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Three Ways to Begin a Health Care Career

Aimee Chou,

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Look no further than bills from your dentist, gynecologist or maxillofacial surgeon to pinpoint the employment outlook’s rising stars. Add demand for them to their paycheck dollars, the winners are unanimous: health care professionals.

Dough, rising
Surgeons top the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ list of best-paying jobs, netting a mean salary of $181,850. Diagnosing and healing the body rakes in serious bread, and health care practitioners hold 13 out of the 15 top-paying job titles. It’s not all about how or how much – it’s also about where. No other developed nation dips more into their exchequer for health. In 2001, the United States spent 13.9 percent of its GDP on health care, compared with 7.8 percent for Japan and 9.4 percent for Canada. Health care jobs are opening floodgates for both entry-level practitioners and mid-careerists looking to stay ahead of the curve.

Have online degree, will practice
21st century health care has changed, as have career routes. Enrolling into online health care degree programs means you don’t have to quit your day job to boost your skills, career, earnings and job satisfaction. They prep you to a serve a growing, aging market from mind to body and from head to toe. The Department of Labor projects a 30.3 percent increase in the number of health care jobs between now and 2014. That equals 4.7 million new health care jobs. As a baccalaureate student or a mid-careerist, where do you fit?

Allied Health
Not keen on hospital politics, med school rotation or 14-hour nurse shifts? There are plenty of other ways to do a body good.

Allied health is about weaving in different skills with one patient-focused objective: sound mind, sound body, sound health care system. On a primary level, surgeons, laboratory technicians, orderlies, and nurses coexist to enable and expedite patients' recovery. On a peripheral (but equally critical) level, are personal trainers, clinical lab technicians, radiographers, massage therapists, pharmacists, addictions counselors and alternative medicine practitioners. Population growth and regulatory and insurance provider requirements have created recordkeeping challenges – and a digital frontier. Typewriters and handwritten notes are out, and voice recognition system (VRS) and dictation software are in. Learn to turn “medicalese” into digital voice files – with ICD classification and reimbursement and health care technology. An associate's degree in medical billing and coding is a popular route to a large range of allied health careers:

  • Medical records specialist

  • Patient services coordinator

  • Health care technician 

  • Insurance verification representative

2.4 million nursing jobs are projected for 2014, as well as a critical nursing shortage. Hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities and public health programs open nurses’ doors to a lifetime of opportunities … and patient doors to recovery.

Part science and part art, nursing boils down to being an "angel in comfortable shoes." The International Council of Nurses defines a nurse as one who gives "autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings." Nurses specialize in gerontology, pharmacy, informatics, education, health care management, nutrition science, health information science and more.

Rapid growth in hospital outpatient facilities, specialized long-term rehabilitation and home health care ensures rich opportunities in nursing and health care management. Nurses wear many hats and take just as many education paths. About 13 percent of the RN work force has a doctoral or master's degree (source: American Nursing Association). For busy professionals, variations of an online nursing degree offer equally convenient routes to career advancement:

  • School nurse certificate

  • Forensic nursing Certificate

  • Legal nurse consulting certificate

  • Nurse administrator/educator

  • Master's in geriatric health

Health Care Administrators
Can't stomach the sight of blood or lacerated limb? Ditch the scalpel - your career options are still plentiful.

Modern-day health care is a whole new ballgame – and business – of tools, drugs, and methods. The evolution of financing, integrated delivery systems, regulation and staff restructuring keep hospitals, clinics and medical facilities on their toes. That's where the impact of health care administration comes in.

It is a “hidden” career compared to “frontline” jobs with direct patient interaction. Keen awareness of behind-the-scenes regulatory, business, and management affairs are hallmarks of health care administrators, health information managers and clinical managers who:

  • Control costs

  • Computerize patient records

  • Recruit workers and increase retention

  • Comply with changing regulations

  • Implement new technology

  • Promote preventive care

The requirements are higher – typically a master's degree in health sciences or administration – as is the starting annual salary of $55,380.

Curricula for online degree programs in health care administration and management are tailored to the evolving dynamics of 21st century medicine, and the busy lifestyle of the 21st century student. Whether you earn an online associate's degree, bachelor’s, master's or doctoral degree, your skills can launch you into a wide range of managerial posts.

Last Updated: 02/01/2008 - 6:09 PM

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