What Career Should You Choose?
Health care has been a hot industry for a while, and it promises to continue to be one over the next several years at least. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts it 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).
Here are 14 health professions, those careers in the industry that typically require at least a bachelor's degree:
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.
Audiologists earned a median annual salary of almost $76,000 in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment to grow by 21 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Dentists earned a median annual salary of $160,000 in 2016.
According to the BLS, employment will increase by 19 percent from 2016 to 2026.
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 earnings were approximately $59,000 in 2016. The BLS predicts employment growth of 15 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Family and general practitioners earned a median annual salary of almost $190,500 in 2016, surgeons made over $208,000 and some specialists made slightly more than $187,000. Employment growth is expected to be 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Occupational therapists' median annual salary in 2016 was almost $82,000.
Employment is expected to grow by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
In 2016, optometrists earned a median annual salary of just over $106,000. Employment is expected to increase by 18 percent between 2016 and 2026.
Orthotist or Prosthetist
Orthotists design and fabricate orthoses, which are orthopedic braces. Prosthetists make artificial limbs. Some people work in both areas. You will have to earn a master's degree to practice in this field.
In some states, a license will also be required as well.
Median annual earnings for orthotists and prosthetists were $65,630 in 2016. Employment, the BLS says, should increase by 22 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
In 2016, pharmacists earned a median annual salary of just over $122,000. Employment projections show just over 6 percent growth between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $85,400 in 2016. The BLS projects employment growth of 28 percent from 2016 to 2026.
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.
In 2016, physician assistants' median annual salary was $101,480. They can expect to experience an increase a 37 percent increase in employment between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of almost $68,500 in 2016. According to the BLS, this occupation will experience an increase in employment of 15 percent from 2016 to 2026.
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.
Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of almost $59,000 in 2016. The BLS expects employment to grow by 23 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Speech pathologists earned a median annual salary of almost $75,000 in 2016. The BLS predicts employment will grow by 18 percent between 2016 and 2026.
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.
Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $89,000 in 2016. Employment, predicts the BLS, will increase 19 percent from 2016 to 2026.
Explore more Careers By Field or Industry
|Comparing Careers in the Health Professions|
|Minimum Education||License||Median Salary (2016)|
|Audiologist||Doctor of Audiology||Req. in all states||$75,980|
|Dentist||Dental school (4 + years after bachelor's)||Req. in all states||$153,900 (salaried dentists); those in private practice may earn more.|
|Dietitian And Nutritionist||Bachelor's||Req. in most states||$58,920|
|Doctor||Medical school (4 + years after bachelor's)||Req. in all states||$190,490 (family/general practice); over $208,000 (surgeons); $187,200 (some specialists)|
|Occupational Therapist||Master's||Req. in all states||$81,910|
|Optometrist||Optometry school (4 years after at least 3 years of undergrad)||Req. in all states||$106,140|
|Orthotist or Prosthetist||Master's Degree||Req. in some states||$106,140|
|Pharmacist||Pharmacy school (4 years after at least 2 years of undergrad)||Req. in all states||$122,230|
|Physical Therapist||Master's||Req. in all states||$85,400|
|Physician Assistant||Master's||Req. in all states||$101,480|
|Registered Nurse||Bachelor's, Associate or Diploma||Req. in all states||$68,450|
|Respiratory Therapist||Associate||Req. in most states||$58,670|
|Speech Pathologist||Master's||Req. in most states||$74,680|
|Veterinarian||Veterinary school usually after college||Req. in most states||$88,770|
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 January 15, 2018).