locations, like hospitals, doctor’s offices and nursing homes.
As of May 2016, the median annual salary for medical records and health information technicians was $38,040, or $18.29 per hour. That means half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Health information technicians have a positive job outlook, according to the BLS. This position is expected to see a 13% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026.
Since electronic health records are used in across the healthcare industry, this field is expected to be in-demand for years to come. The BLS states that job prospects are best for people who get certified in health information.
Skills Needed for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
The major skills needed for medical records and health information technicians include:
- Technical and analytical skills
- Personal integrity to handle classified data
- Attention to detail
- Interpersonal abilities
Education Requirements for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Certificate programs or an associate degree are usually required to get a job as a health information technician, according to the BLS. Many jobs require official certification before being hired or shortly after getting a job in this field.
Job Options for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Medical records and health information technicians go by many names. Job titles in this field may include medical records clerk, coder, biller, medical records analyst, and registered health information technician.
If you later want to continue your education, you can work toward a career as a director of medical records.
A medical assistant does a combination of clinical work and administrative tasks. They may work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, or other healthcare facilities.
Their specific job duties depend on the size and specialty of their workplace. They may take patients’ vital signs,schedule patient appointments, assist physicians during patient exams, and record basic patient information.
Medical assistants often work full-time with some weekends, holidays and evenings, because patient care is often needed during these times. As of May 2016, they earned a median annual wage of $31,540, or $15.17 per hour. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants are in the midst of a major employment growth. BLS projections show that medical assistant jobs should increase by 29% from 2016 to 2026.
A rising aging population will create a need for more care. Healthcare facilities will need additional medical assistants in order to care for the increase in patients.
Skills Needed for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants require skills like:
- Attention to detail
- Ability to analyze medical data and code medical records
- Technical ability with instruments needed to take vital signs
- Talent for interacting with people
Education Requirements for Medical Assistants
According to the BLS, most states prefer to hire medical assistants who have completed formal education. There are programs available from vocational schools, technical and career training schools, community colleges, and universities.
There are one- and two-year programs available. Students typically work in the classroom, in laboratories, and in the field under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
Job Options for Medical Assistants
A medical assistant’s workplace helps to determine what their daily job looks like. Medical data assistants focus on appointment setting, data entry, and coding for insurance. Clinical assistants help doctors and work with patients. Some medical assistants have a blend of administrative and clinical responsibilities.
Medical secretaries may work with doctors or medical scientists. They may work on patients’ medical histories or process payments for insurance.
It is often a full-time job. The BLS states that the median annual salary for medical secretaries as of May 2016 was $33,730. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical Secretaries
The continued growth of healthcare needs has made medical secretaries very in-demand. In fact, demand for this career path should increase by 22% from 2016 to 2026 according to the BLS.
As medical facilities receive an influx of aging patients, billing and processing insurance data will be increasingly important. This will assure that medical secretaries are needed for years to come.
Skills Needed for Medical Secretaries
These are some common skills that medical secretaries should have, according to the BLS:
- Good organization skills
- Writing and communication ability
- Capability to handle sensitive information and private data
Education Requirements for Medical Secretaries
According to the BLS, medical secretaries often need formal education to learn the medical terminology and specific skills needed to do their jobs.
Medical secretaries can attend vocational or career training schools or community colleges to get the education they need. Online programs are also available.
Job Options for Medical Secretaries
Medical secretaries who want to advance may consider someday working with healthcare executives. Executive secretary positions may lead to higher pay and increased responsibilities.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians work to collect various medical samples. Depending on their specific job title, medical laboratory technicians may analyze samples from different parts of the body, like tissue, bodily fluids and more.
This is typically a full-time job, according to the BLS. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians often work in hospitals, laboratories, and doctor’s offices. The median annual salary for this position was $61,070, or $24.48 per hour, as of May 2016. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Employment for medical laboratory technicians is expected to see a larger increase than many positions, according to the BLS. This position is expected to see a 12% increase from 2016 to 2026.
Medical laboratory technicians will continue to be in-demand due in part to the aging population and their needs. The BLS explains that due to diseases like diabetes and cancer, lab work will continue to be needed.
Lab work is a crucial part of preventative care, as well as prenatal care, which means that even healthy patients rely on the work of the medical laboratory technicians.
Skills Needed for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Medical laboratory technicians require skills like:
- Comfort with technology
- Ability to focus on every detail
- Stamina to work on your feet for long periods
- Ability to lift things as needed
Education Requirements for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
The education level needed to work in this field depends on the specific job title and responsibilities. For example, medical laboratory technicians often require an associate degree, while medical laboratory technologists may require a bachelor’s’ degree, according to the BLS.
