Top 17 Healthcare Careers in 2020 [+Salary & Career Outlook]

If you’re looking for a career field that is driving innovation, is never the same each day and provides stable employment opportunities, look no further than healthcare. Healthcare jobs are widely available and incredibly diverse, with opportunities in everything from dentistry to physical therapy to radiology. If you’re interested in a healthcare career but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve compiled a healthcare career and education guide with 17 of the fastest growing healthcare jobs to consider.

Healthcare Jobs Growth Forecast

There’s no doubt that healthcare jobs are in demand. An aging population that is retiring from the field paired with that same population’s growing need for care is driving this growth. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of healthcare occupations is expected to increase by 14% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. To put that figure into perspective – that 14% in increase equates to approximately 1.9 million new healthcare jobs in the next eight years.

It’s not just the number of healthcare jobs that is growing, either – the compensation and benefits for trained and skilled workers in this field is also typically above average. Additional data from the same Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that people with healthcare careers that require further education or training – such as registered nurses, physicians or dental hygienists – have a median annual salary of about $69,000, much higher than the average salary for all other occupations. In comparison, healthcare workers without advanced education or training, such as home health aides or occupational therapy assistants, make less than the national wage average.

How to Find the Right Healthcare Career

You’re probably wondering how to find a healthcare career that best aligns with your skills, interests and education level. One of the most appealing aspects of working in the medical field is that you can begin your career in one healthcare discipline and transition to other areas as your interests and training evolve over time. It’s not uncommon to see radiology technicians get their master’s degrees and move into health informatics. Sometimes healthcare careers that spend the majority of their time bedside move into administrative, non-patient-facing jobs. Ultimately, to pursue the healthcare career of your dreams, you must first narrow down your interests, and find the right education program to set you up for success.

To help kickstart your job search, here are 17 of the top healthcare jobs to consider:

Top 17 Healthcare Careers

This data is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs List.

  1. Registered Nurse
  • Average Salary: $71,730 – 73,300
  • Job Responsibilities: Registered nurses (RNs) spend most of their time interacting directly with and caring for patients in nearly every healthcare setting. Whether it be a family medical practice or an emergency room, nurses are essential frontline healthcare providers. Some of their many responsibilities include administering medication, monitoring and charting patient vitals, and even performing minor medical procedures.
  • Skills: Required skills will vary from department to department, but all prospective nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which tests a person’s proficiency in all required nursing skills.
  • Education Requirement: Minimum bachelor’s degree required.
  • Career Outlook: Projected 12% job growth by 2028, with approximately 371,500 jobs added in this timeframe.

2. Dentist

  • Average Salary: $151,850 – $159,000
  • Job Responsibilities: You likely already have a firm grasp on what dentists are responsible for – they diagnose and treat many of ailments related to the teeth, gums and related parts of the mouth. Dentists handle anything from fillings to dentures to even pulling teeth.
  • Skills: Robust knowledge of oral health and general medical science. Dentist must also have excellent manual dexterity and skills to work with specialized tools on very small, localized treatment areas. Finally, dentists must have excellent bedside manner, as patient anxieties can be unusually high in the dentist’s office.
  • Education Requirement: Doctoral degree required.
  • Career Outlook: Projected 7% job growth, with approximately 11,600 jobs being added by 2028.

3. Nurse Practitioner

  • Average Salary: $107,030 – $115,800
  • Job Responsibilities: Nurse practitioners do much of the same work as physicians and can even act as primary care providers. They diagnose ailments, perform physical exams, order and analyze labs and can also prescribe medicine. Nurse practitioners can also specialize in particular fields of medicine, such as pediatrics or obstetrics.
  • Skills: Thorough understanding of clinical information and skills, with the ability to diagnose and treat many ailments or conditions. Nurse practitioners must also possess excellent communication skills to be able to work with and treat patients as well as collaborate with colleagues.
  • Education Requirement: Must be a registered nurse then complete a master’s degree.
  • Career Outlook: Anticipated 26% job growth, with more than 62,000 jobs to be added.

4. Physical Therapist

  • Average Salary: $87,930 – $89,440
  • Job Responsibilities: Physical therapists help diagnose, develop treatment plans and ultimately treat physical ailments people develop due to a myriad of issues. Whether it be an athletic injury or recovering from a fall or surgery, physical therapists help treat all forms of physical ailments and work to improve mobility and motor function and decrease pain caused by any type of movement.
  • Skills: Must have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of human anatomy, most specifically the muscular and skeletal systems, as well as the nervous system. Most physical therapists work directly with patients, putting them through exercises and stretching programs to actively treat their issues, so therapists must be able physically able to move and assist patients.
  • Education Requirement: Doctoral or professional degree required.
  • Career Outlook: 22% growth expected, which equates to 54,200 new jobs added by 2028.

