Physician AssistantsPhysician Assistant positions are expected to grow by 39 percent between 2008 and 2018, creating 29,200 new jobs. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician, and are not the same as medical assistants who merely perform the routine, clerical support functions. The most number of PAs work in the offices of physicians, while a significant number are employed in general and surgical hospitals. Working under the supervision of a physician, an assistant normally takes medical histories, examines and treats patients, orders and interprets laboratory tests and x-rays, and can even make diagnoses. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. Physician assistants may prescribe certain medications. In fact, one of the segments which is likely to witness particularly robust growth in terms of PA employment is that of rural and inner-city clinics, where the primary physician may be available for only a day or two during the week. The duties of the PA are determined by the supervising physician and the laws of the State. The first step towards the position would be completion of a targeted PA education program usually offered at schools of allied health, academic health centers, medical schools, or 4-year colleges; some community colleges and hospitals also offer such programs. Most accredited PA programs have tie-ups with hospitals or medical schools. All U.S. States and the District of Columbia also require physician assistants to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which is open only to graduates of accredited PA education programs. However, there is also a requirement of continuing medical education every 2 years and a recertification exam once every 6 years. The reported median annual wage of physician assistants was $81,230 in May 2008, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,240.
Dental AssistantsWith dentists expected to entrust an increasing number of routine tasks to assistants, the period mentioned above is likely to witness 105,600 new jobs for dental assistants, a 36 percent rise over the decade. Dental assistants normally perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties, such as sterilizing and disinfecting instruments and equipment; preparing and arranging the instruments and materials required to treat each patient, and obtaining and updating dental records of patients. A workweek typically comprises 35-40 hours (as per 2008 data) and can usually accommodate varying schedules. Many dental assistants also work part time. While an entry level dental assistant may not require any formal qualification, those wishing to build careers in the field may consider one of close to 300 programs approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which combine classroom, laboratory, and preclinical instruction in dental-assisting skills and related theory. Most programs take close to one year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges also offer two-year programs leading to an associate’s degree. The duties that dental assistants can perform are mostly regulated by the state in question. For example, in more than 37 states, dental assistants must complete the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential, administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), in order to meet various requirements. Median annual wages of dental assistants were $32,380 in May 2008, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,150.
Veterinary Technologists/TechniciansGiven the physically and emotionally demanding nature of jobs in this field, a passion for animals and even a certain degree of risk-affinity are perhaps critical pre-requisites to a successful career here. Those who do possess these attributes and want to work here can look forward to an exciting decade as the demand for such professionals are projected to rise 36 percent, creating 28,500 new jobs. Veterinary technologists and technicians perform many of the same duties for a veterinarian that a nurse would for a physician. The demarcation of duties between technologists and technicians is a bit blurred, often dictated by the particular employer and could even be the same. However, in general, technicians are more likely to be employed in the office of the veterinarian, engaged in clinical practice, while technologists could be doing more advanced, research-related work. Veterinary technicians at the entry level usually require a 2-year associate degree from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited community college program in Veterinary Technology. There are also about 20 colleges that offer 4-year programs, culminating in a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. In addition, all states require them to pass a credentialing exam, which tests them for competency through an examination that includes oral, written, and practical elements and is regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners or the appropriate State agency. Median annual wages of veterinary technologists and technicians were $28,900 in May 2008, with the top 10 percent earning more than $41,490.
Registered NursesThe occupation set to create the highest number of new jobs – 581,500 during 2008-2018 – already comprises the largest group of employees in the healthcare sector, about 60 percent among whom work in hospitals. While overall employment of registered nurses will grow by 22 percent in this period, the growth is expected to be led by the demand in physicians’ offices (48 percent). Registered nurses in general treat patients, educate them about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients' family members. They help in maintaining records of patients' medical histories and symptoms, provide support in diagnostic tests and analysis of results, and operate medical machinery. They are also required to administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation. While there are many lines of specialty and diverse work settings or profiles within the broad occupation, there are usually three educational paths leading to the profession – a four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a two-year associate’s degree (ADN) or a three year diploma administered in some hospitals. The last is, however, not very abundant in offer. Besides, graduates already holding a bachelors degree in some other field may opt for an accelerated 12-18 month BSN. Students who complete the above education in an approved nursing program must then pass a national licensing examination, known as the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license. In some cases, the state in which one practices may also have particular requirements. Median annual wages of registered nurses were $62,450 in May 2008, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $92,240.
Dental HygienistDental Hygienists held over 174,000 jobs in 2008 and the occupation is set to see 36 percent growth over the ten-year period, with 62,900 new jobs created in the field. They are mostly employed in dentists’ offices and the option of flexible scheduling is considered to be a distinct and attractive feature of the profession. These professionals remove soft and hard deposits from teeth and have to be adept in handling an assortment of specialized tools and devices for the purpose. They examine patients' teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities, and advise them on how to practice good oral hygiene, providing other preventive dental care where necessary. Dental Hygienists require a degree accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Most dental hygiene programs grant an associate degree, although some may offer a certificate, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree. In addition, they must pass both a written and clinical examination in order to be licensed for practice by the concerned State, and also often, an examination on the legal aspects of dental hygiene practice. Graduates can practice only in the state where they have been licensed. Median annual wages of dental hygienists were $66,570 in May 2008, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,470.
As the U.S. economy recovers, the one thing that all Americans look forward to is a respite from the alarmingly high employment rates that have plagued the nation ever since the onset of the recent recession. A lot of interest has been generated by the outlook released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding employment potential of alternative industries, and the one sector that has been projected to account for 4 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018 (roughly 26 percent of all jobs created in the economy) is healthcare and social assistance. Moreover, among the 20 fastest growing occupations in the economy in the above decade, half are in the healthcare sector.
Start slideshow to take a look at five prominent occupations in the healthcare industry that are expected to grow at some of the fastest rates over the years leading up to 2018, as predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(All details pertaining to careers, remuneration and qualifications required have been compiled from information published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)