As the title states, we have excluded any medical profession with the intials “M.D.” (Doctor of Medicine) required as many don’t have the time, money or the inclination to become a doctor or dentist. This leaves other well-paid occupations that require as little as an associate’s degree and a few may require a PhD. In addition to the obvious salary criterion, other considerations were new positions or openings and the unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics was consulted for the new positions predicted to be added through 2022. Therefore, the figures for new positions is not an annual number but the total number of jobs expected to be added due to normal attrition, such as retirements, as well as increased demand.

Recommended Online Medical Degrees

  1. Keiser University – A.S. Medical Billing & Coding
  2. Keiser University – B.A. Health Services Administration
  3. University of Southern California – Master of Health Administration

Most people prefer a job with security and health care provides this as it is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. Factors affecting this are: aging population, health care reform, medical technology, increasing population, and advances in medicine, to name a handful. However, the prospective student considering a career in health care should be cognizant of the physical demands: standing constantly, shift work and/or lifting requirements. Some of these jobs can be emotionally demanding attending to the very ill-both young and old. If none of these is an obstacle, then health care may be the ideal career.

The data regarding median annual salaries is taken from two reputable sources: US News and World Report from January 2015 and the website PayScale, the latter updated as of July 2015. Keep in mind as with most occupations, wages will differ by state, county, city, as well as experience level, and whether government agency or private sector. There are many variables that affect salaries but the median figures will give the reader an idea of the national averages.

1. Pharmacist

On the surface, being a pharmacist appears to be a relatively easy job: be pleasant to customers, answer their questions and  count pills endlessly. However the profession entails much greater demands and this begins with the education process. In 1990, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) mandated that a Doctor of Pharmacy would be the new first professional degree beginning with the class of 2006. Successful completion of an Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE)-accredited pharmacy program allows pharmacy students to sit for licensure examinations (see Pharmacy Education, Pharmacist) and become registered pharmacists (R.Ph.). Each state has its own subsidiary of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

As of February 2012, there were 129 Schools of Pharmacy. An updated listing of pharmacy schools can be found on the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). These schools have created a plethora of graduates which are predicted to exceed 14,000 by 2016. That number has doubled since 2003 with the majority entering into the field of community retail pharmacy, that is your neighborhood pharmacy. Once employed, the financial rewards are commensurate with one’s education requirements, though 89% have an average loan of $123,000, according to the AACP. It’s been suggested that professional organizations, such as the AACP, need to focus more heavily on establishing new pharmacist roles and activities that will create sustainable jobs as rapidly as possible.
Median Annual Salary: $107,255 (PayScale); $119,280 (US News)
New Positions: 41,400
Unemployment: 2.3%

2. Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NP), also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), are registered nurses with additional education. This extra schooling allows these professionals to take patient histories, perform physical exams, order labs, analyze lab results, prescribe medicines, authorize treatments and educate patients and families on continued care. Many nurse practitioners began their career as registered nurses where their treatment of patients extended to holistic and wellness care, and an NP brings that background to his or her diagnosis, treatment and management of medical issues. Concerning education, all NPs must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program, and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation.

NPs undergo rigorous national certification, periodic peer review, clinical outcome evaluations, and adhere to a code for ethical practices. Self-directed continued learning and professional development is also essential to maintaining clinical competency. Equally important is the fact that all NPs must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia, and practice under the rules and regulations of the state in which they are licensed. These licensed practitioners perform a vital role in the primary care shortage- accounting for over 900 million visits annually.

Median Annual Salary: $85,522 (PayScale); $92,670 (US News)
New Positions: 37,100
Unemployment Rate: 0.7%

3. Physician Assistant

Working under the supervision of doctors, physician assistants (P.A.) interpret X-rays and blood tests, record patient progress, conduct routine physical exams and treat a range of ailments. The extent doctors must supervise them varies by state and medicine specialty, and often takes the form of reviewing medical records or checking in with a patient after the physician assistant has finished caring for him or her. Often the P.A. works autonomously within the medical office doing many of the same procedures as the physician (M.D.).

