Healthcare careers remain a promising path, despite the relative uncertainty about the immediate future of the American healthcare system. No matter if the Affordable Care Act is replaced, the millions of aging Baby Boomers will need caregivers, and that means jobs aplenty across a wide spectrum of healthcare occupations.
No field of healthcare will remain untouched as demand increases in the next decade. Naturally, the most lucrative positions will continue to be physician, surgeon, dentists, anesthesiologist, medical specialist and other careers that require a decade or more of education and a high level of skill.
Nurses and nurse practitioners also will be in greater demand with each passing year.
Again, no one can predict what shape the American healthcare system will take as political wrangling collides with the expanding need in the United States. Yet, one thing seems like a safe bet: As demand for healthcare grows, so will the need for professionals in vital support positions. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that healthcare occupations will grow 18 percent through 2026, adding approximately 2.3 million jobs.
Here are a few of the healthcare careers that might not spring to mind immediately, but are relied upon by physicians and others to get the job done every day:
Dental hygienist – A dental hygienist cleans teeth, examines dental patients for diseases and helps patients develop plans for preventive care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that dental hygienist jobs will grow by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026, and the median annual salary as of May 2016 was $72,910.
Medical assistant – A medical assistant completes administrative and clinical tasks in physician offices, hospitals and other health facilities. The BLS estimates 29 percent growth for this job through 2026, and the median annual salary was $31,540 as of May 2016.
Medical transcriptionist – While the traditional role of medical transcriptionist is expected to decline over the next few years because of improved technology, the need for people with expertise in data input and interpretation will increase. Meanwhile, until all healthcare facilities have completed the transition to digital records, medical transcriptionists will be able to find work.
Nursing assistant, orderly – A nursing assistant or an orderly provides basic care for patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. The annual median salary in 2016 was $26,590. This position is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS.
Occupational therapy assistant – Under the supervision of an occupational therapist, an occupational therapy assistant helps patients develop and maintain the skills required for day-to-day living and working. The BLS expects this position to grow by 28 percent between 2016 and 2026, and the annual median salary was $56,070 as of May 2016.
Physical therapy assistant – A physical therapy assistant works under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist to help patients who have been injured recover normal movement and manage pain. This position will grow by an average of 30 percent by 2026, according to the BLS. The annual median salary was $45,290 as of May 2016.
Physician assistant – According to the BLS, this will be one of the fastest-growing and most-lucrative healthcare support positions in the next decade. Physician assistants examine, diagnose and treat patients in association with physicians, surgeons and other healthcare professionals. The median annual salary for physician assistants in May 2016 was $101,480, and the BLS expects 37 percent growth through 2026.
Radiologic and MRI technologist – Radiographers and MRI techs perform imaging tests on patients, using scanners and other machinery to take pictures of the interior of the body. These careers are expected to grow by 12 percent through 2026, and the annual median salary as of May 2016 was $58,960.
Surgical technologist – These surgical assistants also are called operating room technicians, and they perform various tasks in support of a doctor before, during and after surgery. The position is expected to grow by 12 percent through 2026. The median annual salary in 2016 was $45,160.
Biological technician – A bio tech helps medical students and scientists conduct lab tests and experiments. Many scientists begin their careers as bio techs, earning advanced degrees while gaining lab experience. Biological technician positions are expected to grow by 10 percent through 2026, and the annual median wage in 2016 was $42,520.