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What Are the Top 20 Most in Demand Healthcare Jobs for the Future?

Healthcare professionals have some of the brightest futures, according to a recent report by Mercer. The healthcare and social assistance sector is growing faster than any other sector and will provide 2.3 million new jobs between 2016 and 2026. By 2025, there will be a shortfall of certain types of medical workers; particularly those who work in lower-skilled, supportive roles in hospitals.

This is good news for anyone who wants to enter the healthcare sector, as there will be plenty more jobs to go around.  What’s more, we can predict that wages, benefits, and working conditions will improve as employers fight to fill their positions and reduce staff turnover. With that in mind, let’s explore which medical occupations will be in high demand over the coming decades.

Healthcare Professionals and Future Demand

According to many news reports, medical professionals are in demand. But what makes them so sought-after? There are some social, economic, and political factors that can account for this growing demand.

  1. There is a large aging population in the US, which is expected to increase over the next 50 years. More doctors, nurses, and aides will be required to meet the complex needs of this patient group. Also, more administrative staff will be needed to coordinate larger numbers of older patients.
  2. To enable the older population to live independently, most of their care will be delivered in their homes, rather than in hospitals or doctors’ offices. As such, home health workers will be extremely sought-after.
  3. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (2010), many more people can afford health insurance, which has improved their access to healthcare. In particular, many Americans now have access to diagnostic services, which has increased the demand for lab technicians, lab workers, and phlebotomists. This demand is predicted to increase in the future.
  4. 1 in 4 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in their lives. The stigma surrounding mental illness seems to be at an all-time low, so most people are not afraid to seek help. This suggests that mental health professionals will be sought-after over the coming decades.
  5. The obesity crisis and wide-spread diseases such as diabetes and heart disease will increase the demand for certain types of healthcare workers.
  6. We’re moving away from a strictly biomedical model of health. Instead, the healthcare industry wishes to treat the patient holistically. As such, we’re likely to see more allied health professionals (i.e., occupational therapists) and “alternative” health practitioners (i.e., massage therapists).

Medical Careers In-Demand for the Future

So, the medical sector looks promising for job seekers, but which occupation offers the safest bet? That depends on your skills, qualifications, personality, and salary expectations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average occupation is expected to grow by about 7% between 2016 and 2026. To put things into perspective, the following occupations will grow at least twice as fast as this. So, let’s explore 20 of the fastest-growing (and most promising) healthcare careers.

  1. Home Health Aide

As the name suggests, home health aides look after patients in their own homes. The duties are varied; they change bandages, dress wounds, help patients take their medicines, and keep an eye on their overall health. You could expect to make $23,210 per year, or $11.12 per hour, according to figures from 2017.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016 there were 911,500 people employed as home health aides, and by 2026 it’s predicted there will be 1,342,700. This means the occupation will grow by a staggering 47%, which is faster than any other healthcare occupation. Our aging population has increased the need for home health workers. Indeed, the Affordable Care Act (2010) has given many more people access to this type of healthcare.

A report by Mercer predicts that, by 2025, states such as a Montana, North Dakota, and Nevada will have a deficit of home health aides (and other key health workers). So, if you live in one of these states, it shouldn’t be difficult to find work as a home health aide.

How Can I Enter This Career?

If you’re looking to find a healthcare job with no experience or qualifications, this occupation could be a good choice for you, because training is usually done on-the-job.

Having said that, if you work for an agency that receives payment from Medicare or Medicaid, you may be expected to achieve certification before you can start work. In some states, certification can be achieved by taking an exam, whereas in other states you’d need to attend training sessions and then take an exam.

  1. Personal Care Aide

Personal care aides are similar to home health aides, though they focus more on personal hygiene and wellbeing, rather than medical assistance. During a visit to a patient’s home, a personal care aid may help the client to take a bath, sort out the laundry, and have a chat over a cup of tea. They will often work closely with friends, relatives, and other healthcare workers to ensure the patient is getting everything they need. You could expect to earn approximately $23,100 per year as a personal care aide.

most needed doctors in the future

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 39% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average growth rate of 7%. In 2016, there were 2,016,100 people employed as personal care aides across America. By 2026, this is expected to rise to 2,793,800. As mentioned, many older people rely on personal care aides to live comfortably in the community, so this demand is only set to rise.

How Can I Enter This Career?

You will need a high school diploma (or equivalent), a friendly disposition, and good physical stamina – because you’ll spend most of the day on your feet. As with home health aides, some employers require you to become certified by taking a competency exam, though this is not always necessary.