5. Physician

  • Average Salary: $194,500 – $208,000
  • Job Responsibilities: Physicians, or doctors as we generally refer to them, are responsible for essentially every aspect of providing healthcare. They see and treat patients with flu-like symptoms or patients with broken bones or patients with skin issues. The title of physician encompasses essentially all doctors, but people usually choose specialties, focusing on everything from cardiology to dermatology to radiology and beyond.
  • Skills: The required skills will be entirely dependent on a physician’s area of focus. A neurosurgeon must have incredible knowledge of the brain and nervous system and be able to diagnose and treat ailments of those systems. On the other hand, an obstetrician must be an expert in pregnancy and delivery.
  • Education Requirement: Doctoral degree required.
  • Career Outlook: By 2028, 55,400 jobs are expected to be added, or a 7% increase.

6. Dental Hygienist

  • Average Salary: $74,820 – 76,220
  • Job Responsibilities: Dental hygienists provide comprehensive, regular oral hygiene treatment and preventative care for patients. They are also trained to find and help diagnose signs of oral disease and assist dentists with certain dental treatments.
  • Skills: Must possess comprehensive clinical skills pertaining to the gums, teeth and other areas of the mouth. Dental hygienists also perform X-rays, oral hygiene procedures and administer anesthetics for extensive dental treatments. Lastly hygienists must have good bedside manner to treat all patients, especially those with anxiety about dental treatment.
  • Education Requirement: Associate degree required.
  • Career Outlook: 11% career growth expected by 2028, which equates to approximately 23,700 new jobs

7. Pharmacist

  • Average Salary: $126,120 – $128,090
  • Job Responsibilities: Pharmacists provide and oversee all aspects of a patient’s use of prescription drug medications. They also check for drug interactions or possible side effects from pre-existing medical conditions. Pharmacists also work closely with doctors and insurance companies to ensure that the proper treatment plan is being carried out and costs are billed through the proper channels.
  • Skills: Pharmacists must have vast knowledge of all prescription drugs, their chemical makeups and how various drugs will interact with each other. Pharmacists also instruct patients on how to take their medicines, how to follow drug safety and can even administer immunizations.
  • Education Requirement: Doctoral or professional degree.
  • Career Outlook: Little change is expected in the pharmacist job market over the next decade.

8. Nursing Assistant

  • Average Salary: $29,640+
  • Job Responsibilities: Nursing assistants provide all aspects of basic care and assist with daily living tasks. Some of the many responsibilities they may encounter include bathing patients, measuring vital signs, serving meals and helping patients dress and move about.
  • Skills: Nursing assistants are on their feet constantly and are frequently helping to move patients, so physical stamina is required. They must also be good communicators, be compassionate caregivers for the sick and elderly and have comprehensive clinical knowledge of the procedures and tasks required by the job.
  • Education Requirement: Typically, nursing assistants must complete a state-sanctioned training program, usually offered by high schools, technical schools, community colleges and hospitals.
  • Career Outlook: More than 137,000 new nursing assistant openings are expected by 2028.

9. Surgeon

  • Average Salary: $208,000+
  • Job Responsibilities: Surgeons diagnose and treat disease, injuries or ailments via operations. While there are general surgeons who can operate on various parts of the body, many surgeons specialize in one specific area of the body.
  • Skills: Surgeons must possess advanced and specialized clinical skills that allow them to operate safely and effectively on the human body. They must have a deep understanding of all systems in the body, and have the manual dexterity and skills to operate on critical areas and in high-stress situations.
  • Education Requirement: Doctoral or professional degree required.
  • Career Outlook: 55,000+ jobs expected to be added by 2028.

10. Radiology Technician

  • Average Salary: $62,280+
  • Job Responsibilities: Radiology technicians perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients, such as X-rays, CT scans and mammograms. They can also assist physicians in reading the results of such diagnostic tests.
  • Skills: Must be able to properly and safely operate a wide variety of radiologic imaging equipment. Radiology techs must also prepare patients and ensure their safety throughout the procedure and keep the equipment in proper working condition. Some radiology techs also assist in the reading of certain diagnostic imaging tests.
  • Education Requirement: Associate degree.
  • Career Outlook: Employment expected to grow 9% by 2028.

11. Medical or Clinical Lab Technologist

  • Average Salary: $53,120
  • Job Responsibilities: Clinical laboratory technologists collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances. They also log and analyze data from these tests, helping to inform a physician’s diagnosis and treatment plans.
  • Skills: Must be trained to safely and cleanly work with and analyze infectious materials, bodily fluids and other substances to determine accurate test results. They must also have excellent analytical skills and knowledge of scientific procedures. Technologists must know how to work with sophisticated laboratory equipment.
  • Education Requirement: Bachelor’s degree minimum.
  • Career Outlook: 11% growth in employment opportunities expected in the next eight years.

