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Career Timelines in Healthcare & Medical Support

How long does it take to enter a medical career? Explore the education and experience timelines of today’s most popular careers in healthcare

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A young female medical student with red hair and wearing blue scrubs smiles confidently at the camera, standing in front of peers in a campus setting.

Where do you want to go in healthcare? A number of factors come into play here. Do you want to get into a career quickly and eventually work your way up? Or do you want to devote time to higher education, enter the workforce later, but at a potentially much higher pay scale? This page breaks down some of today’s most popular and in-demand careers in healthcare, how long it takes to get the required education, the estimated growth, earning potential, and hurdles you might need to overcome along the way. Start charting your path to a rewarding career in the medical field.

View all healthcare careers below, or click on a specific career to see its details.

1 – 4 Months

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Nursing assistants are sometimes known as nursing aides; those who gain certification are known as Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs. These professionals help patients with the requirements of day-to-day living, such as cleaning, bathing, dressing, using the bathroom and eating. They might help move patients between a bed and a wheelchair, or might turn and reposition a patient who is bedridden. They also take vital signs and report any health concerns to nursing staff. Depending upon their training and the state requirements, some CNAs are allowed to dispense medications to their patients while under the supervision of a licensed nurse. It isn’t unusual for CNAs to build strong relationships with their patients, as they might work with the same patients for several years.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or GED
  • Common education: Post-secondary certificate via campus or online CNA classes.
  • Certifications needed: State-specific, but usually need to pass a State competency exam
  • Key skills: Communication, patience, stamina
  • Work Environment: Nursing facilities, hospitals

Median Median salary (2021):
$30,290

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
8%

No. of jobs (2020):
1,440,700

Career Advancement:
LPN, medical assistant, home health aide

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Nurse Practitioners.

Learn more about working as a nurse practitioner at the following pages:

1 – 4 Months

Home Health Aide

Home health aides primarily work in the homes of patients, providing them with the basic health care, as well as assistance with the events of daily living. They might help clients with bathing, dressing and eating. Some assist with transportation, light housekeeping duties and organizing the patient’s schedule and planning appointments. The basic health care typically includes changing bandages, helping with gentle exercises, skin care, massages and assistance with durable medical equipment, such as walkers or prosthetic limbs. In some states, home health aides can be allowed to do more for their patients, such as dispense medications or handle more advanced medical equipment, such as ventilators.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or GED (though some employers do not require this)
  • Common education: On-the-job training or certificate
  • Certifications needed: Varies by state; certification is required for aides who work for agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
  • Key skills: Attention to detail, interpersonal skills, physical stamina
  • Work Environment: Patient homes, services for the elderly or disabled, retirement or assisted living communities

Median salary (2021):
$29,430

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
33%

No. of jobs (2020):
3,470,700

Career Advancement:
LPN, Certified Nurse Assistant, medical assistant

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Home Health Aides.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a home health aide, check out our information on certification for the profession:

2 Months – 2 Years

Medical Biller & Coder

Also sometimes known as health information technicians or medical records technicians, medical billers and coders are responsible for organizing and managing health data. Specifically, medical coders look at the diagnostic and procedure codes for each patient and use that information to generate codes that are then sent on to insurance companies for reimbursement. Medical billers handle the coded information, work as a liaison between the insurance company and the healthcare facility, and send out patient bills after insurance has made adjustments to the amount owed. They might also work to maintain accuracy in patient records, compile databases and registries, and perform other duties related to reimbursement and payment.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree
  • Common education: Postsecondary certificate
  • Certifications needed: Most employers prefer those who are certified; some states require it.
  • Key skills: Attention to detail, good communication, analytical and technical skills
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, offices of physicians, administrative support services

Median salary (2021):
$45,240

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
416,400

Career Advancement:
Medical assistant

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Medical Records and Health Information Specialists.

Learn more about medical billing and coding at the following pages:

4 Months – 2 Years

Pharmacy Tech

Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists to fill and dispense medications for patients. Their broad duties include collecting the proper information to fill prescriptions, measuring and filling those prescriptions, maintaining accurate labeling, answer basic questions from patients, enter information into computer systems for use by the pharmacy in billing the insurance company, working with pharmacists to reorder supplies or medications, and more. In most states, pharmacy techs can mix some medications and contact physicians for information on prescription refills, all under the supervision of the pharmacist. Those who work in hospitals might have added duties, such as providing intravenous medications for patients.