  1. Physician Assistant

Physician assistants work alongside other health professionals such as surgeons, nurses, and physicians. Their day-to-day role is very similar to that of a physician, but they will be supervised, and they will not carry out surgical procedures as part of their duties. You could expect to earn $104,860 per year or $50.41 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this industry will grow a massive 37% between 2016 and 2026. In 2016, there were 106,200 people employed as physician assistants, which should grow to 145,900 people by 2026.

The sector is growing so rapidly in response to our aging population. A proportion of older people suffer from chronic disease such as diabetes, and these patients will require ongoing and sophisticated care packages.

How Can I Enter This Career?

To become a physician assistant, you’ll need to study a two-year master’s degree that’s accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Many physician assistants begin their career as nurses or other health professionals, and then study the two-year master’s programme to enhance their knowledge.

  1. Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are advanced-level nurses who coordinate a patient’s care; they differ slightly from registered nurses as they have a higher level of responsibility. They take a more active role in testing, and potentially diagnosing conditions, and are often responsible for training junior staff members. In 2017, the average salary for a nurse practitioner was $110.930 per year or $53.33 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This particular occupation will grow by 36% between 2016 and 2026. In 2016, there were 155,500 nurse practitioners, which is expected to rise to 211,600 by 2026. As mentioned, the aging population will require more comprehensive care packages, and nurse practitioners have the skills and knowledge to manage these care packages effectively.

How Can I Enter This Career?

All nurse practitioners hold a master’s degree. After achieving registered nurse (RN) status, nurses must work for at least one year before they can apply for the master’s. In rare cases, you can apply for the nurse practitioner master’s degree if you haven’t studied nursing previously, but you’d need to have studied something very similar such as psychology, social care or biological sciences, and have clinical work experience. In these cases, it’s possible to take a ‘bridging course’ to give you access to the master’s program.

  1. Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants (PTA’S) work under the direction of a physical therapist, to help patients become more mobile. PTA’s work with injured patients, as well as those suffering from long-term health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and cerebral palsy. A PTA will often get involved in the administrative side of things, too. Physical therapist assistants earn approximately $57,430 annually.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016, there were 88,300 PTA’s employed across the US, which is set to rise to 115,800 by 2026 – a growth increase of 31%. There are two reasons for this growth. Firstly, orthopedic complaints, arthritis, and degenerative disorders are, unfortunately, quite common in the aging population. Physical therapy can help to keep these patients mobile. Moreover, the use of sports-rehab therapists is at an all-time high, so PTA’s who are trained in sports injury rehabilitation will be in particular demand over the next decade or so.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Besides good physical stamina and an ability to encourage others, you’ll need to complete a 2-year associates degree. You should check with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education before committing to any course of study, to check that it is accredited. Before working, you’ll also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam and obtain your license to practice.

most in demand medical specialities

  1. Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are “all-rounders,” so this job suits people who enjoy variety. One minute you could be taking a patient’s vital signs, and the next minute you could be scheduling their next appointment or arranging their medical records. In addition to taking a patient’s vital signs, medical assistants may participate in examinations, or collect blood samples. They usually work in physician’s offices or hospitals. In 2017, medical assistants earned about $32,480 per year or $15.16 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Over the next eight years, this occupation will grow by 29%, which is exciting for anyone looking to enter healthcare because many medical assistant vacancies are entry-level positions. In 2016, there were 634,400 medical assistants employed across America, which is expected to rise to 818,400 by 2026. In real terms, this is a lot of additional job openings.

The industry seems to be crying out for highly-organized and flexible professionals who can oversee the care for increasingly larger numbers of patients. This is already evidenced by the massive demand for practitioner nurses. When a clinic is well organized, this allows specialist doctors more time to work with the patients that need their assistance. So, if you’ve got strong organization skills, why not consider a career as a medical assistant? You might find yourself in very high demand over the coming years.

How Can I Enter This Career?

This is another healthcare job you can do with little schooling. Most medical assistants will have a high school certificate, and some will have a diploma or college course in a relevant subject. Employers offer intensive on-the-job training for medical assistants, so healthcare experience is not usually necessary.

  1. Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors work with individuals, or couples, to help them understand the risks of passing on a genetic disorder to their child. A genetic counselor studies a client’s DNA to assess risk, but a large part of their role is talking with the client and counseling them on the information available. In 2017, the average genetic counselor earned $77,480 annually or $37.25 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016, there were 3100 genetic counselors in America. This figure is set to rise to 4000 by 2026. In real terms, the employment numbers are quite low compared to other healthcare jobs, but the industry is growing at a rate of 29%. So, if you have an interest in genetics, it’s certainly a career worth considering.

