Health care can be as financially rewarding as it is personally rewarding. In addition to helping others and guiding them toward their health goals, the health care industry also has a higher than average salary alongside increased job demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In a 2022 report, the BLS notes the median annual wage for health care professionals in May 2021 was $75,040, a significantly higher salary than the national median wage of $45,760 for all professions during the same period. Furthermore, they expect the health care industry to grow by 16-percent between 2020 and 2030, suggesting that health care work is here to stay .
But, not all health care jobs pay the same. While some positions greatly exceed the national median salary many times over, others can fall below it.
In this article, you’ll learn about the pay range you can expect in the health care industry and find a list of common health care professions, their most common qualifications, and their median annual wage. Health care is a growing industry, so read on to learn if there’s a job that meets your financial goals.
As noted above, there is a wide range of health care jobs and accompanying salaries. According to the BLS, the highest paying health care jobs are physicians and surgeons, who earned a median salary of $208,000 or more in 2021. On the lowest end, however, home health and personal care aides made a median salary of $29,430 in 2021 .
The pay that you can expect to earn in the health care industry is highly dependent on your position. To help you get a better idea of the kind of jobs that meet your financial goals, the sections below cover some of the biggest health care areas followed by a list of associated jobs and their salaries.
Note: All information is taken from the BLS unless otherwise noted.
Medical professionals working in dentistry help others take care of their teeth, gums, and mouths. Responsibilities range from cleaning and preparing teeth for medical procedures to diagnosing and treating gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis. Typically, dentists operate their own business, set their own schedules, and don’t handle medical emergencies.
|Dentists||Doctoral or Professional degree||$163,220|
|Dental Hygienists||Associate degree||$77,810|
|Dental Assistants||Postsecondary nondegree award||$38,660|
Health care professionals working in this area help others achieve their physical fitness goals and treat musculoskeletal ailments. This work is well-suited to individuals looking for health care professions focused on physical health and working closely with patients.
|Chiropractors||Doctoral or professional degree||$75,000|
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||Bachelor's degree||$61,650|
|Athletic trainers||Bachelor's degree||$48,420|
|Exercise Physiologists||Bachelor's degree||$47,940|
Medical professionals working as nurses, aides, or assistants directly assist patients and, in some cases, administer treatments. The intimate nature of the work means that it is best suited to those who enjoy close contact with others. The most advanced positions, such as nurse practitioners (NP), often perform many of the same duties as physicians.
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners||Master's degree||$123,780|
|Registered Nurses||Bachelor's degree, Associate degree, credential||$77,600|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||Postsecondary nondegree award||$48,070|
|Medical Assistants||Postsecondary nondegree award||$37,190|
|Nursing Assistants and Orderlies||Postsecondary nondegree award||$30,290|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||High school diploma or equivalent||$29,430|
Those working in the field of optometry help others with their eye health. While in some cases this means fitting them for glasses in others it means diagnosing and treating eye ailments, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
|Ophthalmologists||Doctoral or professional degree||$203,450 (as of 2019)|
|Optometrists||Doctoral or professional degree||$124,300|
|Opticians||High school diploma or equivalent||$37,570|
Most of these medical professionals require the highest professional degree in their fields, which often require many years of education. As a result, these professionals are usually qualified to diagnose and treat a wide range of ailments, whether by prescribing medication or conducting surgery.
|Physicians and Surgeons||Doctoral or professional degree||$208,000+|
|Podiatrists||Doctoral or professional degree||$145,840|
|Pharmacists||Doctoral or professional degree||$128,570|
|Audiologists||Doctoral or professional degree||$78,950|
Health care professionals working as technologists, technicians, or specialists are qualified to handle technical machinery or programs that support either physicians or hospital administrators. While in many cases this means operating specific machinery such as sonographs or MRIs, in others it might mean creating and maintaining medical records.
|Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||Associate degree||$75,380|
|Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians||Bachelor’s degree||$74,870|
|Radiologic and MRI Technologists||Associate degree||$61,980|
|Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians||Bachelor's degree||$57,800|
|Surgical Technologists||Postsecondary nondegree award||$48,530|
|Medical Records and Health Information Specialists||Postsecondary nondegree award||$45,240|
|EMTs and Paramedics||Postsecondary nondegree award||$36,930|
Although the term is most often associated with mental health professionals, therapists are actually simply individuals who are trained to treat a variety of disorders. While in some cases these conditions can be psychological, in others they can be physical, respiratory, or something else entirely. As a result of their responsibilities, therapists must be credentialed.
|Physical Therapists||Doctoral or professional degree||$95,620|
|Occupational Therapists||Master's degree||$85,570|
|Radiation Therapists||Associate degree||$82,790|
|Respiratory Therapists||Associate degree||$61,830|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides||Associate degree||$61,520|
|Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides||Associate degree||$49,180|
|Recreational Therapists||Bachelor's degree||$47,940|
|Massage Therapists||Postsecondary nondegree award||$46,910|
The first step to working with patients, creating treatment plans, and healing illness and injury is gaining the required medical knowledge and training.
As you are preparing to start your journey toward a health care career, you might consider taking a flexible, online course through Coursera. Rice’s Medical Terminology Specialization introduces course takers to the terms used to describe all ten major organ systems. The University of Colorado’s Become an EMT Specialization, meanwhile, teaches the skills needed to provide first responder emergency medical care.
1. BLS. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed May 17, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.