If you believe your squeamishness over blood makes you an unlikely candidate for a career in the medical field, think again.
Since the beginning of the recession in late 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor shows the healthcare sector has experienced a cumulative job growth of 10.1 percent. Non-healthcare related employment, on the other hand, has dropped by 4.6 percent. Looking ahead, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce projects that 5.6 million new jobs will be created in the sector by 2020.
And many of the types of positions behind the growth will expose professionals to not a single drop of blood. Here is a look at some of the fastest growing:
Pharmacy Technician - Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of pharmacists in the retail environment, filling prescriptions for medications, mixing them, and distributing them to patients. This part- or full-time job involves considerable on-the-job training, and, increasingly, either a college education or certification (which some states require) through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcareer Association. Median pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is $28,400 annually.
Healthcare Administrator - These professionals focus on business operations of the medical office, with responsibilities as varied as the environments in which they can work: billing, patient interaction, scheduling, and, at the highest levels, managing the overarching financial resources of the organization. This can be in the practice setting, or within hospitals, nursing homes or clinics, among others. A bachelor’s degree is required, at the least, with coursework focusing on such areas as accounting, budgeting, health economics and human resources administration. Increasingly, however, employers are requiring master’s degrees in health administration, with such study areas as health services, public and business administration. Median annual salary according to the BLS is $84,270.
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Physical Therapy Assistant - Patients who have undergone surgery or are recovering from an illness or an injury often need physical therapy to aid in the recovery process, and the physical therapy assistant supports both therapists and patients in seeing this through. Duties can range from monitoring patients to helping them with their workouts and in using the equipment that might be utilized in the process. Physical therapy can be performed in a variety of environments, including practitioner offices, nursing homes and hospitals. An associate’s degree is required by most states to perform this physically challenging job, which commands a median annual salary of $49,690.
Medical Billing Specialists - These professionals are trained in the various facets of medical billing. They apply the medical codes for procedures to create invoices and do the processing, working with the parties responsible for paying them (patients and insurers). Medical billing specialists submit claims to both private insurers and Medicare, and also are called upon to manage the disposition of insurance fraud cases that may arise. They also may monitor claims and prepare claim appeals. They are in demand by hospitals, physicians’ offices and insurance companies, among others. There is no fixed educational criterion for this profession, but, at the least, most employers require certificate training that covers medical terminology, medical billing software and procedures and medical coding. According to www.medicalbillingandcoding.org, the certified professional with a bachelor’s degree earned an average annual salary of $51,389 in 2010. The non-certified professional with the same degree earned $47,421.
Dietitian - If you have an interest in food and its relationship to a healthy lifestyle, becoming a dietitian or nutritionist might be for you. Dietitians devise meal plans and nutrition program that make a difference. They work in a variety of environments, from hospitals and long-term care facilities to health spas. Distinct jobs under the general heading include clinical dietitians, medical nutrition therapists for hospitals or long-term care facilities, and management dietitians, who create meal programs for hospitals, cafeterias and food corporations. Most earn their bachelor’s degrees in dietetics, food or nutrition, followed by considerable time in training. According to the BLS, median pay is $53,250 annually.
Health Informatics - Health information technicians and managers are responsible for patient information in a hospital or physician’s office. Technicians organize and maintain databases of patient records, analyze the data and track outcomes. They typically have an associate’s degree and employers usually also require certification as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). Health information managers have deeper capabilities; in addition to database skills, they must know medical coding, software, terminology and industry rules and regulations. They effectively bridge the gap between healthcare practitioners and computer and data processing specialists. Employers usually require at least a bachelor’s degree, along with certification. Median salaries for technicians are $32,350, according to BLS.
Radiation Therapists - Radiation therapists are part of the medical team working with cancer patients, specialists in using the machine that aims x-rays at cancer cells to shrink or eliminate them. In addition to working with patients, they usually will also be charged with duties such as maintaining the equipment and keeping detailed records of patient treatments. This job requires a formal training program that usually leads to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Most states also have licensing requirements. Median salary is $74,980.
All of these career paths have very promising outlooks and don’t involve contact with blood. To take advantage and get started, dig deeper into the educational requirements of those options that are most attractive to you, and then check out schools that offer education programs to fit.