Health care is the hot-button issue on both the economic and jobs front, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) moving into implementation and expected to create a wide range of new jobs.
In fact, the health care industry has buoyed the U.S. job market for the past five years, and projections point to implementation of the ACA bolstering hiring for health care professionals even more in the very near future. California alone added 20,000 new health care jobs through the summer of 2013 in a variety of positions.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies projects 31% growth in total U.S. health care employment in the next decade, which translates to roughly 4.6 million total jobs. And more insured people means an increase in the need for different kinds of services, ranging from direct care to research and maintenance of medical records.
For example, consider careers for medical record technicians. An increase in the number of people with health care coverage means more people accessing medical care, which in turn generates more records. A medical records technician is crucial for the day-to-day workflow within a practice.
The same is true for dental hygienists, says Ronda Avery, a dental hygienist with Connecticut East Dental in Vernon, Conn., who explains that her profession has benefitted from more clients becoming aware of the importance of dentistry to their overall health.
“People come in with knowledge now because of the internet,” says Avery, who has worked as a dental hygienist for 24 years after discovering a love for the field as a teenager.
She says that technological advancements have made dentistry more efficient, and she’s also seen patients become more savvy.
“For example, expectant mothers are now aware bacteria in the mouth can have an adverse effect on their baby," says Avery. "And cardiologists are doing a great job pointing out the correlation of gum disease to heart disease.”In part because of dentistry’s growing importance, dental hygienist ranks as one of our best jobs in health care. But it's just one of many top-rated health care jobs.
In fact, the 12 best jobs in health care rank anywhere from No. 2 to No. 50 in our 2013 CareerCast Jobs Rated report.Biomedical engineer is a new addition and still a fledgling field, but those who work in this profession are on the cutting edge of the health care industry. Innovations made in biomedical engineering research will be vital through the coming decade of treatment and preventative care.
Occupational and physical therapists are expected to be in high demand as well over the next few years, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. Similarly, the demand for chiropractic care is expected to grow to assist with the health concerns of an aging population.
The BLS projects 28% more working chiropractors by 2020. Chiropractic is not the only specialty field ranked among our best jobs in healthcare. Speech pathologists and respiratory therapists both share a positive outlook for hiring growth. Before pursuing one of our best jobs in healthcare, as with any career, considering all aspects of this industry is critical.
Research the region in which you are applying thoroughly to avoid an overly competitive market.For example, dental hygienist has a BLS growth outlook of 38%. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of competition for jobs, however.
“From the trenches, we can see that the market for hygienists can get oversaturated. There are dozens of hygiene programs in every state, and not that many jobs,” says Cathy Seckman, a dental hygienist in eastern Ohio. It’s also important to know the qualifications an employer is seeking before applying. The BLS says an associate’s degree is the minimum educational requirement to get a job as a dental hygienist.
“Most hygiene programs require an applicant to have core [competency] college classes completed before they start the two-year hygiene program, so most hygienists have been in college at least three years,” Seckman says.
Understanding regional requirements is also important because, as Avery points out, states often have different restrictions. Some require a dentist to give permission before a hygienist can work, while others require direct dentist supervision.
Avery says dealing with insurance is another challenge, as patients sometimes eschew vital treatment if they don’t have coverage.“Ideally, [the ACA] would make dentistry and medical treatments more accessible,” she says. “But there’s going to be challenges with that.”
With the right preparation, the healthcare industry has opportunities for a broad range of job seekers.
Here are the 12 best jobs in healthcare, per the 2013 Jobs Rated report:
1. Biomedical Engineer
A new, burgeoning field involved in the healthcare industry is biomedical engineering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the diversified education those studying biomedical engineering receive will fuel demand. They bridge the gap between medical training and the engineering side for the production of healthcare products such as artificial joints.
The BLS reports biomedical engineers “apply knowledge of engineering, biology and biomechanical principles to the design, development, and evaluation of biological and health systems and products, such as artificial organs, prostheses, instrumentation, medical information systems and heath management and care delivery systems.”