You don’t have to go to med school, earn a doctorate, complete a residency halfway across the country, and rack up thousands in student debt to land a top-paying job within the health care field.
While physicians and surgeons continue to earn some of the highest salaries in the nation, and top the payroll for medical institutions, plenty of other positions require less education while paying salaries as high as $167,000 a year.
CNBC Make It analyzed occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to discover which health-care jobs pay the most without requiring a doctorate. The resulting 14 roles range from helping care for newborn babies to treating communication disorders to designing artificial limbs, and some can be landed with an associate’s degree.
The best part? Not only are all these jobs offering median wages of at least $69,000, they are all poised to dramatically grow over the next seven years, some by as much as 37 percent. That means workers in these high-demand health-care fields can look forward to keeping their well-paying gigs for a long time to come and likely expect a nice salary increase as their skills become more sought after.
Below are 14 high-paying jobs you should consider if you’re interested in helping people, but aren’t keen on the idea of becoming a doctor:
1. Nurse anesthetists
Median annual wage: $167,950
Projected job growth through 2026: 16 percent
These nurses provide anesthesia and related care during surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures. Before a procedure begins, they are responsible for reviewing a patient’s current medication as well as any allergies or illnesses they might have to ensure anesthesia can be safely administered. They then give the patient anesthesia or apply a local anesthesia to numb a certain area of the body. They will remain with a patient throughout a procedure to check their health and adjust the anesthesia as necessary.
To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master’s degree from an accredited medical program. To qualify, they’ll need to have a registered nursing license before pursuing such education. Prospective nurse anesthetists must also have one year of clinical experience as a prerequisite for admission to an accredited nurse anesthetist program. Candidates typically have experience working as a registered nurse in an acute care or critical care setting.
2. Physician's Assistant
Median annual wage: $108,610
Projected job growth through 2026: 37 percent
Commonly called PAs, these workers assist physicians and surgeons examine, diagnose and treat patients. They may be called upon to review a patient’s medical history, examine a patient, order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose a patient’s injury or illness, provide treatment, prescribe medication, and counsel patients about their health.The extent to which a PA must be supervised by physicians or surgeons differs from state to state, but in rural and medically underserved communities, PAs commonly function as primary care providers at clinics where a physician is present only one or two days per week.
To become a PA, you’ll need a master’s degree from an accredited program. It typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. All states require physician assistants to be licensed, meaning they must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. In addition, state licensure laws mandate that a physician assistant must hold an agreement with a supervising physician since collaboration between physicians and physician assistants is required for practice.
3. Nurse Practitioners
Median annual wage: $107,030
Projected job growth through 2026: 36 percent
These nursesserve as primary and specialty care providers. They often work independently or in collaboration with physicians. They assess patients to determine the best way to treat or manage a person’s health issue. Many nurse practitioners specializing in caring for certain needs, such as geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.
To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master’s degree from an accredited medical program. They must also have a registered nursing licenses before pursuing education in one of these advanced practice roles such as nurse practitioner.
4. Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Median annual wage: $76,820
Projected job growth through 2026: 10 percent
These health-care workers prepare radioactive drugs for patients to assist with imaging or therapeutic purposes. They operate the imaging equipment used to diagnosis and treat patients. They may also help physicians in researching the uses of radioactive drugs.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Although, some technologists become qualified if they have a degree in a related health field and complete a 12-month certificate program. They commonly need a certification in the field and some states may require a license to practice.
5. Speech Language Pathologists
Median annual wage: $77,510
Projected job growth through 2026: 18 percent
Sometimes called speech therapists, these workers diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults.
Most speech-language pathologists working today hold a master’s degree from an accredited program. All states regulate this role, and most, require a license. In states that do mandate licensure, pathologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience, and to pass an exam.
6. Genetic Counselors
Median annual wage: $80,370
Projected job growth through 2026: 29 percent
Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects by studying patients’ genes through DNA testing. They provide information to other health-care providers as well as to patients concerned with developing or passing down inheritable medical conditions.
Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics, as well as certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
7. Radiation Therapists
Median annual wage: $82,330
Projected job growth through 2026: 13 percent
Part of the health-care team called in to treat cancer, these therapists operate the machines that deliver concentrated radiation therapy to a patient’s tumor. They are also responsible for explaining treatment plans to patients, determining the region of the body receiving treatment, and checking for unusual reactions.
Employers usually prefer to hire applicants with at least an associate’s degree in radiation therapy, though some companies accept those who’ve completed a certificate program. In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary depending on the state but typically include passing a national certification exam.
8. Occupational Therapists
Median annual wage: $84,270
Projected job growth through 2026: 24 percent
These workers help people regain or develop the skills necessary for daily living. They work with patients to complete therapeutic exercises and stretches, engage children with developmental disabilities in play activities to help with coordination or socialization, and teach patients how to use special equipment that will make tasks, such as eating, easier. They work with occupational therapists to create and implement each patient’s treatment plan.
9. Nurse Midwives
Median annual wage: $103,770
Projected job growth through 2026: 21 percent
These nurses specialize in caring for women. They perform gynecological exams and provide family planning services and prenatal care. They also deliver babies; manage emergency situations during labor, such as hemorrhaging; repair lacerations; and may provide surgical assistance to physicians during cesarean births. Nurse midwives can act as primary care providers for women and newborns.
To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master’s degree from an accredited medical program. They must also have a registered nursing licenses before pursuing education to become a midwife nurse.
Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master’s degree in occupational therapy.
10. Registered Nurses
Median annual wage: $71,730
Projected job growth through 2026: 15 percent
These workers provide and coordinate a patient’s care. They assess a patient’s condition and record their observations, administer medicines and treatments, assist doctors and other health-care professionals, operate and monitor medical equipment, help perform diagnostic testing, and teach patients how to manage their illness or injuries.
There are three common paths to becoming a registered nurse: earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, earn an associate’s degree in nursing, or a earn a diploma from an approved nursing program. Regardless of the education path, all registered nurses must be licensed, meaning they’ve graduated from an approved program and passed the National Council Licensure Examination. Some states also require that applicants pass a criminal background check to obtain their license.
11. Orthotists and Prosthetists
Median annual wage: $69,120
Projected job growth through 2026: 22 percent
Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical devices, such as artificial limbs and braces, as well as and measure and fit patients for them.
To become one, workers must earn a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. Such programs typically take two years to complete and are followed by a residency that has been accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education. Some states require orthotists and prosthetists to be licensed.
12. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
Median annual wage: $71,670
Projected job growth through 2026: 14 percent
As their title suggests, these technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images used for determining medical diagnoses and the staging of diseases.
Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists. An associate’s degree is a common education requirement for this post but a few states also require a license.
13. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Median annual wage: $72,510
Projected job growth through 2026: 23 percent
These health-care workers specialize in creating sonograms or ultrasounds of the body’s organs and tissues using special imaging equipment. Their images help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions as sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected. Sonographers can specialize in scanning certain parts of the body such as breast tissue, the heart or the female reproductive system to track a developing baby’s health.
Becoming a diagnostic medial sonographer requires at least an associate’s degree in sonography. Employers prefer candidates that have a professional certification, have graduated from programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program, and have a basic life support certification.
14. Dental Hygienists
Median annual wage: $74,820
Projected job growth through 2026: 20 percent
These health-care workers remove tartar, stains and plaque from a patient’s teeth, check for signs of oral diseases, apply sealants and fluorides, take dental X-rays and remind you how to brush and floss correctly.
To become one, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree in dental hygiene as well as a license to practice. College programs for dental hygiene typically last three years, and a passing grade on clinical examinations is required for licensure in most states.
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