10 Best Paying Jobs in Health Care With a Bachelor’s Degree

There’s a common belief that to succeed in the health care field you need more than an undergraduate degree. High profile positions like doctor, dentist, veterinarian, and physical therapist require doctorate degrees. It usually takes many years of college to qualify for these positions.

Fortunately, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in school, there are health care jobs that pay a decent wage and do not require a graduate degree. Here are the top 10 paying jobs in health care that you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree.

1. Radiation Therapist

Median Salary in 2010: $74,980 ($36.05/hour)

Radiation therapists deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients. They are specially trained to use a machine called a linear accelerator to direct radiation towards the area of the body that needs it, as prescribed by a radiation oncologist and radiation physicist. They operate the linear accelerator in a separate room to avoid radiation exposure. They can still interact with the patient during the procedure through an intercom system.

Radiation therapists also interact with patients, answering any questions or concerns they have, and are responsible for keeping accurate records of treatment sessions. They must have people skills and be able to handle stress since they interact with patients dealing with cancer. They must also have math and science skills and be detail-oriented to keep accurate treatment records. They should have the physical ability to help patients on and off the treatment table.

Some states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified to be employed in the field, and they may be required to take continuing medical education courses or exams to maintain employment. Most radiation therapists work in radiation treatment centers or hospitals.

Job opportunities for radiation therapists are expected to grow by 27% between 2008 and 2018. As the population ages, there will be a greater demand for these workers so job prospects look favorable. The median annual salary for radiation therapists in 2010 was $74,980, or $36.05 an hour. In addition, many radiation therapists get reimbursements for continuing medical education.

2. Registered Nurse

Median Salary in 2010: $64,690 ($31.10/hour)

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Registered nurses, or RNs, work in hospital or outpatient treatment settings where they perform a variety of medical duties. Some specialize in specific areas of patient care such as surgical or pediatric nursing. In general, they are responsible for administering medications and other treatments as prescribed by the doctor and attending to the basic health needs of patients.

If they work in a hospital setting, they are responsible for closely monitoring patients and keeping the doctor informed about their progress. Nurses also educate patients and their families about medical conditions. Some work in critical care settings or function as an operating room nurse. The opportunities for nursing practice are wide and varied.

Anyone entering this field should feel comfortable working with patients who are sick. They should be physically capable of helping patients who are disabled. Nurses must be knowledgeable about how to safely administer medications and how to prevent the spread of infection. In some cases, nurses may be exposed to hazardous compounds or infectious materials. Candidates should have an aptitude for science since nurses must be well-versed in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, mental health, and other health-related areas.

After completing a nursing program, prospective nurses must pass an exam to receive a license to practice nursing. Some nurses go on to get more advanced education to become advanced practice nurses. With additional training and education, they can become nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse specialists. Some also become nurse administrators, teachers, or researchers.

The job market for registered nurses are projected to grow by 22% between 2008 and 2018. The greatest areas of growth will be outpatient settings such as doctor’s offices or home health. Advanced practice nurses will also be in great demand. In 2010, registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $64,690, or $31.10 an hour.

3. Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Median Salary in 2010: $64,660 ($31.09/hour)

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Occupational health and safety specialists help ensure that workers carry out their duties in safe work areas that are free of toxins or safety hazards. They conduct site inspections and work with companies to design safety programs to keep their employees safe and free of injury. The responsibilities of an occupational health and safety specialist vary depending on the setting they work in.

They may focus on minimizing health hazards (such as radiation and hazardous waste) or designing systems to reduce accidents and prevent employee fatigue in the workplace. Occupational health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings including factories, offices, and mines.

If you wish to enter this field, you should realize that you may be exposed to toxins or other hazards. The tasks of an occupational health and safety specialist are quite varied and may involve travel and irregular work hours. Good candidates should be capable of handling stress and comfortable working in a variety of settings. They should also have an interest and aptitude for science, be detailed oriented, and able to communicate well.

To be competitive in the job market, candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in a health or science-related field such as biology, engineering, or occupational health. Most successful candidates also complete some field work or an internship in occupational health. Most employers prefer that candidates be credentialed, which involves passing a certification exam. This usually requires additional courses in occupational health beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Employment opportunities for occupational health and safety specialists are projected to grow by 11% between 2008 and 2018, which is above average. The median annual salary of these workers in 2010 was $64,660, or $31.09 an hour.

