What Are the Most Promising Careers in Health Care?

student in class at TTUHSC

“Physician” and “surgeon” might readily come to mind first when you are thinking about the most promising careers in health care. But actually, the health care professions cover a fairly large span of possibilities, and there are many exciting and in-demand areas you should consider beyond the most familiar ones. In fact, you could say there are some hidden gems in the health professions, and they are well worth exploring as career choices.
 
Lindsay Johnson, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs for the School of Health Professions at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), hopes people interested in science — or in helping others — will begin to recognize how many opportunities can be found in the profession. She says careers in health care are among the most in-demand and “lucrative professions at the moment.” And the degree and certificate programs offered by TTUHSC’s School of Health Professions (TTUHSC SHP) intentionally mirror the marketplace.
 
“We’re meeting the demands of society,” she explains, adding that promising careers in health care can be found at nearly every level of patient care, from lab technician to physician assistant.

 

Health Care Professions Top “Best Careers” Lists Again
 
Each year, various organizations and publications rank the best careers, and 2020’s contenders include several health professions.
 
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) list of 20 fastest-growing occupations through 2028 includes the following careers in health care:

#5 — occupational therapy assistant
#7 — physician assistant
#10 — speech-language pathologist
#11 — physical therapist assistant

U.S. News and World Report used BLS data, as well as its own research on work-life balance and salary, to create “The 25 Best Jobs of 2020.” Health professions also dominated this list, with positions such as:

#3 — physician assistant
#8 — speech-language pathologist
#11 — medical and health services manager
#15 — physical therapist

Also on the U.S. News and World Report list were a range of medical specialties, including physicians, optometrists, pediatricians, and oral surgeons, all of which will contribute to the growth of many ancillary health professions in today’s team-oriented health care field.
 
Digging deeper into its career research, U.S. News and World Report also ranked positions within a specific profession. For health care, the top positions included:

#2 - physician assistant
#6 - speech-language pathologist
#10 - physical therapist
#17 - occupational therapist
#19 - respiratory therapist
#26 - audiologist
#28 - rehabilitation counselor

Finally, further demonstrating the growth in many of these fields, U.S. News and World Report also produced a Best Healthcare Support Jobs list for 2020. This list is also a reflection of promising careers overall in health care. It includes positions that students can work in as they pursue their advanced degrees or move up in their careers and demonstrates that, in general, these fields are growing at all levels:

#3 — physical therapy assistant
#13 — physical therapist aide
#14 — occupational therapy assistant
#19 — clinical laboratory technician
#25 — hearing aid specialist
#30 — occupational therapy aide

 

A Growing Focus on the Health Care Team
 
While each of these lists uses different rating and ranking criteria, one thing is clear: careers in health care are in demand and on the rise. Reflecting on these “top” lists, Johnson says, “It’s pretty telling that as a school we have programs in many of these areas.”
 
Johnson says that the programs at TTUHSC’s School of Health Professions offer a range of entry points — from certificates to clinical doctoral work — for a variety of careers in health care. Offering a range of practical career preparation fits today’s needs at multiple levels.
 
“Health care, in general, is  moving into a team environment,” explains Johnson. The overall curriculum has evolved to focus on blurring the lines between individual programs to build cohesiveness. “We teach our students to be ready and prepared to work on an interprofessional health care team.”
 
The common thread, she adds, is that “our students desire to go into their respective profession tand make a difference.”

 

Promising Careers in Health Care: By Profession
 
Let’s take a deeper dive into some specific positions, including expected demand, average income, and other career information. To help provide context for the significance in demand for some of these fields, you should know that the BLS defines average employment growth as 4 to 6%, faster than average growth as 7 to 10%, and much faster than average as 11% or higher.
 
You’ll find one thing these professions all have in common: they expect a high growth rate, mirroring the equally high demand for these health care professionals in Texas and throughout the U.S. If any of these health care professions pique your interest or fit your personal goals, you can learn more about them on the School of Health Professions website.

 

Physician Assistant (PA)

● Expected growth through 2028: 31%
● National median annual salary: $108,610
● Texas median annual salary: $109,590
● Typical entry-level education required: master’s degree

With a predicted rise in demand of more than 30%, physician assistant is one of the fastest-growing professions not just in health care, but in overall occupations. Growth in demand for PAs is especially high in rural areas, including West Texas. In fact, according to the BLS, Texas ranks third among states for employing the most physician assistants, following New York and California.
 