To reach this level of competency, prospective P.A.’s must graduate from programs that are approximately 26 months (3 academic years) and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. It’s recommended that students select a college or university that has been accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician (ARC-PA). Most programs also require students to have about three years of healthcare training and experience. They then complete a total of more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in:

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Pediatrics
  • General surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Psychiatry

Median Annual Salary:  $86,103 (PayScale); $92,970 (US News);
New Positions: 33,000
Unemployment: 1.4%

4. Physical Therapist

These professionals are needed to rehabilitate a wide range of physical issues, from athletic injuries to neurological traumas to physical therapists (PT). PTs evaluate a patient and examine his or her medical records. Then, they plan and execute rehabilitative programs designed to improve the patient’s mobility, increase his or her strength and relieve or at least lessen the pain. Treatment plans often include different exercises and stretches, as well as hands-on therapies and machines that assist with improving muscle strength, range of motion and motor function.

Professional (entry-level) physical therapist education programs in the United States only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to all new students who enroll. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the United States. To practice as a physical therapist in the US, you must earn a physical therapist degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and pass a state licensure exam. There are currently 228 accredited PT programs available with 29,246 students enrolled.

Worth noting on salary is that the highest paid PTs are skilled in Home Care and Long Term Care coupled with experience.

Median Annual Salary: ; $71,000 (PayScale); $81,030 (US News)
New Positions: 73,500
Unemployment Rate: 1.5%

5. Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is a health and rehabilitation profession. Occupational therapists (OT) work with people of all ages who need specialized assistance to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems. Sounds the same as a PT? The primary difference is the occupational therapist helps by making changes in any of the things that may limit an individual’s ability to do those tasks, including the environment, the task, or the person’s skills needed for the task. OTs also have the knowledge and training to work with people with a mental illness or emotional problems such as depression and/or stress. These healthcare professionals may work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, home health, outpatient clinics, private practice, school systems, prisons, private organizations, industry, and community agencies.

When considering this profession, keep in mind that it requires a minimum of a master’s degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). One example of The Occupational Therapy Entry Level Master’s Curriculum (M.S.) is available at Arizona School of Health Sciences (ASHS); it is a 28-month, full-time, continuous program. There are online master’s degrees in this field, such as the one offered at San Jose State University. Their master’s on OT is considered a best value according to

Median Annual Salary:; $68,000 (PayScale); $75,400 (US News)
New Positions: 32,800
Unemployment Rate: 0.6%

6. Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who is registered with a dental association or regulatory body within their country of practice.The major role of a dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy which includes things such periodontal charting, periodontal debridement (scaling and root planing), prophylaxis (preventing disease) for patients with periodontal disease. In addition dental hygienists are able to perform examinations, make diagnosis, take intraoral radiographs, dental sealants, administer fluoride, and provide patient specific oral hygiene instruction. They are also able to work at an orthodontic clinic and can perform many tasks there.

Dental hygienists in the United States must be graduates from a dental hygiene program, with either an associate degree (most common), a certificate, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree from a dental hygienist school that is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). All dental hygienists in the United States must be licensed by the state in which they practice, after completing a minimum of two years of school and passing a written board as well as a clinical board exam. State requirements vary by state, and are controlled by state dental boards. A Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene is typically a four-year program. Students entering a bachelor’s degree program are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent, but many dental hygienists with an associate degree or certification enter the bachelor’s degree programs to expand their clinical expertise and help advance their careers.

Median Annual Salary: $68,000 (PayScale); $71,110 (US News) 
New Positions: 64,200
Unemployment Rate: 1.7%

7. Epidemiologist

Epidemiology is the science that studies the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. An epidemiologist investigates the triggers of an infection for a public health agency or collects blood samples at an outpatient care center,  and examines the causes of diseases to prevent them from transmitting and recurring. These medical scientists might work in hospitals, laboratories or universities, or for pharmaceutical companies or health insurers.  Others work for non-profit organizations, universities, hospitals and larger government entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Protection Agency, or the World Health Organization (WHO). Epidemiologists can also work in for-profit organizations such as pharmaceutical and medical device companies in groups such as market research or clinical development.

