9 health-care jobs for people who don’t want to be a doctor

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When you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, a common answer is “doctor.” When those children do eventually grow up, their job dreams may have shifted, but for those who still aspire to work in health care, doctor is just one of the many career paths to take.

The population of elderly people in the U.S. is growing, and the health-care field is growing along with it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the health-care and social assistance sector is projected to gain more jobs than any other sector between 2010 and 2020.

If you’re interested in health care and medicine, but becoming a doctor just isn’t for you, consider one of these nine health-care occupation alternatives:

1. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians and vascular technologists*
What they do: Cardiovascular technologists perform tests via imaging technology on the heart and vascular system to help physicians detect and diagnose heart and blood-vessel conditions in patients. Most workers who enter this field receive an associate degree. Some technologists and technicians get on-the-job training, but many employers also require professional certification.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 29 percent (much faster than average)
Median annual pay: $49,410

2. Clinical and medical laboratory technicians and technologists
What they do: These technicians and technologists perform various tasks in a clinical lab, such as collecting samples and performing tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances. In 2010, 52 percent of medical laboratory technologists and technicians worked in hospitals.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 13 percent (about as fast as average)
Median annual pay: $46,680

3. Dental assistants
What they do: Dental assistants help dentists with patients in a variety of ways. Tasks include making patients comfortable before procedures, sterilizing equipment, teaching patients about proper dental hygiene and scheduling appointments. Almost all dental assistants work in dental offices.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 31 percent (much faster than average)
Median annual pay: $33,470

4. Dietitians and nutritionists
What they do: As food and nutrition experts, dietitians and nutritionists advise patients on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or reach certain weight goals. Most workers in this field have a bachelor’s degree and have participated in supervised on-the-job training. Many states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 20 percent (faster than average)
Median annual pay: $53,250

5. Dispensing opticians
What they do: Dispensing opticians fit patients with eyeglasses and contact lenses. Opticians typically have a high-school diploma or equivalent and some form of on-the-job training. Training may include technical instruction and sales and office management practices. Twenty-three states require opticians to be licensed. Depending on the state, opticians may also need to pass a state written exam, a state practical exam and/or certification exams.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 29 percent (much faster than average)
Median annual pay: $32,940

6. Health information and medical records technicians
What they do: The responsibilities of health information and medical records technicians include collecting and organizing health data, updating national cancer registries and coding medical bills for insurance reimbursement. The job outlook for this occupation is strong, given that more hospitals are transitioning to electronic health records.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 21 percent (faster than average)
Median annual pay: $32,350

7. Home health and personal care aides
What they do: As the elderly population grows, the need for home health and personal care aides increases. These workers specifically help elderly, disabled or ill patients who aren’t able to care for themselves independently. They help with everything from bathing and dressing to light housekeeping to dispensing medication. While most aides work in a client’s home, others may work in group homes or care communities.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 70 percent (much faster than average)
Median annual pay: $20,170

8. Pharmacy technicians
What they do: Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication. They also perform administrative tasks in pharmacies. While most technicians hold a high-school diploma or equivalent, some states require that they complete a formal training program and pass an exam. These technicians may work either full or part time in grocery or drugstore pharmacies or in hospitals.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 32 percent (much faster than average)
Median annual pay: $28,400

9. Speech-language pathologists
What they do: Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, help people with communication and swallowing disorders caused by anything from stroke to hearing loss to emotional problems. In this role, workers assess, diagnose and treat patients. Some pathologists choose to work with specific age groups, or they may focus on treatments for specific communication or swallowing problems. The standard level of education for speech-language pathologists is a master’s degree.
Projected job growth between 2010-20: 23 percent (faster than average)
Median annual pay: $66,920

*Job descriptions, projected growth and median annual pay from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

5 Comments
  1. I just read your article on AOL regarding growth in the healthcare fields.  I finished schooling to become a pharmacy technician last June.  This is a change of fields for me after 20 years as a computer programmer with some time off to be a primary caregive for family members.  I have sent out dozens and dozens of resumes/cover letters with no response in the Los Angeles area.  Any suggestions on how to get my foot in the door? 

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