Degrees for Booming Health Care Fields

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Find out how to gear your studies toward a career in today's growing health care industry.

By Amanda Hearle    

Have you been thinking about pursuing a career in health care? Now is the time to stop thinking and start moving toward your goal.

"The economy goes up, the economy goes down, but people will always need health care," says Andrea Santiago, an 11-year veteran of the medical staff recruiting field.

Santiago anticipates a rise in opportunities for health care workers throughout the country.

"With the increased focus on preventative care," explains Santiago, "and the number of baby boomers who will need preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic treatment, the demand for health care workers is definitely on the rise," says Santiago.

Want to get in on this in-demand field? See which degrees could help you get started.

Degree #1 - Nursing

Want to pursue an in-demand registered nursing (RN) career that lets you help others? An associate's degree in nursing could help.

As a nursing student, you might take courses like anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and health assessment, says the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT. Most associate's degree programs help students gain clinical experience with patients to help prepare you for the national nursing certification exam, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Projected growth for RNs: The Department of Labor projects a 22 percent increase in job opportunities for registered nurses between 2008 and 2018. "As the demand for preventative care increases, so does the demand for primary care givers such as nurses. As it stands now, the demand currently exceeds the supply," says Santiago.


Degree #2 - Dental Assisting

Want to play a role in helping people improve their dental care? An associate's degree in dental assisting could help you prepare to pursue a career as a dental assistant. Programs might offer courses in clinical practice, oral anatomy, and office management, says the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Projected growth for dental assistants: "There are a growing number of people who are keeping their natural teeth longer," says Santiago. "This translates into more patients who need regular dental care." According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of dental assistants, who generally spend their work days removing sutures or prepping instruments for dental procedures, is projected to grow by 36 percent between 2008 and 2018.


Degree #3 - Medical Assisting

Think a more administrative role in health care might be for you? Look into associate's degree programs in medical assisting. In this type of program, you might get hands-on instruction and take courses in clinical and diagnostic procedures, administration of medications, and medical office administration and insurance, says the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Projected growth for medical assistants: Medical assistants, who generally schedule appointments, take patient vitals, and bill insurance companies, are projected to experience 34 percent job growth between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"As medical technology advances and more people become insured, patient loads are increasing all over," says Santiago. "Because of this, there's an increased need for support personnel, especially in primary care."


Degree #4 - Physical Therapy Assisting

Want to help disabled or injured patients increase their mobility? Look into associate's degree programs in physical therapy assisting that are accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association. Curriculum generally combines coursework in motor development, rehabilitation procedures, and kinesiology with hands-on experience, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assisting Program.

Projected growth for physical therapist assistants and aides: "Facilities that utilize physical therapy assistants are able to reduce the cost of their services," says Santiago. "This, along with the general increase in patients who need physical therapy, makes this a growing career field." In fact, the Department of Labor projects 33 percent job growth for physical therapist assistants and aides from 2008 to 2018.


Degree #5 - Health Information Technology

If you prefer a more behind-the-scenes role, consider earning an associate's degree that includes coursework in health information technology, which could help you prepare to pursue opportunities on the technological side as a health information technician. According to the College Board, courses in health care law, statistics, and coding are typical for health information technology majors.

Click Here to Find the Right Health Information Technology.

Projected growth for medical records and health information technicians: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job opportunities are projected to grow by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018. Santiago says this type of growth is probably due to the enforcement of stricter laws. "As the health care field is forced to update its technology," she explains, "the need for people who can create and maintain these systems increases."


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