If you’ve always wanted to pursue a career in the health professions, you’ll be happy to know that opportunities are plentiful.
Of the top 10 fastest-growing occupations in the United States, six are in the health care industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Best Jobs list for 2021 includes seven health care professions in its top 10.
What Are the Best Health Care Jobs to Pursue Today?
With such a broad range of roles within health care organizations and specialty areas in the industry as a whole, your career options could seem limitless. One way to narrow down your ideal health care profession is to consider what’s most in-demand: Is there a pressing need you could fill in your community? As you weigh your career choices, you might also want to consider pay, work environment, room for advancement, and length of training required. All these factors can impact your career decision-making.
Career publications like U.S. News & World Report’s annual best job rankings are a good place to start your research. In 2021, its Best Health Care Jobs list highlighted 29 positions. The top 10 are:
- Physician assistant
- Nurse practitioner
- Speech-language pathologist
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
- Occupational therapist
There’s much you can research, from salary and demand data to educational requirements. What’s most important, though, is finding the best medical field careers for your personal and professional goals.
Education & Training for the Health Care Profession
Many good-paying health care jobs require a minimum of an associate degree and/or specialized training. Higher-level or more specialized positions typically prefer or require a bachelor’s degree, and, for many top-paying fields, a master’s-level education is required.
Brenda Zink, department chair for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math at Northeastern Junior College, explains that earning an associate degree is a cost-efficient way to start your health care education.
Northeastern offers health transfer associate degree programs, which give you a foundation for further study and additional training in many of these high-demand, well-paying fields, from audiology to veterinary science.
“At Northeastern, you’ll build a strong foundation in the sciences,” says Zink, adding that these introductory biological and natural sciences courses prepare you for graduate and medical school entrance exams as well.
Hands-On Experience: Preparation for the Health Care Profession
If you’re thinking of pursuing a health care profession, you might also consider how you can gain experience in the field beyond your coursework. Zink explains that associate degree students at Northeastern benefit from a faculty with a wide range of backgrounds.
“Our instructors have amazing research and clinical experience,” Zink says. As students hear their instructors’ first-hand accounts, they can connect what they’re learning in class with real-world applications.
Additionally, many health care profession majors at Northeastern work part-time as campus lab assistants, where they gain experience preparing solutions and working with pipettes and autoclaves.
When they continue on to a bachelor’s program, “our students will be ahead of the game,” says Zink.
Once you transfer to a four-year degree program, you can continue to seek hands-on learning opportunities through internships, research, and clinical placements.
A Closer Look at Some of Today’s Best Medical Field Careers
To help you figure out which health profession is right for you, it may be helpful to take a closer look at a few of the fastest-growing or top-rated career areas, including demand and salary data from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The good-paying health care jobs and career paths highlighted here also align with Northeastern’s health transfer associate degree programs, which prepare you for continued study in bachelor’s and master’s programs, as well as entry-level positions in related fields.
Nutritionist & Dietician
With a greater emphasis on preventive health, demand for dieticians and nutritionists is growing. In this role, you’d advise people on what to eat based on a specific goal, whether related to a medical condition or a lifestyle preference. Dieticians and nutritionists work in various health care settings, from hospitals and schools to community education programs.
- Expected demand through 2029: 8%
- Median annual salary (2019): $61,270
Registered Nurse/Nurse Practitioner
The nursing field is expanding by leaps and bounds, and there are many levels of this important health care profession you can pursue. Among them is the registered nurse, which typically requires at least an associate degree; however, more and more employers are seeking RNs with a bachelor’s.
- Expected demand through 2029: 7%
- Median annual salary (2019): $73,300
With additional education, registered nurses can expand their career opportunities. Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice registered nurses, are #2 on the Best Health Care Jobs list and #3 on the overall Best 100 Jobs list. And with a 52% expected growth rate over the next decade, it’s the second-most in-demand career in the country, following only wind turbine technicians.
Occupational therapists are among the Best 100 Jobs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. To become an OT, you’ll need a master’s degree in the field.
- Expected demand through 2029: 16%
- Median annual salary (2019): $84,950
Because the occupational therapy field is growing rapidly, demand for occupational therapy assistants is also rising, making it the fourth fastest-growing occupation in the United States, according to the BLS.
Physical Therapist Assistant
The BLS ranks physical therapy assistants #7 on its Top 20 fastest-growing occupations list, and U.S. News & World Report ranks it #13 on the 100 Best Jobs list.
- Expected demand through 2029: 29%
- Median annual salary (2019): $58,790
U.S. News & World Report ranked physician assistant as #1 on its 100 Best Jobs list for 2021. As is the case with nurse practitioners, physician assistants are heavily in demand in rural areas and other places experiencing a doctor shortage.
- Expected demand through 2029: 31%
- Median annual salary (2019): $112,260
Other health care professions on U.S. News’ Best 100 Jobs top 10 are nurse practitioners, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, speech-language pathologists, and medical and health services managers.
Benefits of Earning an Associate Degree in the Health Care Profession
As Zink explains, an associate degree is a cost-effective and convenient alternative to begin your health care education and training. At Northeastern, you’ll complete the same general education courses and introductory science courses required at a four-year school, but at a lower tuition rate and most likely in smaller class sizes.
“These first two years are all about building your foundation,” she explains, adding that Northeastern credits are transferable to all schools in the Colorado state systems and most other colleges and universities. “Our students go everywhere!”
Whatever health care profession you want to pursue, Northeastern Junior College can put you on the right track for your future career. Explore our health transfer associate degree programs.