Some states may also require additional certification or licensure to work in this field. The BLS explains that certification is a good idea even if you aren’t in a state where it is a job requirement, since many employers prefer to hire certified technicians.
Job Options for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Medical laboratory technicians are sometimes known as clinical laboratory technicians or medical laboratory scientists. Medical laboratory technologists are also within this field.
There are also some specific job options in this career path. For example, phlebotomy technicians perform bloodwork for research, diagnostic purposes, blood transfusions, or donations. Chemical technicians focus on the chemical side of medicine, working with engineers or chemists.
Cytotechnologists, immunology technologists,and molecular biology technologists are additional career options in this field, according to the BLS, though they typically require a higher level of education.
Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides
Patient care technicians are the positions that work directly with patients, like home health aides. These positions are often full-time, according to the BLS. Home health aides may work directly in people’s homes, or in group settings like assisted living facilities or retirement communities.
Home health aides help people in need with their daily activities. They may work with people with chronic illnesses, disabilities or other forms of impairment. Elderly people may also require the assistance of a home health aide.
Home health aides earned a median wage of $22,600 a year as of May 2016, according to the BLS. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides
Home health aides are expected to see a massive hiring growth in the coming years due to the increased needs of the aging population, according to the BLS. This field is expected to see a 40% increase in jobs between 2016 and 2026.
The BLS says that job prospects for home health aides are “excellent.” There are already many positions available, and the hiring is expected to continue.
Skills Needed for Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides
Since home health aides work so closely with people, there are certain skills that are important to possess:
- Stamina to move patients when necessary and perform other physical tasks
- Ability to pay attention to details and follow specific patient care instructions
- Integrity and the ability to make patients feel comfortable
- Interpersonal skills that help you work with different personality types and various emotional states
Education Requirements for Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides
The BLS explains that home health aides don’t always have particular educational requirements. However, home health aides who are employed with certified agencies often require their employees to have training and take an exam.
If a home health agency gets reimbursed from Medicaid or Medicare, then their employees must get proper training and pass an exam to get certified, according to the BLS. Some states also require specific certification.
Community colleges and career training schools may offer training and certification for home health aides.
Job Options for Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides
The job options for home health aides depend on the needs of the patient. For example, some home health aides may provide basic care while others may have tasks that are specific to the patient, like help with prosthetic limbs.
There may be some home health positions that require additional training for medical equipment that the patient needs, like ventilators for patients who have trouble breathing.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers use imaging technology to capture medical images, run diagnostic tests and analyze the findings.
A majority of diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospital settings, though some may work at doctor’s offices or laboratories. It is typically a full-time position, according to the BLS. Nights and weekends may be required for this job, as hospitals are always open.
The BLS states that the median annual salary of diagnostic medical sonographers was $64,280 as of May 2016. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
There is a projected 26% increase in employment for diagnostic medical sonographers from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. Since medical imaging is such an important diagnostic tool, the employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to continue to grow in the years to come.
Diagnostic medical sonographers with certification may have the best job prospects, according to the BLS. This is especially true for those who get certified in multiple specialties.
Skills Needed for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Skills needed to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer include:
- Ability to focus on tiny details to help during the diagnostic process
- Interpersonal abilities to work with patients
- Hand-eye coordination while using the imaging equipment
- Technical abilities with specialized equipment
- Stamina to work on your feet and move or lift patients when necessary
Education Requirements for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
The BLS explains that formal education is necessary to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Some jobs in this field may require an associate degree or certification.
There are associate and bachelor’s degree programs available for diagnostic medical sonographers. Certification programs are also available in this field.
Employers often have a preference for hiring certified diagnostic medical sonographers, according to the BLS. This is because some insurance companies and Medicare only pay for sonograms that were performed be a certified professional.
Job Options for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
There are a variety of specialties that a diagnostic medical sonographer could choose from, such as abdominal sonographers, breast sonographers, and pediatric sonographers. Each specialty works with a specific area of the body, a specific illness, or a specific patient age.
For example, cardiac sonographers or echocardiographers specialize in imaging a patient’s heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. The images obtained are known as echocardiograms.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers can run entire medical facilities or specific departments within medical facilities. These roles come with a lot of responsibilities, since healthcare regulations and legislation are frequently changing, and medical facilities have to constantly adapt to stay compliant.
Hospitals are the largest employer of medical and health services managers, according to the BLS. Group medical facilities and nursing homes also employ medical and health services managers.
