With an aging baby boomer population, it should come as no surprise that seven of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are healthcare related. In fact, three of every 10 new jobs created in the U.S. economy by 2014 will be in healthcare services. But even in the promising healthcare field, there are a few key careers that really stand out.
Job Duties: Distribute prescribed drugs, advise patients on medications, and monitor patient health and progress.
Required Education: A Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy. This four-year programs requires two years of postsecondary study for admission, along with a good score on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
Pay: Median annual salary of $94,520
2. Physical Therapist Assistant
Job Duties: Assist physical therapists by providing patient treatment - such as exercises, traction and ultrasound - under supervision.
Required Education: A two-year associate's degree from an accredited physical therapy assistant program. Some states also require licensing.
Pay: Median annual salary of $41,360
3. Dental Hygienist
Job Duties: Perform basic clinical care for dental patients (examine teeth and gums, basic cleaning etc.), take x-rays, prepare tests for dentists' interpretation and teach preventive dental care.
Required Education: A minimum of a two-year associate's degree or certificate from an accredited dental hygiene school as well as a state license. Bachelor's or master's degrees are required for positions involving research, teaching or clinical practice in public or school health programs.
Pay: Median hourly pay of $30.19
4. Dental Assistant
Job Duties: Work under the supervision of dentists to sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare and lay out instruments, obtain patients' dental records, provide assistance to dentists during treatment, and instruct patients on postoperative and general oral healthcare.
Required Education: Minimum of a high school degree, and preferably a dental-assistant training program accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) through either a one-year certificate or a two-year associate's degree from a community or junior college.
Pay: Median hourly earnings of $14.53
5. Personal or Home Healthcare Aide
Job Duties: Provide housekeeping and routine personal care services such as laundry, meal-planning, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. for elderly, disabled, ill or mentally incapacitated individuals at home or at residential care facilities.
Required Education: Varies by state - some states require only on-the-job training, while others require completion of coursework through community college, home healthcare agencies or vocational schools.
Pay: Median hourly earnings of $8.54
6. Medical Scientist
Job Duties: Study biological systems to understand the cause of diseases, develop treatments and design research tools for medical applications.
Required Education: A Ph.D. in biological science and typically postdoctoral work in a senior researcher's lab.
Pay: Median annual earnings of $61,680