When you initially decide to go into the healthcare field, professions such as physician, physician assistant, nurse and physical therapist are usually among the first that come to mind. While these roles are at the forefront for many aspiring students and career-changers, there are dozens of other jobs available in the growing health industry. Some you’ve heard of, but there are many you probably never knew existed!
Here are 6 growing health careers – all with above average employment outlook – that are definitely worth considering if you’re still in the process of choosing a medical profession.
1. Electrocardiogram (EKG) Technician – 39% Growth
With the rise in heart-related illnesses in the United States, Electrocardiogram Technicians have become an integral part of medical facilities nationwide. Physicians rely on the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to get an accurate record of the heart’s electrical function.
If the electrical or muscular function of the heart is disturbed for some reason, it will affect how the electrical signals spread throughout the heart muscle or myocardium. An ECG curve reflects the perspective of the electrode recording it and it is the job of the technician to properly use this high tech equipment to ensure proper readings. These techs perform three main tests: ECG’s, 24-hour monitors (Holter) and event monitors. They must be able to conduct these tests in a variety of situations ranging from the emergency room and intensive care unit to the outpatient clinic.
Although a cardiologist is responsible for interpreting the data, EKG techs must work with the patients as the tests are being administered. It is important for the tech to be able to explain the procedure in a simple, reassuring manner.
Since the demand is high for these diagnostic professionals, some hospitals offer on-the-job training for prospective employees. A high school diploma or GED is required before entering an ECG training program. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer electrocardiogram technician programs. A typical training course includes 18 hours of lecture and 54 hours of laboratory. Currently, there is a national credential, the EKG Technician Certification (CET), which enables them to more easily secure jobs from state to state.
2. Electroneurodiagnostic Technician (END) – 39% Growth
With the advancements in medical technology there is an increasing demand for technicians who can operate various types of diagnostic equipment. An Electroneurodiagnostic Technician (END) can operate different types of specialized equipment that can record the electrical signals of the brain or muscles, or perhaps monitor neuromuscular activity during sleep. These tests performed by ENDs and interpreted by neurologists are useful in diagnosing brain, spinal cord, or nerve diseases, such as strokes, tumors, or Alzheimer’s.
As of 2005, any individual going into the END profession is required to earn an associate degree or higher and successfully complete a program that’s been reviewed by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Electroneurodiagnostic Technology and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). As of now, there are only 23 approved END schools in the United States. Programs run in between 12 and 24 months where students take courses in electronics, neuroanatomy, neuropathology, computer skills, instrumentation, clinical science, neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, psychology and clinical practicum.
There are six common neurodiagnostic procedures that an END may specialize in: electroencephalogram or EEG (brain waves), polysomnograph or PSG (sleep patterns), nerve conduction study or NCV (peripheral nerves), evoked potential or EP (stimulation of nervous system), long-term monitoring or LTM (EEG diagnostics) and operating room monitoring or ORMON (electrical monitoring during surgery).
Primarily, electroneurodiagnostic techs work in the neurology department of hospitals; some work in private practices or clinics where neurology related work is done. With additional experience and training, ENDs may advance to manage laboratories and clinics.
3. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – 23% Growth
Many daily incidents require immediate medical attention whether it be a car accident, a gunshot wound, or an unexpected birth. Quick response is performed by the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) made up of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. There are usually four levels of EMTs with EMT-IV or EMT-P being the highest. These categories represent the different degrees of training and kinds of responsibilities. The EMT-IV or paramedic has the most advanced training and is allowed to administer intravenous fluids, use defribillators, intubate, interpret EKGs and administer drugs in order to save lives.
Schooling for paramedics starts in the basic EMT-I level with 140 hours of class and 10 hours of hospital emergency room internship. They learn to manage and operate common emergency devices, such as backboards, stretchers, suction apparatuses, splints and oxygen support systems. With each level comes more schooling and emergency room or ambulance training. By the time the EMT is ready for the final level, he or she has completed some 2,000 hours of training and internship, usually having earned an associate’s degree along the way.
