Everybody gets sick or injured at some point, so the health care industry plays a critical role in our society. Unsurprisingly, jobs in health care are expected to increase 13 percent from 2021 to 2031, which equals about 2 million new jobs .
This is higher growth than any other industry, in part due to an aging population. The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to heightened awareness and respect for health care workers who help foster a safe and healthy population.
While doctors and surgeons have notably earned high salaries, there are plenty of other health care roles in which you can earn a good living. An increase in demand also means higher salaries to match. It’s not all about the money, though. Working in the health care industry can be a fulfilling career for altruistic reasons.
Here’s a list of the highest-paying jobs in health care for you to consider.
There are plenty of jobs to choose from if you decide to pursue a health care career. Using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics list of health care occupations, these are the jobs with the highest median pay in 2021 . It must be noted that seven of the 10 best-paying jobs in the industry require a doctoral or professional degree, which means many years of school and residencies.
Physicians and surgeons are responsible for diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries in their patients. Doctors examine patients, record their medical histories, perform diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications. They may assess and provide advice on preventative health care, such as improving one’s diet, nutrition, or exercise regimen.
Doctors work in clinics, hospitals, and more, and can choose to work in a variety of specialties, from pediatrics to dermatology. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries and diseases, such as from a car accident, cancer, or disability. These professions can be incredibly rewarding for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to become one, well-suited for intelligent, conscientious, and professional individuals.
Median salary: $208,000
Job outlook: 3 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, such as a Medical Doctor (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. There are no specific majors required for bachelor’s degrees, but pre-med students tend to study biology, physical science, or healthcare-related fields. Med school is typically four years, plus residency, which can last from three to nine years, depending on your specialization.
Dentists are the physicians of the teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They diagnose and treat any issues that may arise, including advising on proper care and diet to improve dental health.
Day-to-day tasks might include removing decay from teeth, filling cavities, examining x-rays of the teeth, gums, and jaw, and prescribing medications, night guards, or dentures. Aspiring dentists should be detail-oriented, honest and trustworthy, and easy to talk to. You should care about educating patients about teeth and their importance to overall health.
Median salary: $163,220
Job outlook: 8 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) is required, though dentists are licensed by state, and requirements may vary. Postdoctoral training is also required. Additional training and certifications can be earned for specialties like maxillofacial surgery.
Podiatrists are doctors for the foot, ankle, and lower leg. They provide medical and surgical care for these areas of the body, diagnosing any illnesses or injuries that a patient may have. Podiatrists can perform surgeries to treat fractures and prescribe inserts to improve mobility.
The feet are the foundation for the rest of the body and for movement. The field is very specialized, so job growth is slow. Jobs typically only become available when a podiatrist retires or switches careers, and sometimes foot problems are treated by regular physicians.
Median salary: $145,840
Job outlook: 2 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college of podiatric medicine (of which there are only nine), which takes four years to complete .
Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and advise on safe usage and storage of the drugs. At drug stores and pharmacies, they may also conduct health screenings, administer immunizations and flu shots, and advise patients on diet, exercise, and stress management.
Good traits for pharmacists to have include kindness, a good memory, and being able to manage the business side of the pharmacy.
Median salary: $128,570
Job outlook: -2 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, in addition to a license.
Read more: What Is a PharmD Degree? Your Guide
Since many pharmacists work in (brick and mortar) retail pharmacies and drug stores, this profession is in decline as consumers continue to fill prescriptions online, and as pharmacy chains reduce their locations. CVS plans to close 900 stores between 2022 and 2025, while Rite Aid plans to close 63 in addition to hundreds of closures over the past few years [4, 5]. Despite a decline in pharmacist jobs, there are still over 11,000 job openings projected each year as current workers switch jobs or retire.
Optometrists are doctors who assess the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They examine, diagnose, and treat any visual problems, diseases, injuries, and disorders of the eyes. Optometrists also can prescribe glasses or contact lenses.
Some may perform surgical procedures to correct vision issues and provide treatments for vision rehabilitation. As an optometrist, you should possess excellent communication skills and the ability to work with precision, since the eyes are an essential and delicate part of the human body.
Median salary: $124,300
Job outlook: 9 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree, and a state-based license.
Nurse practitioners, along with nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives, are different types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), who help coordinate and provide patient care. APRNs record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, monitor their progress, create patient care plans, perform diagnostic tests, operate medical equipment, and provide medicines.
APRNs may work independently or collaborate with physicians. Much of their work is similar to registered nurses, though APRNs have additional training and specializations, and tend to focus on patient-centered care.
Median salary: $123,780
Job outlook: 45 percent
Education requirements: At least a master’s degree in their specialty role, and licensed as an APRN in their state.
Read more: What Is a Nurse Practitioner? A Career Guide
Physician assistants, sometimes known as PAs, examine, diagnose, and treat patients, assisting physicians, surgeons, and other health care staff. They record patients’ medical histories, examine and monitor their health, run and analyze diagnostic tests such as x-rays and blood tests, and give treatment for injuries or diseases. A physician assistant should be calm, approachable, collaborative, and adaptable.
Median salary: $121,530
Job outlook: 31 percent
Education requirements: Master’s degree, typically two years of full-time study.
Veterinarians are care providers for animals and protecting public health is often incorporated into their work. They examine, diagnose, and treat medical conditions for pets, livestock, and more, sometimes performing surgery or dressing wounds. You can specialize in pets as a companion animal veterinarian, or in livestock as a food animal veterinarian or food safety and inspection veterinarian.
In addition to enjoying working with animals, you should be a compassionate problem solver and decision-maker because your patients cannot communicate with you the same way that humans can.
Median salary: $100,370
Job outlook: 17 percent (much faster than average)
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD), which typically takes four years to complete. Admission into veterinary programs is competitive.
Physical therapists help injured people improve movement, manage pain, and increase mobility. They often work with patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries to provide rehabilitation, treatment, and preventative care.
Physical therapists may be referred by doctors or surgeons, to diagnose and treat patients using exercises, stretching, therapy, and equipment to alleviate and prevent pain. As a physical therapist, you should be determined, because the recovery process can be slow and difficult for patients, and you should be supportive, resilient, and sociable.
Median salary: $95,620
Job outlook: 21 percent
Education requirements: Doctoral degree, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which typically lasts three years.
Read more: How to Become a Physical Therapist
Occupational therapists treat patients who are injured, ill, or disabled, to help them in their recovery and gain the necessary skills for daily living and working. They examine and treat patients who may encounter disabilities when performing certain tasks after an illness such as stroke.
Some may evaluate patients' homes or workplaces to improve their environment, such as labeling filing cabinets for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. As an occupational therapist, you must be creative and resourceful to identify potential innovative ways to improve a patient’s day-to-day tasks and be observant and adaptable to accommodate their changing needs as time goes on.
Median salary: $85,570
Job outlook: 17 percent
Education requirements: At least a master’s degree in occupational therapy, though some have a doctoral degree, and an occupational therapy license which requires passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam.
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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed December 1, 2022.
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