Aging baby boomers and our increased life expectancy play a role in the rising demand for individuals in medical careers over the next 10 years and beyond. The medical careers we feature on this site are, in many cases, medical jobs that require less education than a medical doctor and which can quickly get you into an entry-level position and provide you with a healthy salary.
The top three medical careers we feature are registered nurses, physical therapists and chiropractors. In addition to salary, we also considered job availability and advancement potential as part of our ranking criteria.
Although you often choose a job based on your interests and talents, salary is often a major factor in selecting any career path.
The average starting salaries of the medical careers we reviewed on this site range from $21,500 to $57,000 annually. We use annual salary figures on this site, but to break them down to hourly rates, divide annual figures by 52 weeks and then 40 work hours.
In our side-by-side comparison, we provide three points within the income range for each job classification established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including the lowest 10th, 50th (median) and the highest 90th percentiles. Those figures consider all the annual salaries of individuals presently employed in those professions. For example, 90 percent of all chiropractors earn more than the 10th percentile, $32,750, and 10 percent earn more than the 90th percentile, $150,570.
In addition to which job you choose, your income level will also be influenced by where you live. For example, your salary will generally be higher if you work in the city rather than in the country because the cost of living is higher in the city. Cost of living indexes that are available on websites such as Salary.com and CNN Money will provide more specific salary comparisons from city to city.
In the medical industry, almost all jobs are expected to grow over the next 40 years because of the anticipated increase in aging baby boomers, who will require additional medical attention. Advances in technology will also play a role in job availability. As new, more effective treatments emerge for treating diseases such as cancer, medical professionals with special training will be needed to perform those treatments. Radiation therapists, for example, use machines called linear accelerators which combine CT scanning and x-ray technology to search for cancer cells in real time. Once identified, the cells can be shrunk or removed.
Certain medical careers have more opportunities for advancement than others. Career paths that have multiple levels of certification or opportunities to specialize within different niches give more value to your initial education. Some of the positions we reviewed require only an associate's degree for an entry-level position, where others require a bachelor's or a master's degree, in addition to certification or licensure.
We provided other non-graded criteria about jobs in the side-by-side comparison on this page. Schedules available, interaction with others, physical requirements and basic office skills required were not included in our ranking process. This is because factors such as being on your feet most of the time or sitting at a desk all day could be considered either positive or negative, depending on your preference.
Certain professions provide varied work shifts which offer a flexible schedule. For example, having the option to work part-time or on a swing shift some of the time frees up your schedule to pursue additional education or to meet the needs of your family. Entry-level employees are more likely to work odd hours such as weekends and holidays, where more experienced staffers often work days or have the option to work another time slot.
Interaction with Others
In some medical jobs you will work in teams, and in others you will work solo most of the time. Others will provide a mix of the two. In some jobs you will have interaction with patients, where in others you will only interact with fellow staff. In the reviews on this site, we combine Schedules Available and Interaction with Others into one category: Work Environment.
Certain medical jobs are more physically demanding than others. For example, the work of chiropractors and physical therapists involves adjusting or treating targeted areas of the body, which requires them to have adequate flexibility and strength. However, medical laboratory technicians and medical billing and coding specialists often sit at a desk for long hours.
Basic Office Skills Required
Although not necessarily something you learn in your vocational training, basic office skills are needed in many medical careers you can pursue. Some of those skills include spelling, grammar and punctuation skills; basic math skills; typing, data entry and 10-key skills; proficiency in the MS Office Suite; verbal communication and phone skills; English speaking proficiency; and the ability to manage multiple tasks, plan ahead and meet deadlines.
Each job review provides a description of the types of tasks involved, resources regarding the type of initial degree or certification, as well as additional education and certification available for advancement within the profession. We include information about how technology affects each job, such as the kinds of equipment you will use.
In addition to the reviews, we provide a sample job description for each of the medical careers available under the Specifications tab on each review page. On page two of each of the reviews, we also include what we call a typical work day for each job, which features a fictional person employed in one type of job you may pursue within each field. In addition, this site includes learning center articles on medical careers, including the "Baby Boomer Generation's Affect on Health Care" and the "Need for Adequate Health Care in Rural Areas."
Few web-based resources provide such a comprehensive comparison of medical careers, from educational beginnings to job advancement. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™
When available, our income range data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the standard in labor-related data in the United States. O*Net and Payscale.com provided additional data. BLS.gov was also the primary source for our reviews of each job. Additional sources are provided at the end of each review.