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Choosing a Career Path in 2020: Health Sciences

Choosing a Career Path in 2020: Health Sciences

Health science careers - by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have spent time in a hospital, doctor’s office or other medical facility. Once you have, you know that your interactions with the people working in those facilities – from physicians to nurses to assistants to technicians to receptionists – can make or break your experience. Simply put, no matter how far technology advances, people will always be the heart of healthcare. 

That’s why a successful career in the field comes down to more than intelligence and drive. Health science professionals who are passionate and compassionate not only end up more satisfied with their career choices, but propel greater patient satisfaction, too.

Health Science Careers - Passion for Compassion

If you have that passion and compassion, a career in the health sciences might be for you. If you’ve shied away from the idea because you’re worried about the commitment to years of medical school, concerned it’s too late to start a new career in healthcare, or want to start a new career quickly, it’s time to reconsider. You can begin many health science careers in two years or less (check out some of your options below). And as you know from interacting with them in your personal life, every single person working in healthcare makes a difference – not just the doctors.

Health science professionals aren’t just working for love of the job, either. They enjoy rock-solid job prospects and growth opportunities. "The sector has created more jobs than any other industry on a net basis over the past decade — nearly three million,” says a Moody’s 2018 industry report, “and today employs 16 million people, or 11% of the workforce." 

Health Science Careers - Workforce Trends

That trend is expected to continue, no matter how other sectors are affected. “Health care hiring is so robust, the industry would be pretty much immune to a recession or changes in politics.” says CNN Business. Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr Andrew Chamberlain said, "I don't worry about [potential] health care reform affecting hiring." 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agrees, calling healthcare occupations the fastest-growing overall, and saying that “increased demand for  healthcare services from an aging population and people with chronic conditions will drive much of the  expected employment growth.”

“The fastest growing among these occupations are home health aides and personal care aides,” The BLS continues. “Other healthcare occupations with rapid projected growth--including nurse practitioners, physician  assistants, and medical assistants--will be in greater demand as the healthcare industry moves toward delivery of team-based care.”

Ready to take a look at some of the “other health science careers with rapid projected growth”? 

Exploring Health Science Careers in the Field of Health Sciences

Discover just some of your health science careers  in the health sciences field and what they would mean for your education, your salary potential, your job prospects and your day-to-day experience:

Dental Hygienist

Will I need a degree? Yes, an associate degree 

How much money could I make? Dental hygienists earned $74,820, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a dental hygienist? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices, cleaning patients’ teeth, checking for signs of diseases like gingivitis, and talking to patients about ways to improve and maintain their oral health.

As a dental hygienist, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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, Dental Hygenists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm 

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician

Will I need a degree? Yes, an Associate degree

How much money could I make? Sonographers and cardiovascular technologists earned $67,080, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a sonographer or cardiovascular technologist?  It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

The Occupational Outlook Handbook says that “Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians ... 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.” 

As a sonographer or cardiovascular technologist, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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 Aide or Personal Care Aide

Will I need a degree? No, you’ll just need a high school diploma, but there will be short-term on-the-job training required

How much money could I make? Home health and personal care aides earned $24.060, on average in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a medical transcriptionist? No. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Home health aides and personal care aides work in clients’ homes, group homes or day service programs helping the elderly and people with disabilities, chronic illnesses or cognitive impairment with their daily living activities. Home health aids are some of the most needed health science careers.

As a home health aide or personal care aide, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • Listening to the recorded dictation of a doctor 

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

Licensed Practical Nurse, Licensed Vocational Nurse

Will I need a degree? You’ll need to go back to school for a postsecondary non-degree award

How much money could I make? LPNs and LVNs made $44,090, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as an LPN or LVN? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care to patients in nursing homes, hospitals or the patient's home, under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

As an LPN or LVN, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • Monitoring patients’ health by checking blood pressure, weight and temperature, for example
  • 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 to 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 Assistant

Will I need a degree? You’ll need to go back to school for a postsecondary non-degree award

How much money could I make? Medical assistants earned $33,610, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a medical assistant? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? 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.

As a medical assistant, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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 Records and Health Information Technician

Will I need a degree? You’ll need to go back to school for a postsecondary non-degree award

How much money could I make? Medical records and health information technicians earned $40,350, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a medical records and health information technician? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? No

The medical billing and coding field involves a lot of paper and electronic health information data that needs to be managed. The medical records and health information technicians that manage it make sure patient data stays accurate, accessible and secure. They are trained to use various classification systems to code and categorize information for insurance reimbursement, payment databases and patients’ medical files. 

As a Medical Records and Health Information Technician, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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

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Phlebotomist

Will I need a degree? You’ll need to go back to school for a postsecondary non-degree award

How much money could I make? Phlebotomists earned $34,480, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a phlebotomist? It shouldn't be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Phlebotomists draw blood that’s used for various testing, transfusion, research, or donation. They can work in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donation centers and doctor’s offices. 

As a phlebotomist, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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 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

Registered Nurse

Will I need a degree? Yes, an Associate degree

How much money could I make? Registered nurses earned $71,730, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a registered nurse? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about diagnoses and health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members. On top of that, they often provide invaluable comfort and care to patients and their loved ones. Of the health science careers - registered nursing is a popular career choice.

As a registered nurse, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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

Radiation Therapist

Will I need a degree? Yes, an Associate degree

How much money could I make? Radiation therapists earned $80,160, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a radiation therapist? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

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

As a radiation therapist, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • Explaining treatment to the patient and answer 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

Surgical Technologist

Will I need a degree? Yes, a postsecondary non-degree award

How much money could I make? Radiation therapists earned $47,300, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a radiation therapist? Growing faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Sort of

Surgical technologists assist in surgical procedures, but they spend a lot of their time preparing operating rooms, arranging equipment and assisting doctors during surgery. This means they might not actually have much interaction with patients who aren’t under anesthesia.

As a surgical technologist, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • 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

Veterinary Technologist, Veterinary Technician

Will I need a degree? Yes, an Associate degree

How much money could I make? Veterinary technologists and technicians earned $34,420, on average, in 2018

Will it be hard to find a job as a vet tech? It shouldn’t be. The occupation is growing much faster than average from 2018-2028

Is this a patient-facing job? Yes

Veterinary technologists and technicians work under the supervision of veterinarians to perform medical tests and procedures on animals. The job can be physically and emotionally demanding, but for animal lovers, it’s often really worthwhile. Even though veterinary technologists don't work on humans - they are still considered in to be in the health science careers category.

As a veterinary technologist or technician, I might be responsible for duties including:

  • Observing animal behavior and condition
  • Providing nursing care or emergency first aid to injured or recovering animals
  • Bathing animals, clipping their nails or claws, and brushing or cutting their hair
  • Restraining animals during exams or procedures
  • Giving animals anesthesia and then monitoring their responses
  • Taking x rays and performing laboratory tests like urinalyses and blood counts
  • Preparing animals and instruments for surgery

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm 

There are a variety of in-demand health science careers in the fast-growing field of Health Sciences, but a healthcare career isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay! Look for the next edition of Career College Central to learn more about opportunities in the field of Mechanical Sciences.

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