14 Health Professionals

A nurse in a hospital hallway
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Healthcare has been a hot industry for a while, and it promises to continue to be one for at least the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts healthcare will add more jobs than any other occupational group—over 2.4 million—between 2016 and 2026 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Healthcare Occupations, Occupational Outlook Handbook). 

Health professionals represent one segment of the healthcare industry that also includes heath technicians and technologists and healthcare support workers.

What sets them apart are the more rigorous educational requirements, greater responsibilities, and higher salaries. Here are 14 health professionals:

Audiologist

Audiologists treat and diagnose people who have ear problems including hearing and balance difficulties. To work in this field you will have to earn a Doctor of Audiology degree (Au.D.). This endeavor takes most students about four years after they graduate from college. To practice, you will need to have a license.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $75,920

Number of People Employed (2016): 14,800

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 21 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 3,100

Dentist

Dentists diagnose and treat patients' problems with their teeth and gums. You will need to attend dental school for four years after you earn your bachelor's degree. A state-issued license is required to practice.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $158,120

Number of People Employed (2016): 153,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 19 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 29,300

Dietitian or Nutritionist

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs and supervise the preparation and serving of meals.

To become a dietitian, you will have to earn a bachelor's degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, and food service systems management. To become a nutritionist, study nutrition in college or graduate school. Most states license dietitians, but many do not license nutritionists.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $59,410

Number of People Employed (2016): 68,000

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 15 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 9,900

Doctor

Doctors diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. After graduating college, you will have to spend four years in medical school and then between three and eight years in an internship or residency program. After you complete your education, you have to get licensed.

Median Annual Salary (2017): at least $208,000 depending on medical specialty

Number of People Employed (2016): 713,800

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 11-16 percent depending on medical specialty (as fast as or much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 91,400

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists use exercises and techniques to help patients learn to perform daily living or work-related activities.

Becoming an occupational therapist will require earning a master's degree and then getting a license.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $83,200

Number of People Employed (2016): 130,400

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 24 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 31,000

Optometrist

Optometrists provide primary vision care. They examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases. If you aspire to be an optometrist, you should plan to attend optometry school for four years after you graduate from college. You will also need a license.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $110,300

Number of People Employed (2016): 40,200

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 18 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 7,200

Pharmacist

Pharmacists dispense medications that doctors and other health practitioners prescribe to their patients. They also provide information about those particular drugs and help the patients understand how to use them. To become a pharmacist, you are going to need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. You can expect to spend between four and six years in pharmacy school depending on whether you have an undergraduate degree when you enter. You will also need a license.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $124,170

Number of People Employed (2016): 312,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 6 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 17,400

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help patients who have suffered injuries or illnesses by providing services that restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities. You will have to earn a doctorate in physical therapy and then pass national and state licensing exams.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $86,850

Number of People Employed (2016): 239,800

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 28 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 67,100

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants provide primary health care services under physicians' supervision. To work in this field, you will have to get a master's degree from an accredited physician assistant training program and then pass a national certifying exam.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $104,860

Number of People Employed (2016): 106,200

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 37 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 39,600

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses treat patients and provide advice and emotional support to them and their families. If you want to become a registered nurse you can either earn a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma in nursing. You must also pass a national licensing exam and fulfill any other licensing requirements set forth by the state in which you plan to work.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $70,000

Number of People Employed (2016): 2.9 million

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 15 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 438,100

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists evaluate patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders and deliver treatments to them. You can earn an associate or bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy to qualify for a job in this field. In most states you will also have to pass a national exam.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $59,710

Number of People Employed (2016): 130,200

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 23 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 30,500

Speech Pathologist

Speech pathologists work with people who have speech-related disorders including the inability to produce certain sounds, speech rhythm and fluency problems, and voice disorders. You will be required to earn a master's degree in speech pathology and, in most states, get a license if you want to work in this field.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $76,610

Number of People Employed (2016): 145,100

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 18 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 25,900

Veterinarian

Veterinarians deliver healthcare to pets, livestock, and zoo, sporting, and laboratory animals. You need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) from a college of veterinary medicine to work in this occupation, an endeavor that will take an additional four years after earning a bachelor's degree. All states require veterinarians to have a license.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $90,420

Number of People Employed (2016): 79,600

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 19 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Job Openings (2016-2026): 15,000

Explore more Careers By Field or Industry

 

Comparing Careers in the Health Professions
 Minimum EducationLicenseMedian Salary (2017)
Audiologist Doctor of AudiologyReq. in all states$75,920
Dentist Dental school (4 + years after bachelor's)Req. in all states$158,120 (salaried dentists); those in private practice may earn more.
Dietitian And NutritionistBachelor'sReq. in most states$59,410
Doctor Medical school (4 + years after bachelor's)Req. in all statesat least $208,000 (varies by medical specialty)
Occupational TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$83,200
OptometristOptometry school (4 years after at least 3 years of undergrad)Req. in all states$110,300
Pharmacist Pharmacy school (4 years after at least 2 years of undergrad)Req. in all states$124,170
Physical TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$86,850
Physician AssistantMaster'sReq. in all states$104,860
Registered NurseBachelor's, Associate or DiplomaReq. in all states$70,000
Respiratory TherapistAssociateReq. in most states$59,710
Speech PathologistMaster'sReq. in most states$76,610
VeterinarianVeterinary school usually after collegeReq. in most states$90,420

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited December 23, 2018).