Why such sudden growth? Well, laboratory tests and genomics techniques are a lot more sophisticated these days so that genetic counselors can get a better understanding of our DNA profiles. Moreover, many more health insurers are starting to cover genetic testing, and six out ten Americans say they would be interested in accessing genetic testing, so there certainly seems to be a market for it.

How Can I Enter This Career?

To become a genetic counselor, you’d require a master’s degree in genetics or genetic counseling. In 2016, there were 33 master’s degree programs in the United States that were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling. You’d also need to obtain a license to practice. This involves passing an initial exam and taking continuing education courses throughout your career. This occupation is competitive to enter, but the massive industry growth is starting to make it more accessible.

  1. Physical Therapist

We’ve already mentioned physical therapist assistants, but physical therapists are going to be in demand, too. Physical therapists work closely with patients to enhance their mobility and improve their physical wellbeing. As a physical therapist, you could expect to earn $86,850 per year or $41.76 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Between 2016 and 2026, this occupation is expected to grow by 28%. It is one of the few Doctoral medical careers that are expected to grow at a rate faster than average. As mentioned, this demand will continue to grow due to our aging population. Also, now more than ever, amateur athletes are willing to invest in physical therapy to help them recover from sports injuries.

How Can I Enter this Career?

To become a physical therapist, you’d need to study an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Some physical therapists begin their career as a physical therapist assistant and study the Doctoral part-time; this extends your training time but ultimately makes things a lot more affordable.

  1. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants (OTA’s) work under the direction of an occupational therapist. These allied health professionals work closely with other agencies to improve a patient’s day-to-day living. For example, they may work with a pregnant policewoman, to advise her and her employer on the adjustments needed to support her health.

Alternatively, they made evaluate the needs of a stroke patient, to see what kinds of adjustments should be made to the home to enable them to move about safely. An OTA will often take charge of the administrative side of things. They will regularly contact patients and other agencies to help move things forward. OTA’s earn approximately $52,690 a year.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Over the next eight years, the demand for OTA’s will rise by 28%. In 2016 there were 39,300 OTA’s, and by 2016 there are expected to be 50,700. Again, this is partly due to the aging population and a need for interdisciplinary care in the patient’s home. It may also be because the healthcare industry (and insurers) are recognizing that many additional “lifestyle” factors can affect health and wellbeing. This has placed a higher value on allied health professionals such as OT’s and OTA’s.

How Can I Enter this Career?

To become an OTA, you’d need to study a 2-year associates degree that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. You’ll also need to pass a qualifying exam, to use the title “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.”

In terms of personal qualities, you’ll need to be compassionate but also assertive. In many cases, you’ll be an advocate for the patient, because you’ll be informing other agencies of any adjustments they need to make, so good people skills are essential.

  1. Massage Therapist

A massage therapist might not come to mind when you think of a typical healthcare worker, but massage therapy can promote stress-relief, recovery, and rehabilitation. Massage therapists work in physician’s offices, hotels, and spas, and many will work in conjunction with other health professionals such as physical therapists. In 2017, the average massage therapist earned $39,990 per year or $19.23 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016, there were 160,300 massage therapists employed across the US, and this is predicted to rise to 202,400 by 2026. In other words, this occupation is growing at a rate of 26%, which is much faster than average.

This growth is probably because more people are considering “alternative” treatments to manage a wide variety of different health conditions. Most health insurers do not cover massage therapy treatments, but this doesn’t seem to be stunting the industry’s growth which shows that many people are willing to pay for this type of treatment.

How Can I Enter This Career?

To become a massage therapist, you should study for a diploma that includes at least 500 hours of study and hands-on experience. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed at least 1000 hours of training.  In most states, you’ll also need to obtain a license to practice.

 best allied health careers

  1. Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists draw blood from patients for testing, transfusions, research, and donation. Part of their role is to encourage patients to feel comfortable with the blood-drawing process. They play a crucial supportive role in hospitals, laboratories, and blood donor centers. Phlebotomists earn $33,670 per year, or $16,19 per hour, on average.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016, there were 122,700 phlebotomists employed in the US, and this figure is expected to rise to 30,100 by 2026. The phlebotomy industry is predicted to grow at a rate of 25% over the next eight years. This growth is probably in response to a growing aging population, but also the fact that blood analysis and blood diagnostic techniques have become more sophisticated in recent years, and many people’s health insurance now covers diagnostic procedures.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Phlebotomy is another medical career that can be accessed with little schooling. Most people entering this occupation will complete a postsecondary nondegree award at a community college, vocational school, or technical school. Most programs take less than one year to complete, and you’ll be given additional on-the-job training when you start work. At the time of writing, just four U.S States Require certification.