  • Experience needed: On-the-job training
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or GED
  • Common education: On-the-job training
  • Certifications needed: Some states require it; usually includes passing an exam and/or completing a training program and gaining one year of experience
  • Key skills: Attention to detail, well-organized, customer service, math knowledge and the ability to listen closely
  • Work Environment: Pharmacies or hospitals

Median salary (2021):
$36,740

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
4%

No. of jobs (2020):
419,300

Career Advancement:
Pharmacist

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Pharmacy Technicians.

Discover how to build a career as a pharmacy technician:

6 Months – 2 Years

EMT

When individuals call 911 for a medical emergency, emergency medical technicians are often the medical professionals who respond. They provide first-aid treatment and immediate medical interventions for those who are suffering a medical emergency. Their job includes assessing and stabilizing patients, transferring patients to appropriate medical facilities, reporting their observations to physicians, nurses and other healthcare staff, documenting the medical care they provided and keeping an accurate inventory of supplies, replacing and cleaning them as necessary, and preparing for the next call. They might also work to transport patients from one facility to another, such as taking a person from a hospital to a nursing home. Further responsibilities depend upon the state guidelines, as well as the level of certification the EMT holds.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or GED and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training
  • Common education: Certificate
  • Certifications needed: All states require licensure; many accept certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians as the basis for licensure.
  • Key skills: Communication, physical strength, problem-solving, compassion
  • Work Environment: Ambulance services, local government, hospitals

Median salary (2021):
$36,930

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
11%

No. of jobs (2020):
261,300

Career Advancement:
LPN, registered nurse

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on EMTs and Paramedics.

Dive into the following page to learn about EMT education & training:

6 Months – 2 Years

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists are trained to use touch to manipulate the soft tissues of the body, thus helping patients with relaxation and therapeutic treatments. Massage therapists communicate with patients about their needs, assess the patient to determine painful or tense areas of the body, then use their expertise to manipulate those areas and relieve pain, improve circulation, relieve stress and help promote general well-being. They are often experts at a wide variety of massages that are suitable for different populations, such as the elderly, pregnant women or athletes. They might also provide patients with education on how to improve their posture, stress-relieving techniques, and gentle exercises to strengthen and stretch certain muscles. Massage therapists often keep detailed notes on the patient’s conditions and progress.

  • Experience needed: 500 hours of combined study and experience
  • Minimum education: Certificate or associate degree program combining 500 hours or more of combined study and experience
  • Common education: Certificate or associate degree via campus or online massage therapy programs.
  • Certifications needed: Most states regulate massage therapy; licensure or certification can be obtained through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
  • Key skills: Physical strength and stamina, integrity, communication, time management
  • Work Environment: In-home massages, personal care services, clinics or offices

Median salary (2021):
$46,910

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
32%

No. of jobs (2020):
144,600

Career Advancement:
Occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Massage Therapists.

Learn more about working as a Massage Therapist at the following pages:

6 Months – 2 Years

Paramedic

Much like emergency medical technicians, paramedics are often the professionals who respond to emergency calls and treat patients who need immediate assistance. They have many of the same duties, from assessing patients to transporting them safely to the most appropriate hospital or medical facility. They also communicate closely with other medical professionals on follow-up care, keep detailed notes of the care they provided, and inventory, replace, clean or otherwise maintain the necessary medical items and materials for caring for individuals who need emergency services. But paramedics often have more responsibility than EMTs. Some of them might work closely with flight crews to transport patients via helicopter or plane to other medical facilities, or they might provide medications, use more sophisticated medical equipment in the field, and interpret some test results, such as EKGs.

  • Experience needed: EMT Certification (usually at least 400 hours of education and experienced combined)
  • Minimum education: Certificate (some states require an associate degree)
  • Common education: Associate degree
  • Certifications needed: All states require licensure; the most common requirement for licensure is certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
  • Key skills: Physical strength, communication, problem-solving, compassion
  • Work Environment: Ambulance services, local government, hospitals

Median salary (2021):
$36,930

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
11%

No. of jobs (2020):
261,300

Career Advancement:
Registered nurse

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on EMTs and Paramedics.

Discover what it takes to become a paramedic with the following pages:

6 Months – 2 Years

X-Ray Tech

Sometimes known as radiographers or radiologic technicians, X-ray techs perform diagnostic imaging procedures on patients. In creating the X-rays that physicians use for diagnostics and follow-up treatment, X-ray techs must maintain and safely operate medical equipment, follow physician orders on what parts of the body to image, discuss the procedures and directions with patients, position the patient correctly, protect the patient through the use of lead aprons and other protective devices (if necessary), evaluate the X-rays to determine if further images are necessary, and keep detailed records. In some cases, they might be required to administer medications to patients in order to obtain the best images possible. Some choose to specialize; for instance, an X-ray technician could choose to work as a mammographer, using low-dose X-rays to look at breast tissue for signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Associate degree
  • Common education: Associate degree. Obtainable with a campus-based or online x-ray tech program.
  • Certifications needed: Most states require certification; this requires graduating from an accredited program and passing an examination.
  • Key skills: Detail-oriented, physical stamina, interpersonal, math and technical skills
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, offices of physicians, medical or diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers

Median salary (2021):
$61,980

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
254,000

Career Advancement:
Radiologic technologist, sonographer

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Radiologic and MRI Technologists.