4. Clinical Laboratory Technologist

Median Salary in 2010: $56,130 ($27.34/hour)

Clinical laboratory technologists are responsible for running laboratory studies to check for or monitor the course of a disease. They use instruments such as microscopes and cell counters to examine body fluids such as blood or urine for bacteria or other abnormalities. Today lab techs also use increasingly more sophisticated automated equipment to conduct more advanced studies. Once completed, clinical laboratory technologists record the results and communicate the results to the physician.

A successful clinical laboratory technologist pays attention to detail and is able to analyze complex laboratory data. The job involves exposure to potentially infectious body fluids, although the risk is minimized by the use of protective masks, gloves, and other safety equipment.

Clinical laboratory technologists should have a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or a health science field. Many employers prefer candidates who are certified by a professional association such as the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Clinical laboratory technologists can advance into administrative or supervisory positions with additional education and experience.

Jobs for clinical laboratory technologists are expected to grow by 14% between 2008 and 2018. The median annual salary for these workers in 2010 was $56,130, or $27.34 per hour. Salaries are highest for technologists employed by hospitals. Technologists also work in physician offices, medical laboratories, and colleges.

5. Respiratory Therapist

Median Salary in 2010: $54,280 ($26.10/hour)

Respiratory therapists work with physicians to treat patients with breathing problems. They evaluate patients by interviewing them and carrying out diagnostic tests to assess lung function. Then, under a doctor’s guidance, they design and administer appropriate treatments to patients with heart or lung problems.

They work with patients who require mechanical ventilation to breathe. They administer oxygen and perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucous from their lungs. They work in hospital settings and they may visit homes to help patients who have to be on home ventilation.

Respiratory therapists should have an aptitude for science and good mathematical skills. They should feel comfortable working with people who are sick and stressed out because of their breathing problems. They should also have good communication skills to educate patients.

An entry-level respiratory therapist must have a two-year associate’s degree. To advance beyond entry-level positions, you need a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Some colleges, universities, and technical schools offer respiratory therapy programs. Once training is completed, you are required to pass a licensing exam to practice as a respiratory therapist. There are opportunities to advance to supervisory and managerial positions in respiratory therapy with advanced education.

The future looks bright for respiratory therapists. Employment for these workers is expected to grow by 21% between 2008 and 2018. They earned a median annual salary of $54,280, or $26.10 per hour, in 2010. Most respiratory therapists are employed by hospitals, but there is a growing job market in outpatient settings.

6. Dietician and Nutritionist

Median Salary in 2010: $53,250 ($25.60/hour)

[Browse our list of online bachelor’s degrees in nutrition]

Dieticians and nutritionists work with hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and other institutions to provide nutritionally balanced meals and promote healthy eating habits. Some dieticians and nutritionists are involved in planning nutritional programs for institutions such as schools and corporations. Others work with individual clients to help them design a diet that meets their individual needs. These workers also work in hospital settings to manage the diets of patients with specific medical problems.

Dieticians and nutritionists should enjoy interacting with people and educating them about how to maximize their health through diet. They should have an aptitude for science and math. Dieticians and nutritionists are required to understand basic human physiology. They should be able to perform mathematical calculations when planning a diet.

A prospective dietician or nutritionist should earn a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, nutrition, or a related area. A background in science, math, and statistics is part of the training. Also, dieticians must have computer skills.

Most states require dieticians and nutritionists to be licensed to earn the title of dietician or nutritionist, although you can work in the field without using either title. Certification requires completion of a program sponsored by the Commission on Dietetic Registration or completion of a supervised internship. Continuing education is required to maintain licensure. Dieticians can advance to management positions. Some of them are self-employed.

The job growth rate for dieticians and nutritionists is projected to increase by 9% from 2008 to 2018. They earned a median annual wage of $53,250, or $25.60 an hour, in 2010.

7. Health Educator

Median Salary in 2010: $45,830 ($22.03/hour)

Health educators design and implement programs that educate communities and individuals about how to reduce the risk of disease through lifestyle. Their goal is to inspire the public to make positive changes that lower their risk for illness. They might do this by organizing community health screenings or educational seminars.

They may work with communities by organizing health events or directly with individuals through employment at health care facilities or colleges. Some health educators develop educational materials for the public or teach health classes in schools while others work for public health departments designing educational materials. They may also organize health care programs for businesses to keep their employees healthy.