  1. Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers predominantly work with athletes (professional and amateur), sports teams, and soldiers. They are not the same as personal trainers because their focus is on injury prevention and rehabilitation.  They’ll use tape, braces, and other devices to support rehab.

They will also show their patients how to build strength and flexibility. Athletic Trainers usually work in schools, universities, doctors’ offices, or travel with a professional sports team. In 2017, athletic trainers earned $46,630 per year.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This occupation is growing rapidly, at a rate of 23%. In 2016, there were 27,800 athletic trainers which will rise to 34,100 by 2026. This demand can be attributed to investment from professional sports teams.

Also, as we continue to fight obesity through physical exercise programs, more and more athletic trainers will be required. Many states require secondary schools to have an athletic trainer present at all times, which suggests there will be good on-going demand for this career.

How Can I Enter This Career?

You’d need to complete a bachelor’s degree that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Also, you’d need to become certified. Requirements do differ between states, but at the very least, you’d need to pass the standard examination offered by the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC).

To be a good fit for this career, you’ll need to have physical stamina, compassion, and good problem-solving skills.

  1. Medical Secretary

A medical secretary makes sure the service runs smoothly, whether that be in a hospital or a doctor’s office. Medical secretaries may organize records, prepare documents, arrange meetings, schedule appointments, or carry out other ad hoc duties. In 2017, the average yearly salary for a medical secretary was $34,610.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This occupation is set to grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026. In 2016, there were 547,200 medical secretaries in the US, which is expected to rise to 703,300 by 2026. In real terms, a lot of additional jobs will become available, so this occupation seems promising for newcomers.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Many medical secretary positions are ‘entry-level,’ so you can access these roles even without prior experience. To increase your chances of being employed, you could enroll in a college course relevant to the healthcare or administrative sector.

  1. Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors work closely with patients to help them overcome various psychological conditions. You may work with patients who have addictions, eating disorders, behavioral problems, anxiety disorders or depression. Counselors work in many different settings, including private practices, prisons, schools, and colleges. On average, a mental health counselor earns $43,400 per year.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

In 2016, there were 157,700 mental health counselors employed in the US, which is expected to rise to 194,200 by 2026. This equates to a 23% rise. This is probably due to an increased awareness of mental health conditions.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Most mental health counselors will have a relevant bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. As part of your master’s degree, you’d complete supervised clinical practice, which is necessary to obtain a license. If you don’t want to study for a master’s degree, substance abuse counselors can generally practice with only a bachelor’s degree. The requirements do differ between states, so it’s advisable to check before committing to a programme.

  1. Respiratory Therapist

As the name suggests, respiratory therapists help patients breathe more easily. They often work with patients who have ongoing breathing conditions, such as asthma. They might also provide emergency care to premature babies, people who are suffering heart attacks, or people suffering from shock. Most therapists work exclusively in hospitals. Respiratory therapists earn approximately $59,710 per year.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This industry is predicted to grow by 23% over the next eight years. By 2026, there will be 160,600 people employed as respiratory therapists.

medical careers with a good future

How Can I Enter This Career?

This occupation is relatively easy to access. An associate’s degree is required, though some therapists hold a bachelor’s degree. To practice as a respiratory therapist, you’ll need to obtain a professional license (except in Alaska).

  1. Ambulance Driver/Attendant

Ambulance drivers (and attendants) work variable shifts and have to deal with challenging situations on a daily basis. This line of work is suitable for people who thrive under immense pressure and who want to help others. The average salary for this job in 2017 was $24,260.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Between 2016 and 2026, this occupation is set to grow by 22%, partly due to our aging population.  By 2026, there are expected to be 21,100 ambulance drivers and assistants in the US (compared to 17,300 in 2016).

How Can I Enter this Career?

To become an ambulance driver/attendant, you’ll need a high school diploma (or equivalent) and must be willing to commit to 12 months of intensive on-the-job training. The most critical entry criteria for this job are a positive, can-do attitude, a methodical approach, and an ability to thrive under pressure.

  1. Health Services Manager

Medical or health service managers usually look after a clinical facility or specific health service within a hospital. They ensure healthcare laws and regulations are being respected by all employees. Also, they will introduce administrative procedures to help streamline the service and save money. They will also deal with patient complaints and will strive to improve patient satisfaction. The average yearly salary for a health service manager is $98,350.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

This occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 21% over the next eight years. By 2026, there will be 424,300 people employed in this role – compared to 325,200 in 2016. In real terms, this is a large number of jobs. Again, this rise is probably due to the increased aging population. As mentioned, many other organizational occupations (nurse practitioner, medical secretary, medical assistant) will grow to meet this demand.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Most practice managers will have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many will have a master’s degree, too. It’s not uncommon for managers from other sectors to transition into the healthcare sector. Sometimes, “career changers” are preferred because they can offer a fresh perspective on things. As such, don’t necessarily exclude this option just because you have no medical experience.

