The State of the Health Sciences Job Market in 2019

The State of the Health Sciences Job Market in 2019

Healthcare careers have always been held in high regard. The idea of caring for people from their first breaths through their last, guiding them through stress, grief, and joy and educating them about new phases in their lives, is a noble pursuit. Not to mention, the prestige of the field is notable. Many people, however, have shied away from considering a healthcare career based on the pervasive belief that it will require years of medical school, hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, and top-percentile test scores.

The truth, however, is much more varied. While advanced degrees, dazzling intellects, and years of commitment are still required for many medical professions, the healthcare field is dependent on employees who need little more than passion, commitment, and a willingness to learn.

The health sciences career group includes the fields of medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy, physical therapy, public health, hospital administration, nursing, and more. There is a diverse range of professions within these fields, all of which are incredibly important to the overall patient experience—before, during, and after treatment or preventative care.

The U.S. Department of Labor expects the healthcare industry to grow 18 percent between 2016 and 2026, much faster than all other industries. What’s more, many of the newly created opportunities in healthcare won’t require the level of commitment or availability that a medical degree does. Many of the positions coming available in the health sciences field will require just an associate degree or postsecondary non-degree award to enter.

As healthcare reform in America, an aging global population, and constantly changing technological mandates continue to alter the landscape of the industry, skilled workers are needed more than ever before. An expected 2.4 million jobs will be created in healthcare by 2026, more than any other industry. Of the top twenty fastest growing occupations, eleven fall under the health sciences umbrella and five require an associate degree or less for entry.

Healthcare support occupations and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations are projected to be among the fastest growing occupational groups during the 2016–26 projections decade, growing at 23.6 percent and 15.3 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections: 2016-26 Summary. “These two occupational groups are projected to contribute about one-fifth of all new jobs by 2026,” the summary reports. “Factors such as the aging baby-boom population, longer life expectancies, and growing rates of chronic conditions will drive continued demand for healthcare services.”

Because the training needed to keep patient care, research, and recordkeeping running smoothly will continue to transform digitally as well, the colleges and universities that keep in continual contact with employers looking to fill positions in the healthcare industry are best positioned to equip students with the education that will lead to fulfilling work.

While it is possible to enter the health sciences field with only a high school diploma, the return on investment for an associate degree or certification from an accredited career college is sound, as those career paths provide a much higher median annual salary, as well as the personal fulfillment of contributing to a worthwhile industry.

Take a closer look at: Health Sciences career options

Career colleges and technical schools around the country offer a variety of degree- and non-degree-granting programs that help meet the surging demand for healthcare professionals and help students begin on the path to fulfilling patient-facing and non-patient-facing health sciences careers. Here is just a sampling of the fast-growing career options available:  

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate degree

Median pay (2017): $65,620 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (17 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 21,100 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.”

Their job duties often include:

  • Preparing patients for procedures by taking a history and answering questions
  • Preparing and maintaining diagnostic imaging equipment
  • Operating equipment to obtain diagnostic images or conduct tests
  • Analyzing images and test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
  • Recognizing the difference between normal and abnormal images
  • Analyzing diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
  • Recording findings and keeping track of patients’ records

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm 

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent, with on-the-job training required

Median pay (2017): $23,130 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (41 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 1,208,800 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting them at home in their daily living activities. They often help older adults who need assistance, and the field will continue to grow exponentially due to the increasing elderly population in the U.S.

Their job duties often include:

  • Assisting clients in their daily personal tasks, like bathing or dressing
  • Housekeeping including laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming
  • Organize a client’s schedule and helping to plan appointments
  • Arranging or providing transportation to doctors’ offices or other outings
  • Shopping for groceries and other necessities, and preparing meals to meet a client’s dietary specifications
  • Helping clients stay engaged in their communities

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Home health and personal care aides, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides-and-personal-care-aides.htm

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median pay (2017): $45,030 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing faster than average (12 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 88,900 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care to patients in a variety of settings (like nursing homes, hospitals, and private homes) under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Their job duties often include:

  • Monitoring patients’ health by checking metrics like blood pressure, weight, and temperature
  • Administering basic patient care like changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Providing for the basic comfort of patients who need help with tasks like bathing or dressing
  • Discussing patient care with individuals and families and listening to their concerns
  • Reporting patients’ status and concerns to supervising nurses and doctors
  • Keeping records on patients’ health

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm

Medical Assistants

Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median pay (2017): $32,3480 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (29 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 183,900 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. It is extremely important that they keep patient information organized and confidential.