This is typically a full-time position. The BLS also explains that many medical and health services managers work more than 40 hours per week, sometimes over the weekend and during the evening. The median annual salary for this position as of May 2016 was $96,540, or $46.41 per hour. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers are expected to see a 20% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.
The growing demand for this position is thanks in part to the medical needs of the aging population. In particular, employment is expected to grow for medical and health service managers who work for group medical practices, according to the BLS.
The projected career growth in group practices is attributed to the continual improvement in healthcare technology. The advances in healthcare technology have allowed patients to go to doctor’s offices for procedures that used to be done in hospital settings.
Skills Needed for Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers require skills such as:
- Analytical abilities to comply with laws and regulations in the medical field
- Excellent communication to lead the staff and make sure that everyone complies with rules and legislation
- Interpersonal and leadership skills
- Technical abilities and knowledge of the latest medical technologies
Education Requirements for Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers usually require a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. But a master’s degree may be required for some facilities.
Depending on the type of healthcare facility and what state you work in, you may need additional licensure or certification for medical and health service management positions.
Job Options for Medical and Health Services Managers
Other career options in the medical and health services management field include clinical director, health information management director and office manager. There are a lot of opportunities for advancement in this field as well.
Radiologic technicians do diagnostic imaging like x-rays. This job often takes place in hospitals or doctor’s offices. It is most often a full-time position and may require working nights and weekends.
In May 2016, the median annual salary for radiologic technicians was $57,450, or $27.62 per hour, according to the BLS. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Radiologic Technicians
Radiologic technicians are expected to have a 12% growth in employment from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. Since diagnostic testing is such an important part of healthcare, these job are expected to have continual growth.
The BLS explains that radiologic technicians who have certifications in different areas and have graduated from accredited programs could have the most positive career prospects.
Skills Needed for Radiologic Technicians
Some of the skills that radiologic technicians should possess include:
- Ability to work well with patients and other healthcare staff
- Attention to detail during the diagnostic process
- Mathematic skills and technical abilities
- Stamina to work on your feet and lift things when necessary
Education Requirements for Radiologic Technicians
Radiologic technicians often require an associate degree, according to the BLS. Some states may also require certification or licensure for radiologic technicians.
Students who are working to become radiologic technicians study subjects like pathology, anatomy, image evaluation, patient care, and radiation physics and protection. Their coursework takes place in the classroom and in clinical settings.
Job Options for Radiologic Technicians
Radiologic technicians are sometimes known as radiographers or x-ray technicians. There is room to grow in this field to leadership positions like chief technician.
Social and Human Service Assistants
Social and human service assistants help provide support to a number of fields, like rehabilitation, social work, and psychology. Since healthcare and human services are so interconnected, social and human service assistants can get the chance to make a difference in the health and overall well-being of their clients.
They work to help clients receive aid as needed, with everything from navigating Medicaid to finding assistance with daily needs like eating and personal hygiene.
Employees in this field may work for private organizations, nonprofits, government organizations, or healthcare facilities. Social and human service assistants typically work full-time, sometimes on weekends and during the evenings.
The median annual wage for social and human service assistants as of May 2016 was $31,810, or $15.29 per hour, according to the BLS. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Social and Human Service Assistants
The increased need for healthcare in the aging population is one of the reasons why the BLS projects that social and human service assistants will see a 16% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026.
Job prospects are expected to be especially strong for social and human service assistants who have a healthcare degree from an accredited institution, according to the BLS.
Skills Needed for Social and Human Service Assistants
Some of the most important skills needed for social and human service assistants include:
- A compassionate personality in stressful situations
- Strong organization and communication skills
- The ability to solve problems and manage your time
- Interpersonal abilities in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances
Education Requirements for Social and Human Service Assistants
Social and human service assistants have varying educational requirements for employment. The BLS explains that even when a degree isn’t a requirement, a certificate or an associate degree in the subject of human services is common for this position.
Moreover, education can help you get additional responsibilities and may increase your chances for advancement in the field.
Job Options for Social and Human Service Assistants
There are many job titles in the same field as social and human service assistants. According to the BLS, some of these position include:
- Addictions counselor assistant
- Case work aide
- Family service assistant
- Clinical social work aide
- Human service worker
- Social work assistant
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational therapy assistants help patients with the everyday skills they need after an injury, illness, or aging. They sometimes have their own offices, but may also work in hospitals, nursing homes, or other healthcare settings.
This is often a full-time position. As of May 2016, the median yearly salary for occupational therapy assistants was $59,010, or $28.37 per hour, according to the BLS. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Occupational Therapy Assistants
Since the aging population has increased medical needs, occupational therapy assistants are expected to have a 29% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.
