Have you realized that the youngest of baby boomers are now in their 50’s? As these folks seek services in prevention or treatment, the need for employees in the field of healthcare will obviously increase. Not only are we seeing a greater need for healthcare professionals due to the aging population, we also had 7.3 million Americans enter the healthcare system in 2014 under Obamacare. We can expect those numbers to continuously increase as more uninsured Americans sign up for coverage.

If you look at the U.S. Labor Department of Statistics you will notice the percentages of projected employment growth are all in double digits across the board. That’s excellent news for job seekers currently holding a healthcare-related degree as well as students trying to decide on their career path.

All salaries, education requirements and projected employment growth were sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. If a particular career was not featured on the BLS site, Payscale.com was used for median salary.

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1. Optometrist

Read the top line. Now the next line. Can you read the smallest line? Are you reading it with glasses, or your own naked eye? If you’re reading with glasses, odds are, you’ve met an optometrist. (You might have met an ophthalmologist, which is a medical doctor who treats eyes; an optometrist is Doctor of Optometry, specializing in corrective lenses, not medicine.) Optometrists check vision, prescribe lenses, and sometimes prescribe medications for minor eye disorders; some even do basic surgeries.

If you want to help people see better, but you’re not so interested in doing surgery or treating major diseases, consider optometry. It’s a very rewarding career, in the good you can do patients and the income you’ll make.

Median Salary: $97,000
Education Level: Doctorate
Projected employment growth: 24% increase between 2012 and 2022

2. Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse hits that sweet spot where schooling, pay, and responsibility balance out. You can become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree and a license, in only two or three years, and pay is high for such a low level of schooling. You spend a lot of time directly with patients, assessing their well-being, keeping them comfortable, and doing all of the many tasks that come up (medicines, needles, monitors, and bandages). You can specialize in areas such as pediatric, emergency, intensive care, and labor/delivery, or you can work as a school or camp nurse. Some nurses choose lucrative traveling positions.

It’s not a cushy job – you’ll be on your feet a lot, and during your shifts, stress can get pretty high. You’re responsible for people’s lives, after all. But there is no shortage of work for good nurses, and the more experience you get, the more in-demand you’ll be, and the higher pay you can negotiate for.

Median Salary: $65,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 19% increase between 2012 and 2022

3. Respiratory Therapist

Take a deep breath. Appreciate that? What if you couldn’t do it? For millions of Americans, breathing is a daily struggle. Whether from asthma, COPD, emphysema, or any number of other disorders, difficulty breathing calls for a specialist who can help relieve symptoms, do therapy to strengthen the lungs, and practice preventative care. That specialist is a Respiratory Therapist.

Although Respiratory Therapists need to continue their training and education throughout their career, as new technologies and therapies emerge, RT is one of the best-paid professions you can get with only an associate’s degree. Many respiratory therapists work with premature births, children, adults with chronic lung disorders, and the elderly, all demographics, and there is no expectation that the need for RTs will diminish; if anything, the profession is expected to grow.

Median Salary: $56,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 19% increase between 2012 and 2022

4. Hospital Administrator

An exploding medical sector means an unprecedented demand for Hospital Administrators. These are the people who keep the hospital in compliance with regulations, financially stable, staffed, and housed. They may not have direct contact with patients, but they make sure the hospital is there, and that qualified people are on call to take care of the sick and injured.

This is a job with significant responsibilities; whether it’s for-profit or non-profit, a hospital is an expensive operation, and the administrators are the ones who make sure the hospital is making money and staying afloat. Anything that goes wrong is on the heads of the administrators, so they often have to talk to the press and be available during emergency situations. And for that responsibility, they’re very well-paid. A Master’s of Business Administration is recommended, though some administrators are going for Public Health, and even Doctor of Public Health degrees.