Depending on the location, specialty, and size of the practice in which they work, their job duties may include:

  • Taking and recording patient history and personal information
  • Measuring vital signs
  • Giving patients injections at the direction of a supervising physician
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Preparing blood for laboratory tests

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Assistants, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm 

Medical Billing & Coding

Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median pay (2017): $39,180 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (13 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 27,800 jobs

Patient-facing? No

Information technicians are responsible for organizing and managing health information data, both on paper and electronically. These professionals ensure quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security for patient data. They are trained to use various classification systems to code and categorize information for insurance reimbursement, payment databases, and patients’ medical files.

Their job duties often include:

  • Reviewing patient records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of data
  • Tracking patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Using classification software to assign codes for reimbursement and data analysis
  • Electronically recording, organizing, and maintaining data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Protecting patients’ health information for confidentiality, authorized access for treatment, and data security

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm

Phlebotomists

Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median pay (2017): $33,670 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (25 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 30,100 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Phlebotomists primarily draw blood, which is then used for different kinds of testing. Because all blood samples look the same, phlebotomists must identify and label the sample they have drawn and enter it into a database. Some phlebotomists draw blood for other purposes, such as at blood drives where people donate blood. They can work in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donation centers, and doctor’s offices.

Their job duties often include:

  • Drawing blood from patients and blood donors
  • Talking with patients and donors so they are less nervous about having their blood drawn
  • Verifying a patient’s or donor’s identity to ensure proper labeling
  • Labeling the drawn blood for testing or processing
  • Entering patient information into a database or electronic health record
  • Assembling and maintaining instruments like needles, test tubes, and blood vials

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Phlebotomists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm

Radiation Therapist

Entry-level education: Associate degree

Median pay (2017): $80,570 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing faster than average (13 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 2,400 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Radiation therapists treat patients with cancer and other diseases by administering radiation therapy. They are trained to operate machines called linear accelerators, which direct high-energy X-rays at specific cells in order to shrink or eradicate them.

Their job duties often include:

  • Explaining treatment to the patient and answering questions
  • Following safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure
  • Examining machines to make sure they are safe and working properly
  • X-raying the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Operating the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitoring the patient’s reaction to check for unusual response to radiation

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiation Therapists,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm

Registered Nurse

Entry-level education: Associate degree

Median pay (2017): $70,000 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (15 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 438,100 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members. They may focus their practice on a specific health condition, a specific part of the body, a specific group of people, or a specific workplace. Most importantly, they often help patients feel more comfortable and relaxed in the face of stress-inducing procedures.

Their job duties often include:

  • Recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Administering patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Contributing to or setting up plans for patients’ care
  • Observing patients and recording observations on their prognoses
  • Consulting with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operating and monitoring medical equipment
  • Helping perform diagnostic tests and analyzing results
  • Teaching patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

Respiratory Therapists

Entry-level education: Associate degree

Median pay (2017): $59,710 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing much faster than average (23 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 30,500 jobs.

Patient-facing? Yes

Respiratory therapists care for patients, ranging from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients with diseased lungs, who have trouble breathing. This troubled breathing may stem from asthma, emphysema, or other chronic respiratory diseases.

Their job duties often include:

  • Interviewing and examining patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
  • Consulting with physicians to develop patient treatment plans
  • Performing diagnostic tests, including measuring lung capacity
  • Treating patients with chest physiotherapy, aerosol medications, and other methods
  • Monitoring and recording patients’ progress
  • Teaching patients how to take medications and use equipment like ventilators

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Respiratory Therapists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm

Surgical Technologists

Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Median pay (2017): $46,310 annually

Job outlook, 2016-2026: Growing faster than average (12 percent projected growth) with a projected employment change of 12,600 jobs

Patient-facing? Yes

While surgical technologists, also known as operating room technicians, assist in surgical procedures, much of their time is spent preparing operating rooms, arranging equipment, and assisting doctors during surgery. As such, they may not have much direct interaction with patients.

Their job duties often include:

  • Preparing operating rooms for surgery
  • Sterilizing equipment for surgery
  • Preparing patients for surgery by washing and disinfecting incision sites
  • Helping surgeons during surgery by passing them instruments and other sterile supplies

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surgical Technologists,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm

Stay tuned for the next edition of Career College Central to take a closer look at the state of mechanical sciences in 2019.

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