More than 14.3 million people in the United States worked in the field of health care as of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At that time, the industry was predicted to grow by more than 22 percent through 2018, creating an estimated 3.2 million additional positions. Jobs in health care include care providers, managers and clerical workers. Each health care career has its own educational requirements and average salary expectations.
Physicians or medical doctors have the primary responsibility to diagnose illnesses and disease. They work in private practices and hospitals, examining patients, ordering diagnostic tests and developing treatment plans. Some doctors are general practitioners who serve as the primary doctors for patients. When general practitioners discover a chronic medical condition, they often refer patients to specialists, physicians who concentrate on treating one part of the body or one type of patient. Physicians typically complete eight years of schooling with four years as undergraduates and four years in medical school. Specialists complete training programs called residencies after graduation. A state-issued license is necessary to work as a doctor, and specialists must also receive board certification in their areas of interest. Salaries for physicians vary by specialty. As of May 2009, general practitioners earned an average of $168,550 annually, according to BLS.
Nurses provide hands-on patient care in physicians' practices, hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. Licensed practical nurses perform more basic duties like checking patients' pulse and blood pressure and assisting with personal care tasks like eating and toileting. LPNs typically complete one-year certificate or diploma training programs prior to entering the field. Registered nurses perform more complex tasks, such as starting intravenous drugs and inserting catheters. They also work closely with physicians and assist with the development of treatment plans. RNs must have a minimum of a two-year associate degree. A state-issued license is necessary for both types of nurses. As of May 2009, the average annual salaries for practical and registered nurses was$40,900 and $66,530, respectively, explains BLS.
Imaging technologists operate equipment used to diagnose medical conditions. Radiologic technologists perform tests like x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, which use radioactive energy to produce pictures of the interior structures of the human body. The types of tests that nuclear medicine technologists perform involve administering drugs that make body parts more visible in images. Both radiologic and nuclear technologists must typically have an associate's degree as well as a state-issued license. Average salaries were $54,180 and $68,450, respectively, as of May 2009, reports BLS. Sonographers use machinery that produces sound waves to make images. Although associate degree programs are available for sonographers, employers may also accept a one-year postsecondary diploma or certificate as adequate education. A license is not necessary to work as a sonographer. Professionals in the field made an average of $63,640.
Medical Managers and Clerical Workers
Medical managers oversee the business aspects of health care facilities and practices. They establish budgets, hire and supervise employees and ensure that staff follow federal and state regulations and laws governing health care. Managers must typically have a minimum of a four-year bachelor's or a master's degree. Managers earned an average of $90,970 per year, according to BLS. A type of clerical worker, medical transcriptionists take the recorded notes physicians make concerning diagnoses and treatment and transform them into a written record for patients' files. A one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree is usually necessary to work as a transcriptionist. Medical records technicians submit requests to insurance companies for payment and manage and update the databases that contain patients' contact, medical and billing information. Depending on the duties they perform, technicians may need a certificate or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Medical transcriptionists and records technicians earned an annual average of $33,350 and $33,880, respectively.