Health Professions

Comparing Health Professions

A nurse in a hospital hallway
A nurse records notes on a patient's chart. Tetra Images / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Healthcare has been a hot industry for several years and it promises to continue to be. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts healthcare will "add more jobs—over 4

million—than any other industry between 2012 and 2022 (Healthcare: Millions of Jobs Now and In the Future. Career Outlook, March 2014). There are several career segments within the healthcare industry: the health professions, health technician and technology careers and healthcare support careers.

The health professions, those careers for which training generally consists of at least a bachelor's degree, will be discussed here.

Audiologist

Audiologists work with people who have ear problems including hearing difficulties and balance problems. To work in this field one usually needs to earn a Doctor of Audiology degree (AuD). This will take about four years after earning an undergraduate degree. All states in the US require that practicing audiologists have a license. Audiologists earned a median annual salary of $63,230 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming an Audiologist

Dentist

Dentists diagnose and treat dental problems. In order to become a dentist one must attend dental school for four years after college, earning a DDS or DMD degree. Dentists working in all states in the US must be licensed. Dentists earned a median annual salary of $142,090 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Dentist

Dietitian and Nutritionist

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. To work in this field one needs to have a bachelor's degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food services management or a related field. Forty six states require either licensing, certification or registration of dietitions and nutritionists.

Dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $52,150 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Dietitian and Nutritionist

Doctor

Doctors diagnose and treat patients who are suffering from diseases and injuries. One must attend four years of medical school to earn an MD or DO degree and must also complete an internship and residency which will take from three to eight years. One must be licensed to practice. Primary care doctors earned a median annual salary of $186,044 in 2009 while specialists earned $339,738.
Learn More About Becoming a Doctor

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work with patients who have lost their ability to perform daily living or work-related activities due to certain disabling conditions. These health professionals use various exercises and techniques to help these patients relearn how to perform these activities. To become an occupational therapist one must get a master's degree. A license is required to practice. Occupational therapists earned a median annual salary of $69,630 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming an Occupational Therapist

Optometrist

Optometrists provide primary vision care. They examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases.

Aspiring optometrists attend optometry school for four years after college. To practice one must have a license. Optometrists earned a median annual salary of $96,140 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming an Optometrist

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists design and fabricate orthoses, which are orthopedic braces. Prosthetists make  artificial limbs. Some people work in both areas. One must earn a master's degree to practice and in some states, a license as well. Median annual earnings for O & P professionals were $64,040 in 2014.
Learn More About Becoming an Orthodist and Prosthetist

Pharmacist

When doctors or other health practitioners give patients prescriptions for medication, it is pharmacists who dispense that medication. They also provide information about those particular drugs and help the patients understand how to take them.

To work as a pharmacist one needs a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD) and a license. To earn a PharmD one must attend pharmacy school for four years after college. Pharmacists earned a median annual salary of $109,180 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Pharmacist

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help patients who have suffered injuries or illnesses by providing services that restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities. One must earn a master's or doctoral degree from a physical therapist educational program and then pass national and state licensing exams. Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $74,480 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Physical Therapist

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants provide primary health care services under physicians' supervision. Aspiring physician assistants must earn a master's degree from an accredited training program and then pass a national certifying exam. Physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $84,420 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Physician Assistant

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses treat patients and provide advice and emotional support to them and their families. To become a nurse you need a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing. You must also pass a national licensing exam and fulfill any other licensing requirements set forth by the state in which you plan to work. Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $63,750 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Registered Nurse

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists deliver respiratory care therapeutic treatments to patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. They also evaluate their patients. Aspiring respiratory therapists must earn at least an associate degree. In most states they must also pass a national exam. Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $53,330 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

Speech Pathologist

Speech pathologists work with people who have speech-related disorders including the inability to produce certain sounds, speech rhythm and fluency problems, and voice disorders. Speech pathologists must have a master's degree. A license is required in most states as well. Speech pathologists earned a median annual salary of $65,090 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Speech Pathologist

Veterinarian

Veterinarians deliver healthcare to pets, livestock, and zoo, sporting, and laboratory animals. One needs to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) from a college of veterinary medicine. This will take about four years after graduation from college. All states require veterinarians to have a license. Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $80,510 in 2009.
Learn More About Becoming a Veterinarian

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ and
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/ (visited March 1, 2011).

Explore more Careers By Field or Industry

 

Comparing Careers in the Health Professions
 Minimum EducationLicenseMedian Salary
Audiologist Doctor of AudiologyReq. in all states$63,230
Dentist Dental school (4 + years after bachelor's)Req. in all states$142,090 (salaried dentists); those in private practice may earn more.
Dietitian And NutritionistBachelor'sReq. in most states$52,150
Doctor Medical school (4 + years after bachelor's)Req. in all states$186,044 (primary care) $339,738 (specialists)
Occupational TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$69,630
Optometrist Optometry school (4 years after at least 3 years of undergrad)Req. in all states$96,140
Pharmacist Pharmacy school (4 years after at least 2 years of undergrad)Req. in all states$109,180
Physical TherapistMaster'sReq. in all states$74,480
Physician AssistantMaster'sReq. in all states$84,420
Registered NurseBachelor's, Associate or DiplomaReq. in all states$84,420
Respiratory TherapistAssociateReq. in most states$84,420
VeterinarianVeterinary school usually after collegeReq. in most states$84,420