Median Salary: $97,000
Education Level: Master’s degree
Projected employment growth: 23% increase between 2012 and 2022

5. Biomedical Engineer

Part of the excitement of working in medicine is using all of the amazing machines, tools, and gadgets that are being developed every day to heal people. Obviously, those incredible inventions don’t design themselves – that’s what Biomedical Engineers are for. Any innovation that has transformed some aspect of medicine in recent years, from brain-controlled prosthetics to imaging machines that can show the hair on a growing fetus, started out in a biomedical research and development facility.

If you like the idea of working in a lab, creating things that will improve and save lives, consider biomedical engineering. You only need a bachelor’s degree to get started, and pay is excellent for the education level.

Median Salary: $87,000
Education Level: Bachelor’s degree
Projected employment growth: 27% increase between 2012 and 2022

6. Dental Hygienist

Can you get past the fact you will be poking around in stranger’s mouths all day long? If so, you’re golden. You clean some teeth, examine for gingivitis and other oral diseases, maybe you do some sealant work and assist with fillings, round it out with patient education and you’ve got your shift in a nutshell.

A Dental Hygienist works for a team with Dentists and Dental Assistants. So for obvious reasons, you need to have excellent social and communication skills. Hygienist are paid very well given the fact that only a 2 year degree is the required amount of schooling for this position.

Median Salary: $70,210
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 33% increase between 2012 and 2022

7. Dermatologist

Who loves their skin? Really, sees no flaws and has no qualms? That’s why dermatologists will always have a job. But it’s not all smoothing wrinkles and removing unsightly moles. Dermatologists treat life-threatening skin cancers, correct disfiguring scars and damage, sooth painful skin conditions that make life miserable, and help patients learn good preventative habits to avoid future suffering.

You’ll have to do a lot of schooling first – a dermatologist is a medical doctor, not just a simple certification. But you’ll have no trouble paying back your student loans, either. Median income is up around $300,000, and in California, where good skin goes on your resume, it can be even higher. Makes you wonder why you’re not a dermatologist already, doesn’t it?

Median Salary: $300,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 18% increase between 2012 and 2022

8. Chiropractor

Chiropractors diagnose and treat disorders of the spine, along with all the muscles and nerves that go with it. To the layman, that means a lot of stretching and joint-cracking. As a chiropractor, you do a little of everything; a session may require working with computer imaging, doing some therapeutic massage, and stretching patients on equipment that looks kind of medieval. You can’t be afraid to try some unconventional treatments, because every patient’s pain is different.

If you want to go into a medical profession, but you’re kind of a lone wolf, chiropractic might be a good choice. Most chiropractors work in private practice. But that, of course, means you have to wear a lot of hats, so it wouldn’t hurt to have some skills in business and marketing in addition to your medical degree. Take a video course and you can even shoot your own late-night local TV commercial.

Median Salary: $66,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 16% increase between 2012 and 2022

9. Podiatrist

Frankly, the human foot is a disaster. It just can’t handle all we put it through, with all our running around, on hard floors and sidewalks, in poorly-designed shoes. Not to mention all the weight we keep putting on them. It’s a wonder they hold up as well as they do. But pretty much everyone experiences foot pain or illness at some time in their lives. The Podiatrist is the one who treats that pain and illness, whether it’s as simple as warts and bunions, or as complex as diabetic feet or deformities like club foot.

Those Baby Boomers, patron saints of the medical field, just insist on staying active as they age, and that’s a very good thing for podiatrists. Every woman in her 60s whose heel spurs keep her from training for a marathon needs a podiatrist. Every man of a certain age who breaks his ankle rollerblading needs one. So it’s no wonder the profession is growing steadily, or that it pays so well. Anything to keep us on our feet.

Median Salary: $116,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 23% increase between 2012 and 2022

10. Physician Assistant

If you’ve ever been to an urgent care center, you’ve seen a Physician Assistant. You may not have even realized that he or she was not technically a doctor, because PAs are trained to do virtually everything a doctor does – perform exams, diagnose illnesses, even write prescriptions. They have some limitations; they can only assist in surgery, not perform it, for instance. But for your day-to-day sickness or injuries, a Physician Assistant can do it all.

