Ways to Prep for a Career in Health Care


Are you gung-ho to go back to school for a degree in the health care field? Here's some needed info before you sign up.

By Terence Loose    

It used to be revolutions were all about freedom, fighting, and dumping perfectly fine caffeinated beverages into harbors. Boy, how times have changed.

Now the revolution is in health care, which is all about jobs. And going back to school might just be a way to get in on the action.

At least, that's according to the U.S. Department of Labor's job growth statistics from 2008 to 2018, which projects that 3.2 million health care positions will be created from 2008 to 2018. In fact, the newest Department of Labor numbers show that the health care field continued to add 61,000 jobs this past February.

Ida Danzey, associate dean of health sciences for Santa Monica College, agrees that health care will be a job-filled area in the economy due to revolutionary changes in the industry. This includes new technologies, more emphasis on preventative care, and major health care reforms.

So, if you're thinking of joining the revolution, read on for degree options that could lead to a position in the ranks.

Degree #1 - Health Care Administration
Potential Career Path: Medical and health services manager
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 16 percent*

Are you a born leader who wants to make a difference in health care efficiency? A bachelor's or master's degree in health care administration could help you prepare for this career path.

As the health care industry looks to continue to expand and diversify, health care administrators can help make sure that a health care facility runs smoothly by planning, directing, and supervising how treatment is delivered, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

By studying all facets of overseeing a health care facility, you can learn more about management principles and practices. Common courses include health care finance, human resources, and health care policy and law, says the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT.

Degree #2 - Health Information Technology
Potential Career Path: Medical records and health information technician
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 20 percent*

When's the last time that you wrote someone a letter? Our guess is that your answer is "I can't remember." But you probably remember when you last sent an email. Yes, we live in an electronic age, and by earning an associate's in health information technology, you can prepare to help bring technology to the health care field.

With the assistance of medical records and health information technicians, the technology revolution shows up in even the smallest of doctors' offices - where prescriptions are emailed to pharmacies and patient records are increasingly being kept in electronic form, according to Danzey.

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an associate's degree in health information technology is the common education path for a medical records and health information technician. The College Board lists common courses like introduction to coding, medical terminology, and health care statistics for this program.

Degree #3 - Nursing
Potential Career Path: Registered nurse
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 22 percent*

When your friends are sick, are you the first to help them feel more comfortable? An associate's degree in nursing could help you prepare to find a place in the health care revolution as a registered nurse. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the occupation will add 581,500 jobs from 2008 to 2018.

Besides comforting patients, nurses can assist with examinations, provide treatment and medications, help with rehabilitation, and teach more about medical conditions, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program Now.

With courses like anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, and psychology, an associate's degree in nursing is the typical route to prepare for a nursing career, says the College Board. This coursework - combined with hands-on clinical experience - can help prepare students for the national nursing licensing examination, adds the Department.

Degree #4 - Dental Assisting
Potential Career Path: Dental assistant
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 36 percent*

In case you didn't know, dental health is also part of the health care revolution. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects employment for dental assistants to grow by 105,600 jobs from 2008 to 2018.

Want to prepare to pursue dental assisting opportunities? An associate's degree or certificate in dental assisting could help.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

As a dental assisting student, coursework combined with hands-on experience can help you learn how to take X-rays and dental impressions, make patients comfortable, sterilize instruments, and set up a dentist's tray, says the Department of Labor. In addition to hands-on dental care duties, dental assistants may gain knowledge on performing office and laboratory tasks.

Degree #5 - Medical Assisting
Potential Career Path: Medical assistant
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 34 percent*

Are you the glue that keeps your group of friends close? You know, the practical one that keeps everyone together even when things get crazy? Well, that's pretty much the role of the medical assistant in the doctor's office.

They could do everything from organizing patient's records to taking vital signs. Maybe that's why the U.S. Department of Labor projects 34 percent job growth from 2008 to 2018.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

You could prepare to pursue this career path with a certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting, according to the Department of Labor. Programs could cover everything from anatomy and medical terminology to insurance processing and medical transcription, says the Department.

Degree #6 - Physical Therapist Assistant
Potential Career Path: Physical therapy assistant
Job Growth for 2008 to 2018: 33 percent*

Want to join the health care revolution in a career that lets you help others overcome physical challenges? Consider earning a physical therapist assistant associate's degree.

The U.S. Department of Labor expects this career to grow in the future due to a few different factors, including a rising elderly population that may require physical therapy.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

As a physical therapist assistant, you could play a role in the rehabilitation process by helping everyone from injured athletes to disabled children. Coursework can prepare you to learn physical therapy techniques such as applying hot and cold packs, giving massages, recording patient progress, and performing other therapeutic treatments, according to the Department of Labor.

*All job growth is from the U.S. Department of Labor's projections data from the National Employment Matrix and represents projections for the 2008 to 2018 time frame.

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