Amidst the recent recession and the numbers of new college graduates flooding the job market, it makes sense to opt for a career in health sciences. Not only is the health industry flourishing, but an aging population makes the outlook for jobs in this field good. A 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 14 out of the top 25 fastest-growing are in health care. In other words, there is job security in the health profession. So the question becomes, which career in health to choose?
For those just starting out in the field of health care, or for those looking for entry-level work, a job as a medical technician or home health aide can be easy to find. However, with starting salaries ranging from $25,000 – $55,000, a job as an occupational therapy aide, which requires the equivalent of a high school diploma, or as an occupational therapy assistant, which requires an associate degree, is the way to go. Work in occupational therapy is much more specialized than work as a home health aide would be, plus it offers a more professional setting in a therapy facility with hours that are more regular than the typical hours of a home health aide, who may be on call or be needed to work overnight to care for a patient.
Although some health care jobs, such as that of a home health aide or occupational therapy aide, require little in the way of education beyond a high school diploma, on-the-job training is almost always a must for this type of work. For those jobs that require a technical or associate degree, however, interested parties can look into community colleges as well as online programs to help prepare them. Most states require an O.T. assistant to be licensed and hold an associate degree from an accredited institution. It typically takes two years of schooling in addition to 16 weeks of on-the-job training to pursue licensure as an O.T. assistant.
One of the most common choices among those interested in health careers is nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that growth in the nursing profession will continue. Registered nurses also tend to benefit from flexible scheduling, overtime pay, bonuses and educational benefits despite having to work long shifts or face under-staffing challenges.
While there are still a few nursing programs that are RN-only and do not confer a bachelor’s degree, the current educational trend is to attend a four-year institution and receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before sitting for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The BSN also embeds on-the-job training in the form of hundreds of hours of practicum and clinical settings. Those who pass the NCLEX-RN are ready to pursue employment, most often in a hospital setting, although there are plenty of other options for RNs, including work in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, health rehabilitation facilities and even in mental health facilities.
Advanced-Degree Jobs and Training
There is also an excellent outlook for current nurses looking to advance in their careers. Those RNs who further their educational attainment can attend programs offering advanced licensure degrees, such as the Nurse Practitioner (NP) program offered by Rocky Mountain University’s Graduate School of Health Professions. Programs like this build on the education and experience of current BSNs to allow them advancement in their field. The growth rate in jobs for nurse practitioners is high, and also allows nurses more clinical freedom.
Another health career with excellent promise is, unsurprisingly, Nursing Instruction. Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees certainly qualify nurses to teach at the post-secondary level. Schools offer programs that are flexible, with limited residency programs, as they expect that most pursuing this degree are doing so as current practitioners. This allows current nurses the ability to advance their careers without having to stop working.
The health field will continue to expand its job offerings as outlook remains good for job growth. Not only do most careers in health care allow for advancement and higher salary opportunities, they also tend to offer some of the most flexible work arrangements in terms of hours and benefits. Those interested in a career in this field should start exploring their educational options right away.