With the growth in population and urbanization, the EMS field is growing at a faster rate than most medical professions. Most police and fire organizations employ paramedics and offer benefits and pensions. Private ambulance companies make up a large portion of the industry that are hiring EMT-Ps or paramedics.
4. Dietitian – 21% Growth
Understanding the different levels of allergic reactions to food or the increase of lactose intolerance are just a couple of the topics a Registered Dietitian (RD) studies in school. Whether in a hospital, school cafeteria, or nursing home setting, RDs must be familiar with how the body processes nutrition. These healthcare providers work closely with people who need to modify their health, whether it be to lose weight, lower cholesterol levels, or perhaps to control diabetes.
To become a registered dietitian students must complete a bachelor’s degree program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). They then are required to complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a healthcare facility or agency usually lasting 6 to 12 months. In order to receive certification, the student must then pass a national exam and take yearly professional education classes. While in school, students study subjects ranging from culinary arts, nutrition and food service management to biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology. Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric nutrition, renal nutrition or cardiac education. These certifications are awarded through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), formerly known as the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and are recognized within the profession, but not required.
Because of the increased emphasis on disease prevention, a growing and aging population, and expanding public interest in nutrition the employment opportunities for RDs are spreading outside the hospital setting and making it easier for employment in almost any facet of the health and food service industries.
5. Respiratory Therapist (RT) – 19% Growth
Because the respiratory care field is expected to grow 19% (fast than average) over the next several years due to an aging population, nationwide air quality issues and advances in medical care, there is a considerable need for respiratory therapists (RTs). An RT may work as part of the anesthesiology team to monitor a patient’s ventilation during surgery or to assist in the diagnosis of sleep related disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
RTs are most commonly found in pulmonology and rehabilitation departments as well as emergency and home care settings. In addition to providing care for diseases or injuries that negatively affect the ability to inhale and exhale air, RTs monitor and perform various diagnostic tests used to gauge breathing function and capacity.
Training in this field is offered by a number of colleges, universities and technical trade and vocational institutes. Formal training programs vary in length and in the credential or degree awarded. Some RT programs reward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and prepare graduates for jobs as Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs), while other shorter programs award certificates and lead to entry-level respiratory care jobs as Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRTs). More than 40 states license respiratory care personnel and national examinations administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) lead to the RRT and CRT credentials as well as additional certifications in areas such as sleep disorders and pediatric respiratory care.
6. Chiropractor – 15% Growth
Chiropractic medicine is based on the philosophy many health problems are directly linked to problems of the muscular, nervous or skeletal systems. The proper title for a chiropractor is ‘Doctor’, as they are considered physicians by health insurance organizations in most states. Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine, or D.C.’s, are strong proponents of the human body’s capacity to mend itself without the use of surgical or pharmaceutical interventions. These alternative medicine professionals specialize in the anatomy, biomechanics, and function of the spine as well as its relation to the neuromusculoskeletal system. They also closely monitor the function of this system in the maintenance and recovery of health. By using body manipulation, chiropractors commonly work with patients experiencing neuromusculoskeletal issues, including pain emanating from the joints, neck and back. They also treat a range of non-neuromuscular ailments, such as asthma, allergies, digestive disorders and otitis (ear inflammation). With new research in chiropracty comes a broader acceptance of this form of care as an alternative form of health treatment.
Chiropractors must complete 4 to 5 years of schooling at an accredited chiropractic school. The curriculum necessitates at least 4,200 hours of didactic, laboratory, and clinical training. The educational program includes training in the basic medical sciences, such as anatomy with human dissection, physiology and biochemistry. Thorough preparation is also obtained in the area of differential diagnosis, radiology and therapeutic techniques. To practice as a D.C. you’re also required to sit for the National Board Exam (NBE) and fulfill any other credentialing mandated by the state you’ll be working in.
* Employment growth based on predictions reported by BLS.gov for 2012-2022.
** EKG and END Technician growth reported as part of all Diagnostic medical professions.