The Healthcare Industry Is Hiring
Exploring Allied Health Roles That Go Beyond Patient Care
By Gina Wynn
There are many factors to consider when choosing a career. If industry growth, job security, opportunities for advancement, and earning potential are important to you, consider a future in healthcare. Even if you can’t bear the site of blood and needles, there are plenty of healthcare roles that may suit your strengths and interests.
Personal and public health has been top of mind for most of us since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The critical need for healthcare workers has become apparent as hospital staff have been overwhelmed by record numbers of patients, and teams at COVID-19 testing centers and labs have been struggling to keep up with demand.
Even before the pandemic, reports had predicted the shortage of healthcare workers mostly due to an aging population that will continue to require more specialized healthcare services. Between 2000 and 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and over is expected to double, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, many physicians are getting older and nearing retirement, contributing to a growing need for more doctors.
Opportunities Within Allied Health Professions
This shortage also extends to allied health professionals — healthcare workers who aren’t doctors and nurses — who are essential for keeping different parts of the healthcare system operating smoothly. Examples include cytotechnologists, radiologists, phlebotomists, diagnostic medical sonographers, respiratory therapists, dental hygienists, industrial hygienists, dietitians, speech language pathologists, healthcare administrators, and many other roles.
Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the addition of about 2.6 million new jobs. This growth is much faster than the average for all occupations combined. In fact, healthcare is expected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups.
Demand for Your Skills and Job Security
These statistics suggest that if you choose to pursue a career in healthcare, your skills will most likely be in demand for the foreseeable future and you should be able to find a job relatively easily once you complete the academic requirements for your field. You may also have more job security and opportunities for advancement.
In addition, for many healthcare roles, you will be able to live and work in almost any region of the United States. If you prefer or agree to work in a rural area where the deficit of healthcare workers is even more pronounced, you may also qualify for a college loan repayment/forgiveness program. This may prove to be an important benefit if you need help paying for school. You can view a list of Health Professional Shortage Areas at data.HRS.gov.
Education and Earning Potential
As for education, some healthcare careers require as little as 12 to 24 months of school at the community college level or as many as 8 to 13 years of specialized education after high school. Oftentimes, once you become established in a healthcare field, your employer may encourage you to further your education by reimbursing your tuition expenses and giving you time off to attend classes.
Generally, your earning potential in healthcare will increase with the amount of education and experience you gain in your specialty area (except for when demand for a skill exceeds the supply of workers, as it has for traveling nurses during the pandemic). A physician who goes to medical school for 13 years will earn more than a medical assistant with a high school diploma and a certificate from a one-year community college program. As reported on explorehealthcareers.org, on average, you can expect to make $15 to $50 per hour for an entry-level healthcare position.
Careers Beyond Patient Care
If you are interested in healthcare, but don’t necessarily want to interact with patients, there are options for you as well. With an associate or bachelor’s degree, you can work as a medical laboratory technician who uses scientific equipment to analyze patient specimens. If you are good with computers and data, health information management is an option. With a bachelor’s degree plus another year of specialized training, you can become a blood bank technology specialist who tests and analyzes blood samples.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, consider pursuing a Master of Public Health degree, which would enable you to explore many different healthcare-related roles. To name a few, you could become a tropical disease specialist who studies serious diseases like malaria and works on the cutting edge of medicine. You could also become a management policy advisor who works on behalf of nonprofits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to shape healthcare policy. If you prefer to work in an office, you could also become a manager or director of a nonprofit or NGO that advocates for global or community health initiatives.
Contributing to the Greater Good
To learn more about your options in healthcare, talk to a career counselor at your high school, a local community college, or an accredited university. You can also find program-specific information on community college and university websites.
By pursuing a career in healthcare, you would not only enjoy professional stability and the opportunity for growth in your field, you would also engage in fulfilling work that impacts society and makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
- Name some healthcare roles that don’t involve working with patients. Why are these jobs important?
- If you had to choose any career in the healthcare industry, what would you choose and why