The health care industry, including doctors, nurses, insurance agents, home health aides, and allied health care workers, accounts for one-sixth of the U.S. economy, making it the largest industrial sector in the United States.
According to the latest numbers, seven of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the U.S. are health care related. An aging population and the retirement of current workers means employment in the health care industry will grow by 22 percent through 2016 in the U.S. Many positions will be open in a variety of areas -- from radiographers to clinical lab technologists.
Where will the jobs be? Employment at hospitals will grow by 13 percent, but that is the slowest pace in health care. The future is particularly bright for smaller home health care services, which are predicted to grow by 55 percent through 2016.
Other areas with expected growth include physician and other health practicioner offices (24.8 and 28.3 percent growth respectively), outpatient care centers (24.3 percent growth), and ambulatory health care services (32.3 percent growth).
And, as group practices integrate and medical records are electronified, the need for office and administrative support will grow accordingly.
Careers and Income
As you begin your health care career and apply for jobs, consider the work environment, the size of the organization, its status as a profit or non-profit institute (pay scale can be less at a non-profit), benefits, requirements for mandatory overtime, typical working hours, and pay scale.
The health care income ranges posted by the American Medical Association lists some of the better known allied health specialties and their associated salaries. According to their numbers, anesthesiologist assistants make the largest starting salary -- $95,000 - $120,000. But that is unusual. Most non-MD health care positions pay around $50,000. Those with more responsibility for patient care, such as dentists, surgical assistants, physician assistants, and pharmacists, may make more.
Ways to look for jobs include:
- your school's career development office
- websites for professional associations; hospitals, laboratories, and medical centers; medically-based staffing agencies and recruiters; general health-related sites; and career websites (look for ones geared toward health or medical professions)
- state and federal government websites
Many employers actively recruit students while they are in school and offer incentives (tuition reimbursement, signing bonuses, loan repayment, etc.) for an agreement of future employment for specific periods of time. Some arrangements require students to take their clinical at an institution with a guarantee of employment after successful graduation.
Career development offices at school also have up-to-date listings for many jobs in the community that are not posted anywhere else, so it's a good idea to check with them for opportunities as your graduation date nears. They also arrange for on-campus interviews or career fairs for groups of employers.