Physician assistants work as part of health care teams, along with doctors, surgeons, and nurses, and they are qualified to examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Increasingly, PAs serve as primary care providers (in collaboration with physicians) in rural and underserved regions, helping fill a critical demand for care in these high-need areas.

 

Physical Therapist (PT)
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 22%
● National median annual salary: $87,930
● Texas median annual salary: $92,940
● Typical entry-level education required: doctoral or professional degree
 
Physical therapists help improve the quality of life for patients with a variety of mobility conditions which could be the result of an injury, congenital malformation, or neuromuscular or cardiopulmonary condition. PTs can work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, and home health care and other settings.
 
Working as a licensed health professional in this field requires a doctoral degree, such as TTUHSC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and national certification.
 
PTs are in demand in Texas; similar to the high demand for PAs, Texas ranks third among states for the level of employment for the PT field. Between 2016 through 2019, TTUHSC DPT graduates had a 100% career placement rate within six months of licensure.

 

Occupational Therapist
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 18%
● National median annual salary: $84,270
● Texas median annual salary: $89,360
● Typical entry-level education required: master’s degree
 
Occupational therapists help people with learning or relearning activities of everyday life following an illness, injury or surgery. OTs often note it’s incredibly rewarding to see patients find increased purpose and meaning in their personal and professional lives following treatment.
 
To become a registered occupational therapist, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited occupational therapy program and pass a national certification exam.
 
Occupational therapists can work in many health care settings, from hospitals to school districts. Texas, again, ranks third among states for employing the most occupational therapists.

 

Speech-Language Pathologist
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 27%
● National median annual salary: $77,510
● Texas median annual salary: $75,800
● Typical entry-level education required: master’s degree
 
Speech-language pathology (SLP) explores human communication science and disorders. Professionals in the field help patients of all ages with various speech, expressive language, and receptive language conditions, as well as swallowing disorders. SLPs, sometimes called speech therapists, can work in medical facilities, schools, government agencies, and residential care centers.
 
TTUHSC SHP offers a bachelor’s degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences which can introduce students to entry-level careers in the field, such as a hearing aid specialist, which is one of the fastest-growing health care support positions. The bachelor’s can also lead to positions as a caseworker, early intervention specialist, or SLP assistant.
 
This degree also can serve as a foundation for the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. An accredited master’s in speech-language pathology, like the one offered at TTUHSC SHP,  prepares future SLPs for national certification to serve as a clinician in this rewarding, in-demand health profession.
 
According to the BLS, as of 2020, Texas employs more speech-language pathologists than any other state in the U.S. The need for these professionals in Texas is evident in the professional outcomes for TTUHSC’s master’s students: The program has a 100% placement rate for its SLP graduates.

 

Audiologist
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 16%
● National median annual salary: $75,920
● Texas median annual salary: $77,680
● Typical entry-level education required: doctoral or professional degree
 
Audiologists work with patients in a variety of clinical settings — and sometimes schools and hearing-device retail centers — to diagnose, treat, and manage hearing, balance or general ear issues.
 
The path to a career as an audiologist requires a doctor of audiology (Au.D); at TTUHSC SHP, this is a four-year program that includes hands-on training at the on-campus Speech and Hearing Clinic, as well as at schools and other locations near Lubbock. An undergraduate degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences is good preparation for this Au.D. program, as well as for entry-level audiology positions, such as a SLP assistant.

 

Health Care Administration and Management
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 18%
● National median annual salary: $99,730
● Texas median annual salary: $105,450
● Typical entry-level education required: bachelor’s degree
 
With the rise of new health care facilities and the expansion of services and new technology comes a need for managers and administrators to lead various aspects of these operations.
 
Depending on what area of administration interests you, a bachelor’s degree in a business field such as accounting or management could provide a good background. However, with insurance, regulations, and policies getting more complex, a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management is a wise choice to develop the knowledge and technical skills you need to manage today’s departments, offices, and facilities.
 
TTUHSC’s bachelor’s program offers a concentration that allows currently certified or licensed health professionals, such as a medical assistant, radiology technologist, or PT assistant, to gain the administrative skills they need to move into a supervisory or management role.
 
