Industries to Watch: Health Care

The effects of the recession were certainly felt in all industries, including those perceived as "recession-proof" like health care. In fact, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, health care spending in 2009 grew only 4 percent, the slowest rate in 50 years. Yet despite the slight slowdown, health care is still one of the nation's most promising industries, and job opportunities should abound in the next decade.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 of the 20 fastest-growing professions are in the health care industry and opportunities will be available for people of all educational backgrounds. So if you're looking for job opportunities, read on to find out why health care might be your best bet.

Why there's a need

There's always a need for health care. There always has been and there always will be. But the next decade will be especially promising for those in the field for a number of reasons. One of the biggest, of course, is the baby boomer effect. This year baby boomers officially begin to turn 65, which will have twofold implications for the industry. Not only will the aging U.S. population require more medical care than ever, but many of the baby boomers currently employed in health care will begin to retire -- both factors that will contribute to an increasing gap between health care supply and demand.

In addition, the recently-passed health care reform bill means that more Americans will soon be eligible for health insurance, thus increasing the demand for health care providers. In fact, according to a December 2010 survey by AMN Health Care Services, 62 percent of health care executives said that the passing of health care reform will increase their need for physicians in the coming years, and 56 percent said it will cause them to need more nurses. Not to mention that doctors and nurses are two occupations experiencing shortages even without these trends.

Jobs to consider

While nurses and physicians may be the jobs that come to mind first when we think of health care, there are plenty of other solid career paths in the industry as well. Below are some of the best (no medical school required).

1. Home health aide

According to the BLS, employment for home health aides is expected to grow by more than 50 percent through 2018, making it the third-fastest growing occupation in the United States.

Average annual salary: $28,173 *

Education: Short term, on-the-job training **

2. Physician assistant

This is another of the nation's fastest-growing jobs. Demand for physician assistants is expected to grow by nearly 39 percent through 2018.

Salary: $88,330

Education: Master's degree

3. Dental hygienist

Employment opportunities for dental hygienists are expected to grow by 36 percent through 2018. In addition, it's one of the highest-paying career paths for associate's degree holders.

Salary: $73,031

Education: Associate's degree

4. Medical assistant

By 2018, about 647,500 people are expected to be employed as medical assistants -- a 33.9 percent increase over 2008.

Salary: $37,571

Education: Moderate on-the-job training

5. Occupational therapist assistant

Job opportunities in the profession are expected to grow by nearly 30 percent through 2018.

Salary: $47,018

Education: Associate's degree

* Salary information provided by

**Education information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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