If you're seeking job opportunities in a lucrative, rewarding and exponentially growing field, health care may be your answer. The CareerCast Jobs Rated report includes numerous health-care sector careers among its best jobs of 2012, with most ranking in the top 50.
Need more evidence? The Department of Labor (DOL) reports, “Wage and salary employment in the health care industry is projected to increase 27% through 2014, compared with 14% for all industries combined.”
It doesn’t take a comprehensive knowledge of mathematics to see the benefit of joining a workforce expected to grow at almost 100% more than the average rate. It does, however, require specialized education to land a position within some of these fields. Physical therapist, general practice physician and pharmacist, which all rank highly in the new CareerCast report of the 12 best jobs in health care, require a doctoral degree. Others such as occupational therapist call for a Master’s degree.
The No. 1 job in the new CareerCast ranking, however, requires only an Associate’s degree at the entry-level. Dental hygienist is a career field with a considerable median pay of $68,250 per year, and vastly expanding opportunities. Its 38% growth outlook for 2020 makes it one of the most rapidly expanding careers in the nation’s highest growth industry. In fact, with more research linking oral care to serious ailments -- including heart disease -- the dental hygienist’s role is more valuable than ever.
“The No. 1 reason for [becoming] a dental hygienist is the patients,” says Jane, a dental hygienist in New Jersey with over 30 years’ experience. “I have worked in several practices, and at all of them I've built rapport with [patients]. That’s the greatest satisfaction I have taken.”
Jane says the profession appealed to her because it scratched her itch to work in health care. While dental hygienists earn a healthy median pay, Jane says working closely with patients should be your primary motivation.
“Don’t get into it for the money,” she adds. “I have worked with hygienists with [college] degrees who come in and start making what I made with 30 years experience. You have to love what you do…You have to love people and be willing and able to teach them about dental care,” she says.
Physical therapy is another strong health-care specialty with a ranking that attracts dedicated professionals. Helen Kozlowski, a physical therapist at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia, arrived in the United States from Poland after attending medical school there, and sought a profession that would “make me happy.” She says she found it in physical therapy, a field that's expected to grow at an industry-leading pace of 39%, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) credits to the Baby Boomer generation reaching its twilight years.
The opportunity to help patients rehabilitate ensures no two days are identical for Kozlowski, she says, while her greatest challenges are the physical demands of the job. “There are times you must help a stroke patient unable to move,” she says, as an example. “But then again, that [type of work] is for me.”
1. Dental Hygienist
38% (+68,500 positions)
“Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur the demand for preventative dental services, which are often provided by dental hygienists,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says.
Per the American Dental Hygienists' Association, "the number of hours an associate degree in dental hygiene can require is often closer to a baccalaureate degree in another discipline. On average, a dental hygiene education requires 86 credit hours for an associate degree or 122 hours for a baccalaureate degree.
The BLS provides the median salary for a dental hygienist based on 'year-round, full-time employment.' Salaries of dental hygienists are affected by many factors, including geographic location, years of experience and whether they are employed full-time versus part-time. Based on full-time employment, data showed that hygienists with an associate degree typically earned slightly less than those with a baccalaureate. Advanced degrees tend to correlate with higher salaries."