When you become a PA, you can work in any speciality a doctor can, from neonatal to geriatric. You’ll answer to a medical doctor as part of a team, but the responsibility will be yours. Plus, it’s only a master’s degree, which means you’ll get there much faster and with a lot less student loan debt.

Learn more about the top 25 physician assistant (PA) degree programs 2022.

Median Salary: $90,000
Education Level: Master’s degree
Projected employment growth: 38% increase between 2012 and 2022

11. Speech Pathologist

You may think of a speech pathologist helping people overcome stuttering, or learn to speak without a lisp, but speech pathologists treat a wide range of disorders. They help children born with cleft palate or developmental delays, and adults with strokes or Parkinson’s. Surprisingly, speech pathologists can even help treat problems with infant feeding, such a difficulties sucking or swallowing.

Speech Pathologists often work with as part of a team, such as with an audiologist or educators, and they are commonly employed in schools and senior facilities. This is another profession that requires only a master’s degree, and while it may be difficult, it is also very rewarding to help someone who has lost, or never had, the ability to communicate, break through.

Median Salary: $69,000
Education Level: Master’s degree
Projected employment growth: 19% increase between 2012 and 2022

12. Pharmacist

Ever walk into a pharmacy, see the pharmacist counting out pills, and think, “Must be nice to get paid for counting out pills all day”? Well, you don’t know the half of it. Pharmacist is a highly technical job, and people’s health and well-being, even their lives, are in the pharmacist’s hands. The doctor may diagnose and prescribe a course of treatment, but it’s up to the pharmacist to put that prescription together correctly and inform patients how to use it.

Since the pharmacist profession is so important, a pharmacist must have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, and it’s nearly as demanding as a medical doctorate. You’ll have to spend some time working in a pharmacy as a student for hands-on experience, and be licensed. The upside is, you won’t have the pressure and stress of working in an emergency room or dealing with blood and fluids. A patient may sneeze on you asking where to find the cold medicine, but otherwise, it’s a clean, safe job with a lot of responsibility and the income to match.

Median Salary: $116,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 14% increase between 2012 and 2022

13. Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapist is a straightforward job: you give radiation treatments, usually for patients with cancer (though a few other, rare diseases benefit from radiation). That means working with oncologists to develop a treatment plan, using the equipment to administer treatments, interpreting the results, advising patients on treating side effects, and judging when treatments need to stop or continue.

That’s a major responsibility, and a high pay rate, for only an associate’s degree. Think of it – you could be saving lives in only two or three years. If that appeals to you, Radiation Therapist is one of the fastest ways to get there.

Median Salary: $77,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 24% increase between 2012 and 2022

14. Nuclear Medicine Technician

This is another medical job that requires only an associate’s degree, has a lot of responsibility, and can be explained pretty simply. A Nuclear Medical Technician gives a patient a radioactive drug, uses imaging equipment to perform a scan, and analyzes the results on a computer to determine where abnormalities show up. That includes tests for disorders of the intestinal tract, heart and blood vessels, and brain.

As a Nuclear Medicine Technologist, you’ll probably work in a hospital, though some work for physicians or in clinics. Nuclear medicine is growing and improving all the time, so there’s no bad time to get in.

Median Salary: $70,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 20% increase between 2012 and 2022

15. Audiologist

Many people worry about hearing loss, whether it’s their own golden years, or their children’s yearly ear infections. Just about everyone has had a hearing test at some point in their life, and that’s probably all they know of audiology. Of course the audiologist performs hearing tests, but they also treat tinnitus (ringing in the ears), balance issues caused by inner ear disorders like Ménière’s disease, and all forms of hearing loss. They fit hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Thanks to iPod earbuds and Beats by Dre, audiologists don’t have to worry about running out of patients any time soon. The profession is growing much faster than the average rate, and advances in hearing recovery are coming quickly as technology like cochlear implants become more common.