Health educators should enjoy educating and interacting with the public. They should have good communication skills, an understanding of health and human psychology, and a positive attitude. They should also feel comfortable making presentations before large groups.

Aspiring health educators need a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. Many employers prefer applicants who have done an internship or have experience working with the public in a health-related capacity. Health educators can become certified through the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. by passing a certification exam. Some states require this credential to work in a public health department.

Employment for health educators is expected to grow by 18% between 2008 and 2018. They earned a median annual salary of $45,830, or $22.03 an hour, in 2010. Generally, health educators who work in hospital settings have the highest wages.

8. Athletic Trainer

Median Salary in 2010: $41,600

Athletic trainers help athletes of all ages prevent sports injuries. They also help with the assessment and treatment of injuries in conjunction with a health care team that includes a physician. They are involved in educating athletes and workers in various occupations about injury prevention.

Athletic trainers are often involved in field work at athletic events. When an injury occurs, they go onto the field to help evaluate the injured player and start treatment. Some athletic trainers work with professional sports teams, while others use their expertise in a hospital or outpatient clinic.

To succeed in this profession, you should have good clinical judgment since trainers may be the first to evaluate a sports injury. You should also have good communication skills since education is an important part of the job. An interest in sports and health and an aptitude for anatomy and physiology are two helpful qualities for this job.

Athletic trainers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Many athletic trainers go on to pursue an advanced degree at the master or doctoral level. Most states require athletic trainers to be certified, which involves passing an exam and participating in continuing medical education to stay abreast of new developments in the field.

Employment opportunities for these workers are expected to grow at a rapid pace. Job opportunities are predicted to increase by 37% between 2008 and 2018. Opportunities will be greatest in hospitals, schools, and sports centers. It will be more challenging to earn a position with a professional sports or college team due to the high level of competition. The median annual salary for an athletic trainer was $41,600 in 2010.

9. Recreational Therapist

Median Salary in 2010: $39,410 ($18.95/hour)

Recreational therapists use recreation therapy to treat individuals that are disabled due to illness or disability by helping them find enjoyable activities (such as crafts, games, music, or dance) that they can do despite their limitations. This helps them achieve greater independence and reduce their stress level. Recreational therapists usually work in partnership with other members of the health care team in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehab centers. Some recreational therapists also work in the community by offering their services to schools, adult day care centers, and schools.

Recreational therapists should enjoy working with people, many of whom have handicaps or other disabilities. A good candidate will be patient, have an upbeat positive attitude, and have the ability to motivate their clients.

Most recreational therapists have a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or recreational therapy. A bachelor’s degree is required for certification, and most employees prefer hiring candidates who are certified. To become certified after receiving a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, you must pass an exam and complete an internship in the field. There are also opportunities for management and administrative work in the field of recreational therapy.

Job opportunities for recreational therapists are projected to grow 15% between 2008 and 2018. Their services will become more important as the population ages. The median annual wage for a recreation therapist in 2010 was $39,410. Employment opportunities will grow the most rapid in nursing care facilities, although wages are highest in hospital settings.

10. Veterinary Technologist

Median Salary in 2010 (Includes Veterinary Technicians): $29,710 ($14.28/hour)

Veterinary technologists works closely with veterinarians to provide care for their four-legged patients. Under the supervision of a veterinarian, veterinary technologists assist with medical procedures and perform lab studies and other diagnostic tests on animals. Most veterinary technologists are employed by veterinary hospitals and clinics, although some work in research facilities and animal shelters.

A veterinary technologist must be comfortable working with all types of animals in a setting that can be stressful. Veterinary technologists are at risk for being injured by frightened animals, and they may have to deal with animals that have been abused or neglected. They should have good communication skills since they interact with pet owners and other members of the veterinary team.

The primary degree for this profession is a bachelor’s in veterinary technology. After graduation from a four-year program, most states require that veterinary technologists become credentialed by passing an exam that demonstrates their expertise in the field.

Job opportunities for veterinary technologists are projected to grow 37% between 2008 and 2018. This mirrors the public’s growing demand for advanced veterinary care as more people treat their pets as family members. The median annual salary for veterinary technologists and technicians in 2010 was $29,710. Most veterinary technologists work in private veterinarian offices. There are limited job opportunities for vet techs at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife facilities.

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