The massive hiring growth in this field means that job prospects in this field are very favorable and likely will be for years to come.
Skills Needed for Occupational Therapy Assistants
Occupational therapy assistants require skills like:
- Interpersonal abilities and compassion for patients
- Physical stamina to help patients
- Ability to focus on details and remain flexible with each new patient
Education Requirements for Occupational Therapy Assistants
An associate degree is commonly required for occupational therapy assistants. Community colleges and technical or vocational schools often have programs for occupational therapy.
Hands-on fieldwork may also be required to work as an occupational therapy assistant. You can find this type of experience by looking for a program that offers externship opportunities.
Many states also require you to successfully pass the the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam in order to practice as an occupational therapy assistant, according to the BLS.
Job Options for Occupational Therapy Assistants
Occupational therapy assistants may have the opportunity to advance and become occupational therapists once they earn additional education.
Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. They help patients and doctors by performing a number of services like providing care and education.
Registered nurses typically work full-time in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They often have to be available around the clock when they are on call. Working evenings and weekends is common in this field.
As of May 2016, the median annual salary for registered nurses was $68,450, or $32.91 per hour, according to the BLS. This means that about half of the workers in this occupation earned more, and half earned less.
Career Outlook for Nurses
From 2016 to 2026, registered nurses are expected to see a 15% increase in employment, according to the BLS.
Since nurses are a vital part of most healthcare organizations, the need for this position will likely continue to increase over time.
Skills Needed for Nurses
Registered nurses should have skills like:
- Excellent organization and communication skills
- Ability to be compassionate and emotionally stable
- Stamina and physical strength
- Ability to think critically and focus on details
Education Requirements for Nurses
There are multiple educational paths available to become a registered nurse. There are nursing programs that provide the licenses needed for this position. You could also get an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.
Your education requirements will depend on whether you want to become a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Typically you’ll need to complete one year of schooling to become an LPN. To become an RN, you will need between two and four years of schooling. RNs typically need to complete up to an associate degree, and possibly a bachelor’s degree depending on employer requirements. When deciding what path to take, it’s important to consider that RNs usually have more responsibility and, as a result, higher pay.
In all states and U.S. territories, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN, or the NCLEX-PN for a Licensed Practical Nurse). Depending on your state of residence, there may be other requirements for licensing. For more information on state-specific requirements, you can visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Job Options for Nurses
Registered nurses can work in a number of different specialties. Examples include genetics nurses, rehabilitation nurses, addiction nurses, and critical care nurses.
How to Find the Right School
Once you’ve decided what career you’re working toward, you’re ready to choose the right school. There are plenty of education options that offer healthcare degree programs. Here are some strategies to help you find the right one.
Decide What Type of School to Attend
Your first education decision is what type of school to attend. Check the education requirements for the specific job you are working toward to see if you need an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.
After you determine the degree you need, you can decide the right place to get your degree. Community college or a career training school could work for an associate degree. A traditional four-year college or university could work for a bachelor’s degree. Online education options could work for any degree level, depending on the program. There are also career schools with articulation agreements that allow you to move into four-year colleges and universities once you earn your associate degree.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of school.
Community College Pros and Cons
Pros of getting a healthcare degree from a community college include:
- Often offer options for associate degrees and certificate programs
- Classes can be more affordable than traditional colleges
- Community colleges often offer evening and weekend options
Cons of getting a healthcare degree from community college include:
- There may not be as many class options
- Scheduling can be difficult for students who work full-time or have family obligations
Traditional College or University Pros and Cons
Pros of getting a healthcare degree from a traditional college or university include:
- Often offer options for bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree programs
- A wide variety of class options
- Housing and on-campus resources are often available
Cons of getting a healthcare degree from a traditional college or university include:
- Traditional colleges and universities are often more expensive than other education options
- Scheduling can be difficult for students who work full-time and have other obligations while going to school
Career Training School Pros and Cons
Pros of getting a healthcare degree from a career training school college include:
- Often offer options for associate degrees and certificate programs
- Classes can be more affordable than traditional colleges
- Career training schools colleges often offer flexible class options that are well-suited for students who work full-time and have family obligations
Cons of getting a healthcare degree from a vocational/technical include:
- Career training schools don’t offer on-campus communities, but may provide access to an active online community
- There may not be as many class options, but may instead focus on specialized classes within a specific discipline
Online Education Pros and Cons
Pros of getting a healthcare degree from an online education provider include:
- Typically offer a variety of program options
- Offer access to various degrees, either directly or through articulation agreement
- Classes can be more affordable than traditional colleges
- Online education is on your own schedule, making it a flexible option for students who work full-time and have family obligations
Cons of getting a healthcare degree from an online education provider include:
- Students work in an online classroom instead of a traditional classroom experience
- May take some adjustment for students who are used to in-person instruction
Getting Into School
So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons of the various education options. You’ve made the decision about which is right for you. You know the career you’re striving for, and you’ve found a program that offers it. Now it’s time to make sure that you can get into the school of your choice.