Median Salary: $69,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 34% increase between 2012 and 2022

16. Physical Therapist

A child injured in a car accident learns to walk on crutches; a young baseball pitcher tears a ligament and needs recovery; a grandmother has a hip replacement and needs to practice walking on her new part. All of these people need a Physical Therapist.

Physical therapists work with all kinds of people, often in specialties like sports medicine, geriatric, or orthopedics. PTs use a variety of techniques, often in creative ways, to help improve their patients’ mobility, range of motion, and quality of life. It’s a doctorate degree, so it won’t be obtained easily, but physical therapy is a great choice for those who want to work directly with patients and help them see visible improvements.

Median Salary: $79,000
Education Level: Doctorate degree
Projected employment growth: 36% increase between 2012 and 2022

17. Nurse Practitioner

Whether you already have your BSN, or if you’re just getting started in a nursing program and feel ambitious, Nurse Practitioner is worth considering. A Nurse Practitioner is a master’s-level program which goes beyond the basic tasks of nursing. A Nurse Practitioner has many of the same responsibilities of a doctor, including diagnosis and prescribing treatment, though under the supervision of a doctor.

Many NPs work in hospitals, urgent care centers, schools, and nursing homes, and with the added education and responsibility comes a higher pay. Like all medical fields, Nurse Practitioner is a growing job, and there is no shortage of work in sight.

Median Salary: $96,000
Education Level: Master’s degree
Projected employment growth: 31% increase between 2012 and 2022

18. Occupational Therapist

For millions of people, daily tasks, from brushing teeth to cleaning up after meals, are difficult because of some physical or mental disorder. Occupational Therapists are the experts who help patients do the things they want and need to do to make their lives better. For instance, OTs may help autistic children curb repetitive, destructive behaviors by teaching them more constructive habits; they may help elderly people with limited mobility rearrange their household goods to make them more easily accessible; they may help adults with brain damage re-learn basic life skills while working around their injuries.

To become an Occupational Therapist, you will need a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. You may work for hospitals, clinics, group homes, and other settings where people experience physical limitations, writing up treatment plans and sometimes overseeing a team of assistants.

Median Salary: $75,000
Education Level: Master’s degree
Projected employment growth: 29% increase between 2012 and 2022

19. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

One of the most thrilling moments in a new parent’s life is seeing the sonogram image of their baby for the first time. A Sonographer is the person who makes that miracle possible. A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer uses imaging equipment such as ultrasound to check on the development of a fetus, to look for damage to organs such as the heart or intestines, or to find breast cancers. Some Sonographers assist with surgeries.

Some people may be nervous about working with this equipment all the time, but unlike X-rays, sonography uses no radiation and is totally safe for operator and patient. And with only an associate’s degree, sonography is a well-paid profession with a reasonable entry point.

Median Salary: $60,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 39% increase between 2012 and 2022

20. Radiologic Technologist

The first time Wilhelm Rontgen saw human bones with x-rays, it must have seemed like magic. Now, all it takes to look through people’s skin is an associate’s degree and certification. So why not consider becoming a Radiologic Technologist? As a technician, you will work in hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, and sometimes even in private practice, if you save up your pennies for your own machine.

The Radiologic Technologist profession also allows for areas of specialization; for instance, you may move on to become an MRI Technologist, a job that usually pays more. You may focus on sports medicine, pediatrics, or mammography as well.

Median Salary: $56,000
Education Level: Associates’s degree
Projected employment growth: 21% increase between 2012 and 2022

For Further Reading: 

What Degree Do I Need to Be an Optometrist?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Speech Therapist?

Can a PA Prescribe Medication?

Top 10 Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree

What Are the 5 Best Careers in Environmental Science?

Top 25 Medical Schools