High-Opportunity Careers in Healthcare for 2011

Which careers in healthcare offer the best chance for job and income growth in the coming year? U.S.News & World Report's list of the 50 Best Careers in 2011 ranked 13 high-opportunity jobs in the field of medicine.

Which careers in healthcare offer the best chance for job and income growth in the coming year? U.S.News & World Report’s list of the 50 Best Careers in 2011 ranked 13 high-opportunity jobs in the field of medicine. The survey is based on job-growth projections, salary data, and other factors, including job satisfaction.

All of the healthcare jobs that appeared on last year’s survey made the cut again this year, and two new healthcare careers made the list: message therapist and athletic trainer. “Many of the occupations on this list rank at the top of the Labor Department's growth projections for 2008 to 2018, largely because millions of aging baby boomers will continue to place heightened demand on healthcare providers,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Physician assistants, which was also ranked the No. 1 physician job in America by Money magazine earlier this year, was one of them.

Which jobs have the most opportunity for growth in the years to come? Here are the survey’s picks for the top careers in healthcare in 2011:

Athletic Trainer. These sports professionals held 16,300 jobs in 2008, and over the next decade that number is expected to jump 37% to 22,400, according to the Labor Department. Athletic trainers have a median annual pay of around $41,000, while the highest-paid earned more than $65,000.

Dental Hygienist. The number of dental hygienist positions is expected to jump from 174,000 jobs in 2008 to 237,000 by 2018, an increase of 36%. Apart from traditional jobs, dental hygienists also find work teaching. Most dental hygienists earn about $32 an hour, U.S. News & World Report says, while the highest-paid made about $44 an hour.

Lab Technician. Job growth for clinical lab technicians isn’t expected to be as rapid as dental hygienists, but the Labor Department expects the profession to add about 25,000 jobs over the next 10 years. The most-rapid growth is predicted to occur in private diagnostic labs, as well as in physicians' offices. U.S. News & World Report says. In 2009, the median annual salary for technicians was $36,030, while top earners made more than $55,000.

Massage Therapist. Massage therapy is a relatively easy career to pursue, since you don’t need a medical degree. The majority of massage therapists are self-employed, and many professionals perform the job as a second source of income, U.S. News & World Report says. The median annual salary for a massage therapist was $35,230 in 2009, though self-employed therapists with an established client base have the highest earnings.

Occupational Therapist. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 26% by 2018, according to the Labor Department. Experts anticipate the surge in retiring baby boomers will sharply increase demand for occupational therapists with experience working with the elderly, U.S. News & World Report says. The median annual salary for occupational therapists was $69,630 in 2009, but the highest paid earned more than $100,000.

Optometrist. Again, the aging U.S. population is expected to be a boon for professionals who care for the elderly. The Labor Department expects the field of optometry to add 8,500 new jobs by 2018. In 2009, the annual median salary for optometrists was $96,140, while the top earners earned more than $166,400.

Physician Assistant. This field is expected to see job openings jump nearly 40% in the coming decade, to the tune of almost 30,000 jobs, the Labor Department projects. Pay in this field is much higher than other careers that made the list: The median annual salary for physician assistants in 2009 was $84,420, while the highest paid professionals earned more than $115,000.

Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant. The field of physical therapy is expected to see rapid growth, as new technologies and treatments expand the scope of practices, according to U.S. News & World Report. Employment of physical therapists is forecast to jump 30%, or more than 56,000 jobs, by 2018, the Labor Department predicts. In 2009, the median annual earnings for physical therapists was $74,480, while the highest-paid made nearly $106,000.

As demand for physical therapy grows, therapists will need help -- particularly those who work in nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, and outpatient clinics. Job growth for physical therapist assistants is forecast by the Labor Department to increase by 33%, or some 21,200 jobs, in the next 10 years. The median annual salary for physical therapist assistants was $48,290 last year, and the highest-paid earned more than $66,000.

Radiologic Technologist. Demand for radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to rise by 17% by 2018 to about 252,000 positions, the Labor Department projects. While most jobs are currently in a hospital environment, many of the newer positions are expected in physician's offices and diagnostic imaging centers, U.S. News & World Report says. The median wage in 2009 for radiologic technologists or technicians was $53,240, while the highest earners brought home more than $75,000.

Registered Nurse. Registered nurses are expected to add 582,000 new jobs in the next decade, a growth rate of more than 22%, according to the Labor Department. Much of the growth is expected to be seen in physicians' offices, U.S. News & World Report says. The median salary for registered nurses was $63,750 last year, while the highest-paid earned more than $93,000.

School Psychologist. Though the pace of growth in this field is a bit slower than others profiled, jobs are school psychologists are expected to rise 11% in the next decade, with most positions being offered by schools, hospitals and mental-health centers, the survey says. The median annual wage for school psychologists was $66,040 in 2009, with top earners in private practice bringing home more than $109,000.

Veterinarian. Vets are in high demand, mostly because there are so few of them — between 60,000 and 90,000, by some estimates – but also because the number of U.S. degree-granting colleges hasn't increased in 25 years. The number of first-year students admitted to these schools is fewer than 3,000, according to U.S. News & World Report. The median annual salary for veterinarians was more than $80,000 in 2009, while top earners made more than $142,000.