With increased competition, many top-level and higher-paying health care management positions require (or strongly prefer) an advanced degree. TTUHSC’s SHP offers an online Master of Science in Healthcare Administration, geared toward working professionals, which helps develop skills in strategic management, human resources, leadership, financial management, and ethical and regulatory issues.

 

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 11%
● National median annual salary: $52,330
● Texas median annual salary: $51,240
● Typical entry-level education required: bachelor’s degree
 
Lab technologists and technicians can be found analyzing fluids and other samples in nearly any medical setting, such as hospitals, urgent care centers, diagnostic labs, doctors’ offices, and research facilities.
 
A bachelor of science in clinical laboratory science can prepare you with the advanced technical skills you’ll need for a career in this growing and dynamic field. An important part of the health care team, laboratory technologists can also further specialize in their positions (through additional degrees, certifications, or on-the-job training), which can lead to more responsibility and higher pay. Examples include microbiology, molecular biology, and immunology technologists.
 
For professionals looking to expand or advance their career options in a lab setting, earning a graduate degree in pathology or a related field is an option. For example, TTUHSC’s Master of Science in Molecular Pathology can prepare you for positions in biotech, forensic, and research and development labs, as well as for careers in public health and agriculture.

 

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorders, and Mental Health Counselors and related positions
 
● Expected growth through 2028: 22%
● National median annual salary: $44,630
● Texas median annual salary: $47,010
● Typical entry-level education required: master’s degree
 
The nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic, among other issues, is creating a growing need for more mental health professionals. While not exactly new, addiction counseling is one of the newer areas of growth for health services schools. Johnson says interest in TTUHSC’s online Master of Science in Addiction Counseling program is growing.
 
“Enrollment will continue to grow in these programs,” she says. “In this role, a student has phenomenal potential for impacting people’s lives.”
 
TTUHSC also offers online master’s degrees in clinical mental health counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling.

 

Promising Careers in Health Care in Rural Regions
 
While many of these health professions and positions are in need across the United States, Johnson reiterates that a vital part of TTUHSC’s mission is to serve residents in rural West Texas. The school’s programs align with national trends, but it’s also committed to developing health care professionals who want to serve in the local region.
 
“We’re looking at innovative ways to provide services into these smaller, less populated areas,” she says.
 
Part of those efforts involves providing students in many programs offered by the School of Health Professions, as well as students in TTUHSC’s medical and nursing programs, the chance for hands-on work in the community. Johnson adds that telehealth programs also are becoming increasingly popular ways to serve patients unable to travel to their nearest facility.
 
With health care roles consistently topping “best jobs” lists, promising careers in health care are becoming even more promising. Johnson is hopeful that a greater number of high school seniors — and adult students looking to change careers — will become more aware of the vast range of opportunities in the health professions.
 
Learn how Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center can prepare you for a health care career by exploring our program listing page.
 

School of Health Professions

School of Health Professions

The School of Health Professions offers 19 different academic degree programs, making it one of the most diverse schools of health professions in the nation.

Among the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campuses of Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa and Midland with opportunities in distance learning, our programs are divided among specialties in Laboratory Sciences and Primary Care; Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences; Rehabilitation Sciences; Health Care Management and Leadership; and Clinical Counseling and Mental Health.

Led by top researchers and clinicians, our faculty provide challenging educational opportunities for our students to excel in their fields.

Connect with the School of Health Professions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

TTUHSC

Beginning in 1969 as the Texas Tech University School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is now a five-school university with campuses in Abilene, Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa.

TTUHSC offers students the opportunity to expand knowledge in programs that are on the forefront of health care education. Our programs and facilities give students the opportunity for hands-on research and clinical experience, and various collaborations with community entities provide students the practical knowledge that is vital to their success.

Almost 50 years since opening, TTUHSC has now trained more than 20,000 health care professionals, and meets the health care needs of more than 2.5 million people in the 108 counties including those in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico.

Through research, education and patient care, TTUHSC aims to promote a greater health environment for West Texas and beyond. We strive to decrease health disparities for rural populations and improve the health of the community through collaborations with area hospitals and health centers.

Connect with TTUHSC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.