12. Phlebotomist

  • Average Salary: $35,510
  • Job Responsibilities: A phlebotomist is a specialized healthcare job – they work strictly with blood, collecting samples for tests, transfusions, blood donations and research.
  • Skills: Phlebotomists must be able to identify veins and areas suitable for a blood draw and then execute the procedure safely and effectively. Many people have a fear of needles or blood, so a calming demeanor and excellent interpersonal skills are both qualities a good phlebotomist should possess.
  • Education Requirement: Postsecondary nondegree award and professional certification.
  • Career Outlook: 23% growth is expected in the field, with some 29,500 jobs likely to be added.

13. Respiratory Therapist

  • Average Salary: $60,280 – $61,330
  • Job Responsibilities: Respiratory therapists are specialty care providers that work directly with patients who have difficulty breathing. The cause of their ailments can vary, from asthma to chronic respiratory disease. In unique cases, respiratory therapists will work with drowning victims or those who have suffered a heart attack.
  • Skills: Respiratory therapists must be able to examine cardiopulmonary symptoms, perform diagnostic tests and consult on treatment plans with physicians. They must also be able to perform a variety of treatments to help improve patients’ breathing and teach patients how to use specific machines and medications intended to improve their condition.
  • Education Requirement: Associate degree minimum.
  • Career Outlook: 21% job growth expected for respiratory therapists.

14. Medical Assistant

  • Average Salary: $34,800+
  • Job Responsibilities: Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, physicians’ offices and other healthcare facilities. Their day-to-day tasks can range from recording patient history and scheduling appointments to measuring vital signs and preparing samples for laboratory tests.
  • Skills: In today’s healthcare field, electronic health records (EHR) are changing the way medical assistants perform their jobs. Therefore, a deep understanding of and certification in EHR is an invaluable job skill. Additional skills include clinical prowess in measuring vital signs and administrative skills for operating computers, inputting data and scheduling.
  • Education Requirement: Postsecondary nondegree award.
  • Career Outlook: Huge growth is expected for this healthcare career – 154,900 new jobs are anticipated by 2028.

15. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer & Cardiovascular Technologists

  • Average Salary: $68,750+
  • Job Responsibilities: Sometimes referred to as diagnostic imaging workers, diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists operate specialized imaging equipment to perform diagnostic tests on various areas of the body. They also prep patients for the test and sometimes consult on results with physicians or surgeons.
  • Skills: Must be able to safely and effectively operate a number of diagnostic and imaging machines, such as echocardiograms, sonograms, ultrasound, electrocardiograms and more. On occasion, diagnostic sonographers and cardiovascular technologists must also be able to perform their imaging tests during a procedure to help physicians or surgeons get a clearer view of an area.
  • Education Requirement: Associate degree, sometimes specialized training.
  • Career Outlook: 14% growth expected in the field by 2028.

16. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

  • Average Salary: $35,400+
  • Job Responsibilities: Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to and provide care in emergency situations. EMTs are also called upon to transport patients to hospitals or other medical facilities, and sometimes even accompany the gravely sick or injured on medflights.
  • Skills: Must possess a broad range of clinical skills to be able to provide life-saving care. EMTs routinely provide first-aid care, treat wounds, resuscitate patients in cardiac arrest, and can even provide emergency medication to those in need.
  • Education Requirement: Postsecondary educational program plus state licensure required.
  • Career Outlook: Nearly 19,000 new EMT positions are expected to be added by 2028.

17. Dental Assistant

  • Average Salary: $40,080+
  • Job Responsibilities: Dental assistants do very similar work to dental hygienists, but they do not perform any oral hygiene procedures. Dental assistants perform a wide array of tasks; they can take X-rays, collect patient data, schedule appointments, sanitize equipment and assist dentist with procedures.
  • Skills: Must have a comprehensive knowledge of proper oral care to educate patients. Must also know how to operate X-ray machinery and other dental equipment. Dental assistants must also know how to work with anxious patients and create a calming environment for those nervous about dental work.
  • Education Requirement: Varies from state to state, some require postsecondary nondegree award and certification, while others only require on-the-job training.
  • Career Outlook: 11% growth expected in this healthcare career field.

Interested in beginning your healthcare career or advancing up the ladder? Unsure where to start? At the University of San Diego, we have a variety of continuing education offerings for healthcare professionals looking to diversify their knowledge and gain certifications. To learn more, please visit our Healthcare Program to explore courses and certificates.Previous


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