The need for competent healthcare professionals is growing due to the aging population living longer, the increase in childbirths, and the need for qualified individuals to operate the new technologies and devices created to extend peoples’ lives. Here are four viable career paths to consider if you are interested in becoming a healthcare professional.
One of the most in-demand careers in the U.S. is nursing. Registered nurses (RNs) provide patient care, give healthcare and dietary advice, and offer emotional support to patients and their families. RNs are critical members of a healthcare team in that they are the first caregivers to assess patients’ ailments. Nurses assist doctors in hospitals and physicians’ offices and are often the “first responders” at nursing homes and independent living facilities, hospices, schools, and for home healthcare service providers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for registered nurses is expected to grow 23 percent in just two years, which is approximately over 500,000 job openings. As of 2012, the average yearly salary for registered nurses is $65,470.
The aging population, 65 and over, is growing. This field is expected to increase even more as healthcare services and technology continues to improve. In that the aging population is at a greater risk for certain types of disease and injury, more healthcare professionals are needed to effectively care for these patients. Healthcare professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare profession or related discipline and primary care physicians can pursue a Master’s Degree in Gerontology if they are interested in working with the aging population.
In that Gerontology is a specialty degree, very few institutions offer higher degrees to work in this field. Institutions such as the University of Southern California offer online master’s in aging gerontology degrees such as their Master of Aging Services Management and/or a Master of Arts in Gerontology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on average, healthcare professionals take home an additional $10,000 to $20,000 on top of their current salary after receiving a Gerontology degree.
Physical therapists work on all types of patients. When a patient suffers a serious illness or injury, a physical therapist will assess the patient’s needs and create a work-out program to help the patient manage the pain and regain the full use of his or her body. In order to work in this field, you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree or a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree from an accredited institution and pass a licensing exam. Physical therapists average a salary of $76,000 per year.
Orthotics and Prosthetics
Healthcare employees who work in Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) assist patients who have lost limbs to regain their mobility by creating and placing artificial limbs and orthopedic braces onto patients. O&P professionals design, fit, and repair O&P devices as well as coach patients on how to use them. To become an O&P professional, you must earn a Master’s Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics, complete a 1 year residency, and pass a certifying exam before entering the field. O&P professionals average a salary of $62,000 annually, and The U.S. Department of Education considers training O&P professionals a “national priority.”
The healthcare industry is hiring at a rapid pace. By 2018, 3.2 million healthcare jobs in the U.S. are expected to available. If you are interested in pursuing one of these caregiver positions, now is the time to find the college that will set you on your way to a rewarding career path.