Within the field of health professions, students can find a number of majors and hundreds of related careers. What majors are hot? What careers can make you the most money and how much education is required?
Majors include everything from nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, alternative medicine and even veterinary medicine. The good news is that the healthcare industry is still growing faster than many other industries. As the population ages, additional healthcare professionals will be needed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 3.6 million health related positions will added between 2014 and 2024.
Of the top 15 fastest growing occupations from 2014-2014 across all occupations, nine of them are health related professions. These include occupational therapy aides and assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, ambulance drivers and attendants and home health aides.
Let’s take a closer look some of the fastest growing positions within healthcare.
Occupational and Physical Therapy
Occupational therapist aides and assistants work with patients and physical therapists to help patients recover and improve skills needed for everyday activities after an illness or disability. Assistants typically need an associate’s degree from a technical or vocational school while aides need a high school diploma or equivalent.
About 4,000 students graduate from occupational\therapeutic related majors each year. With low competition and high growth, salaries will likely increase. Today, an average mid-career salary for an occupational therapy assistant earns about $52,000. Physical therapists earn an average mid-career salary of $82,000 and requires a formal doctoral degree.
Although nursing is one of the most popular majors within the health profession field with about 130,000 graduates each year, job growth for these positions is still high – at about 16% from 2014-2024.
Nurses provide patient care and support in hospitals and clinics. Nursing requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Early career salaries can be good – about $53,000 with an average mid-career salary of $70,000.
Nurse practitioners are sometimes referred to as “advanced practice registered nurses”. These professionals coordinate and provide primary and specialty healthcare for their patients going above and beyond what a RN does. Nurse practitioners require a master’s degree and typically require a bachelor’s degree in nursing first. The extra time in school can be worth it as nurse practitioners have an average mid-career salary of $102,000 per year.
Speech Language Pathologists
Our last spotlight is on speech language pathologists. Speech therapists help patients diagnose, treat and prevent communication disorders. With 21% growth between 2014 and 2024, speech therapy is a hot career. With an aging population, additional speech therapists will be needed to help patients suffering from stroke and hearing loss. Speech therapists need a master’s degree and are typically licensed in the state they practice in. Average mid-career salaries for speech therapists is about $71,000 per year.
The Best Pay
The highest paid careers in health care are the ones you would expect – physicians and surgeons come out on top with an average pay of $187,000 per year. Dentists, Pharmacists, Podiatrists, Nurse Practitioners and Optometrists round out those earning six-figures mid-career. All of these careers, with the exception of pharmacists, are expected to grow 15-20% between 2014 and 2024. Be wary of going into pharmacology as expected growth is only 3% until 2024. Keep in mind all of these specialties typically require both bachelors and masters or doctoral degrees.
Where to Get Your Degree
Check out the ranking here to discover schools that rank highly when it comes to bachelor's degrees in the health professions.
Note that this is a ranking of schools for Health Professions as a field of study. Each individual major within the field may have a different ranking. To learn more about the individual majors offered within this field, see this resource.
Read more about the methodology behind this ranking here.
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