  1. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices and are predominantly involved in cleaning patients’ teeth. They can diagnose oral diseases and have specialist equipment to treat these conditions. They will also offer tailored advice to prevent these conditions. The average salary for a dental hygienist is $35.61 per hour. More than half of employees work part-time.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Over the coming eight years, this occupation is set to grow by 20%, so that by 2026, there will be 248,900 dental hygienists in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this growth is due to wide-spread efforts to improve dental services throughout the country.

How Can I Enter This Career?

Most dental hygienists will have studied a 3-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene. There are more than 300 accredited programs offered across America. In most states, dental hygienists also require a license to practice.

  1. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Medical sonographers take images of various parts of the body using specialist ultrasound equipment. Diagnostic medical sonographers prepare the patient for the procedure and often analyze the results of the scan, too. They have an essential part to play in patient care and will often specialize in one sector, such as abdominal, breast, pediatric, gynecology or vascular sonography. Diagnostic medical sonographers can expect to earn $65,620 per year or $31.55 per hour.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

Between 2016 and 2026, this occupation is expected to grow by 17% which is still a lot faster than average. In 2016 there were 67,300 diagnostic medical sonographers, and by 2026 there will be 82,900. This growth may be attributable to the growing aging population, and the need to diagnose conditions such as heart disease.

How Can I Enter This Career?

This healthcare job is relatively easy to enter. You should have an associate or bachelor’s degree that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. After completion, you should apply for professional certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

What health careers are in demand?

  1. Laboratory Technician

Lab technicians collect fluids, tissue, or other bodily substances for analysis. To do well in this career, you’d need to be detailed-oriented, methodical, and confident using technology. In 2017, lab technicians earned $51,700 per year, on average.

How Fast Is This Occupation Growing?

The demand for lab technicians has gone through the roof in recent years and is expected to continue growing. Between 2016 and 2026, this occupation is expected to grow by 14% which is still double the average. This is mainly because lab techniques have become more sophisticated, and more lab technicians are needed to facilitate these types of lab tests. Also, as mentioned, many people’s health insurance now covers diagnostic services.

How Can I Enter This Career?

You’d need a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology (or laboratory science). Some states also require you apply for a professional license before practicing.

What Are the Top Paying Medical Careers?

Physicians, surgeons, and anesthesiologists are still the highest paid medical workers (with average yearly salaries of $208,000). This is unlikely to change, given that these jobs are so highly skilled. Incidentally, these are also the slowest growing medical occupations. These jobs are very specialist and require many years of training, but it’s possible to land a well-paid healthcare job with little schooling.

We’ve already mentioned some well-paid, healthcare occupations that are very accessible, such as medical assistant ($32,480), phlebotomist ($33,670), medical secretary ($34,610), and massage therapist ($39,900).

Also, some other entry-level healthcare careers pay relatively high salaries:

  • Health Records Technician or Medical Coder – Many of these jobs are entry-level and offer on-the-job training. Some candidates might have a degree, but many do not. The average yearly salary after your training period is $39,180.
  • Occupational Therapy Aides – A high school diploma is usually required, but all training is offered on-the-job. Salaries average at around $29,200 per year, which is quite a lot higher than the salary for personal aides or home health aides.
  • Physical Therapist Aides – Likewise, all training is provided by the employer, and the average yearly salary is $25,730.
  • Veterinary Assistant/Animal Caretaker – No schooling is required although you’d need to be comfortable around all animals. You can expect to earn around $26,140 per year, according to figures from 2017.
  • Dental Assistant – To do this job, you’d need to study for a 1-year certificate and pass an exam at the end of it. Yearly salaries are around $37,630.

All these professions are growing at a reasonable rate and are very unlikely to decline in the coming years. As such, these jobs are a “safe bet” if you’re looking for a reasonably well-paid job in the medical sector, but you have no experience or few qualifications.

By 2024, 14.5% of all workers will be employed in the healthcare sector, which represents huge industry growth. As mentioned, the healthcare sector is growing faster than any other sector, so healthcare professionals can undoubtedly enjoy bright futures – no matter which occupation they choose.

If you look closely, it’s the low-skilled, “support” roles that will be most sought-after in the next few decades, mostly due to our aging population. Now, more than ever, it’s possible to enter the healthcare sector and enjoy a good salary, even if you have no medical background.