Epidemiologists need advanced education. Entry-level work requires at least a master’s degree, typically in public health with an emphasis on epidemiology. Jobs in university research or teaching require a Ph.D. in the field. The job requires an understanding of how to apply arithmetic, algebra, geometry and calculus to answering epidemiological questions. Epidemiologists are scientists, therefore, job candidates with a strong background in biological sciences, including some postgraduate coursework will fare better. Another criteria is one’s research skills as the profession entails study or survey design, data collection, analysis of causal relationships and reviews of prior research.

Median Annual Salary: $62,000 (PayScale); $65,270 (US News)
New Positions: 14,200
Unemployment Rate: 1.7%

8. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

One of the most common functions of a sonographer is the use of ultrasound technology in obstetrics. Beyond this application, sonograms are used to help diagnose other medical conditions by creating images of body organs and tissues. These professionals include musculoskeletal sonographers, who specialize in creating images of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints; neurosonographers, who focus on the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord; abdominal sonographers, who capture images of the abdominal cavity as well as nearby organs like the kidney, liver and pancreas; and breast sonographers, who capture images of breast tissue that could confirm the presence of cysts and tumors.

An associate or bachelor’s degree is typically required to pursue employment as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Students also have the option to graduate with a degree in a related field, pursue a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography and then receive on-the-job training. Most employers require that diagnostic medical sonographers be certified. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers diagnostic medical sonographers the opportunity to become certified in a variety of specialties, including radiation therapy, radiography, nuclear medicine technology, sonography and magnetic resonance imaging. Through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), sonographers can also pursue certification, such as the registered diagnostic medical sonographer (RDMS), registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer (RDCS), registered vascular technologist (RVT) or registered in musculoskeletal (RMSK).

Median Annual Salary: $58,000 (PayScale); $66,140 (US News)
New Positions: 27,000
Unemployment Rate: 2.7%

9. Registered Nurse

In order to become a registered nurse, students must graduate from an accredited program. Several options are available, including nursing diplomas, associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees. An associate degree in nursing typically takes two years to complete, though accelerated programs can shorten this time frame. A bachelor’s degree in nursing takes about four years of full-time study, or two years for those in an associate-to-bachelor’s RN program. Another expedited option is to attend a school that offers a “second degree” program for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Students may also decide to complete a four-year bachelor’s program at the start of their education, allowing them to move into administration, advanced nursing, nursing consulting, teaching, or research roles.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 2.7 million registered nurses are employed in the United States, and approximately 60 percent work in hospitals. RNs may also find themselves in clinics, physicians’ offices, home health care settings, critical and long-term care facilities, governmental organizations, the military, schools, and rehabilitation agencies. The demand for registered nurses is expected to continue growing swiftly.

Median Annual Salary: $57,000 (PayScale); $66,220 (US News)
New Positions: 526,800
Unemployment Rate: 2.0%

10. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists, or RTs, provide care for patients with heart and lung problems. They often treat people who have asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and sleep apnea, but also those experiencing a heart attack or suffering a stroke. They perform diagnostic tests for lung capacity, administer breathing treatments, record a patient’s progress and consult with physicians and surgeons on continuing care.

There are two levels of respiratory therapist: the certified respiratory therapist and the registered respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapists are required to complete either a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year baccalaureate degree. Upon graduation they are eligible to take a national voluntary multiple choice examination that, upon passing, leads to the credential Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). Once the respiratory therapist has successfully passed the multiple choice examination, he/she is eligible to take a national voluntary clinical simulation examination that leads to the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. Regardless of which program you chose, make sure that the respiratory school is accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

Median Annual Salary: $51,000 (PayScale); $56,290 (US News)
New Positions: 22,700
Unemployment Rate: 2.9%


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