The Best Jobs In Health Care
We keep hearing that health care is a field that will be producing a lot of jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care and social assistance industry will create some 28% of all the new jobs in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020, as extended longevity and an aging population push up demand for all kinds of health care professionals. That means 5.7 million new jobs in that period. Another compelling statistic: the BLS projects that health care wages and salaries will rise 27% through 2014.
But if the field attracts you, what area in particular should you go into? That depends in part on your interest in getting an advanced degree and your willingness to shoulder the burden of student debt that comes with the training you need to earn an M.D. It also rests on your ambition, abilities and interests. To help you figure out, CareerCast, a four-year-old job search website in Carlsbad, Calif., has put together a list of the 12 jobs it deems to be the best in health care. The list is striking, in part because the median salaries range greatly. At the top is dental hygienist, which pays a median of $68,000, much lower than the ninth entry on the list, general practice physician, which pays $205,000 or psychiatrist, at no. 12, which pays $164,000.
CareerCast publisher Tony Lee explains that its health care jobs ranking comes from an annual study he used to direct for the Wall Street Journal starting 15 years ago. Lee and the study moved to CareerCast when the site launched four years ago. Two academics from the University of Wisconsin, together with CareerCast staffers, rate each of 200 jobs according to five different core criteria, using data from the BLS, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and trade associations like the American Psychiatric Association. In addition to income and hiring outlook, they look at the work environment, including hazards like toxic fumes or exposure to the elements, physical demands like heavy lifting, and stress factors including deadlines, competitiveness and travel. CareerCast gives the highest ratings to jobs with high points for work environment, low stress points, and low points for physical demands, in addition to strong compensation figures and robust job growth numbers.
That combination of attributes is what puts dental hygienist in the number one slot. Along with a healthy median salary and a job growth outlook of 38% by 2020, the job is low stress, because most hygienists have a fair amount of autonomy, are in charge of their own schedule and leave work behind when they exit the office at the end of the day. They work in a comfortable, air conditioned environment and have a high degree of job security. Also it’s possible to become a dental hygienist with just a two-year associate’s degree.
Audiologists come in second in part because they tend to be entrepreneurial positions where practitioners work independently and determine their own schedules. It’s also a profession that grew quite a bit in the ‘60s and ‘70s, says Lee, which means that many audiologists are now retiring, contributing to a strong hiring outlook of 37% by 2020. Also as Baby Boomers age, there is a growing need for hearing specialists.
The third ranked job, occupational therapist, is also growing quite a bit, says Lee, and like dental hygienists and audiologists, occupational therapists tend to have lower stress because they work on a 9-5 schedule and determine their own level of commitment.
Lee explains that general practice physicians and psychiatrists rate lower, at no. 7 and no. 12 respectively, because they have to contend with much more tension on the job than do the professions at the top of the list. “There is a lot of stress that comes with having people’s lives in your hands,” he says. Also doctors and psychiatrists must buy expensive malpractice insurance and contend with patient demands in off hours. While the stress level for dental hygienists is just 12.09, for psychiatrists it’s 24.5 and for physicians, 25.29.
Choosing a career is such a highly subjective endeavor, it may seem odd to consider different health care occupations in terms of objective criteria. But if you’re just starting out or mulling a career change, it can be useful to consider hiring outlook, compensation levels and factors like stress and work environment. If you are choosing between optometrist and audiologist, for instance, it may be helpful to note that while optometrists earn a median of $95,000, the growth outlook is 33% by 2020 and the stress level is 16.52, as opposed to audiologists, who earn less, at $67,000, but with a stronger hiring outlook of 37% and a stress level of just 9.37.