Admission requirements vary based on the type of school or specific program. The higher the degree, the more strict the requirements may be.
For example, if you’re applying for a master’s degree program, you would often need a bachelor’s degree. There may be specific test scores needed for graduate education, as well.
However, if you’re applying for an associate degree or a certificate program, the requirements usually aren’t as strict. A high school degree or equivalent often qualifies you for admission into these programs.
Even students who don’t have a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certificate can often find a school that will help them succeed. There may be an opportunity to attend high school classes online, or take a test equals a high school diploma.
Keep in mind is that there are schools out there designed to help students find success. So even if you don’t meet the application requirements for a traditional bachelor’s degree program, you can still find a healthcare program for your needs.
Succeeding in School
Once you get into a school, you’re officially on the path to a healthcare career. It’s exciting!
To make sure you get the degree you need for the career you’re working toward, success in school is a must. But if you haven’t been in school for a while, you may not know what to expect.
That’s okay. There are plenty of resources available to help you succeed in school.
To start, bookmark these blog posts to help you with everything from studying to managing online classes:
- 4 Ways to Improve Your Study Habits
- Give Yourself an Advantage With This Study Tip
- Forgetting an Exam: Study Tips in a Time Crunch
- Taking an Online Course? You’ll Need These 5 Beginner Tips
- 4 Tips for Talking to Online Instructors
Organization and time management can make it much easier to get your classwork and homework done. But if you need extra help, your school may have some resources to help you.
Look for a School That Offers Support
Keep in mind that some schools offer in-depth resources to help their students succeed. Ideally, you want a school that invests in your success and is willing to offer help to make sure you meet your goals.
Find out if there is a dedicated student success team at your school. Some things to look for include:
- Homework help
- Access to online education resources like eBooks, medical journals, and reference articles
- Learning labs to help you understand the course material
- Exam preparation
Success is more than just doing well in class. Sometimes life will challenge you in ways that may impact your education. Maybe you’re having a hard time balancing school and work. It could be that family problems or health issues are getting in your way.
No matter what the issue is, try to find a school that is dedicated to helping you get through it. Some schools offer student services to help guide you through any problem that comes up.
These student services can make a big difference in your education experience. School can be a lot less stressful when you know that there is a team available to help you.
Getting a Job
So, you’ve decided to work toward a job in healthcare, and you’re pursuing the right educational opportunity for you. Once you earn your degree, you’ll be in a good position to begin your job search.
Here are some things to work on before you apply for a job:
- A cover letter and résumé personalized toward the job you’re applying for
- Interview preparation
- Wardrobe choices for your job interview
Some schools will help you with everything you need to prepare for the job application process, the interview, and even the first 30 days on the job. Check with your school’s career services department to see how they can help you.
Mock interviews can be especially helpful. Job interviews are often nerve wracking enough, and you don’t want your first experience to be when the job is on the line.
Practice interviews allow you to learn to work through your nerves. Through these practice sessions, you can begin to understand the sorts of questions that the interviewer may ask you—and how you should answer them.
Job search guidance is also important, because there are a lot of things that you may not even think about when it comes to finding a job. Body language is one example. Your body can give nonverbal signs to interviewers. How do you make sure you’re giving the right signals?
Bookmark these blog posts for job search advice on body language, interviewing and more:
- 10 Ways To Stay Positive During The Job Search
- 5 Body Language Tricks To Land You The Job
- How to Score Your First Job in a New Industry
- How to Use Storytelling to Have Better Interviews
- How To Connect With More People Who Could Hire You
Graduation is the only the beginning. Get ready to go out there and find the job you’ve been working toward. Keep this guide handy to help you every step of the way, and contact your school if you have any questions or need any assistance. Good luck!
The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.
The UMA Blog covers information and advice for employers and workers at the intersection of healthcare, education and employment. Our contributors are intimately familiar with a wide range of subjects covering professional development, career advancement, workplace politics, healthcare industry specific topics, personal finance, education and so much more. Learn what you need to get ahead and stay ahead.