Discover what it takes to become an X-Ray Tech with the following pages:

9 Months – 2 Years

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work closely with dentists to provide basic dental care for patients, including sterilizing dental instruments, assisting the dentist during procedures, processing x-rays and completing laboratory tasks, drying patients’ mouths during procedures, speaking to the patient about maintaining good oral hygiene, and helping keep patients comfortable while they are in the office. They might also handle clerical and secretarial tasks, such as filing paperwork, answering phones, scheduling appointments, maintaining accurate patient records, and work with patients on billing and insurance issues. In some states, dental assistants are also allowed to polish teeth and provide sealant, fluoride and topical anesthetic application.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Some states allow on-the-job training, while others require graduation from an accredited program and passing an exam.
  • Common education: Certificate, diploma or associate degree (depending upon state requirements)
  • Certifications needed: None
  • Key skills: Dexterity, organization, attention to detail, interpersonal and listening skills
  • Work Environment: Dental offices, government, physicians’ offices

Median salary (2021):
$38,660

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
11%

No. of jobs (2020):
330,200

Career Advancement:
Dental assistant, medical assistant

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Dental Assistants.

Here’s what aspiring students need to know about dental assisting:

1 – 2 Years

LPN/LVN

Licensed practical nurses, sometimes known as licensed vocational nurses, provide basic medical care while under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians. Their duties include making patients comfortable, taking vital signs, changing bandages, inserting catheters, and helping patients with the basics of day-to-day care, such as bathing or dressing. LPNs and LVNs report any concerns to nurses and doctors, keep detailed records of their patients’ health, and answer any questions the patients may have. In some states, they might help deliver and care for infants, collect laboratory samples for testing or give medication and start IVs, among other duties.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Certificate or diploma
  • Common education: Certificate or diploma
  • Certifications needed: All states require licensure
  • Key skills: Compassion, patience, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, physical stamina
  • Work Environment: Nursing and residential care facilities, hospitals, offices of physicians, home health care

Median salary (2021):
$48,070

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
688,100

Career Advancement:
Registered nurse

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on LPN’s.

Discover more about what it takes to become an LPN:

1 – 2 Years

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are responsible for clerical and clinical tasks. They often work in the offices of physicians, where they help with everything from scheduling appointments to basic patient care. Specifically, their duties might include taking patient histories, recording vital signs, assisting with patient examinations, collecting laboratory samples, entering patient information into medical records, scheduling appointments, and administering medications (if their state allows it). Some might handle administrative work only, while others might handle clinical duties; in some small practices, a medical assistant might do both. This is a brief overview of their duties; what they do can vary a bit from one practice to another, and from one state to another.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or GED
  • Common education: Certificate
  • Certifications needed: None; however, many employers prefer it.
  • Key skills: Tech savvy, attention to detail, analytical and interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Offices of physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of chiropractors

Median salary (2021):
$37,190

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
18%

No. of jobs (2020):
720,900

Career Advancement:
Licensed practical nurse, dental assistant

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on LPN’s.

Here’s what you need to know about working as a medical assistant:

1 – 2 Years

Surgical Technician

Also known as surgical technologists or operating room technicians, these highly-skilled professionals work closely with surgeons and other medical personnel to ensure surgeries run smoothly. Their job duties include preparing the operating rooms for surgery, sterilizing equipment, ensuring there is adequate inventory of supplies for surgery, counting supplies before and after surgery, handing surgeons the proper tools during surgery, and helping to maintain a sterile environment. They might also help prep patients for surgery, such as washing or disinfecting incision sites. Duties might also include transporting the patient to and from the operating room, applying bandages to the incision sites, and handle laboratory specimens.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Diploma, certificate or associate degree
  • Common education: Certificate
  • Certifications needed: None, though some employers prefer it.
  • Key skills: Physical stamina, stress management, dexterity, integrity, attention to detail
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, dental offices

Median salary (2021):
$48,530

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
109,700

Career Advancement:
Registered nurse

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Surgical Technicians.

Are you curious about working as a surgical tech? Here’s what you need to know.

1.5 – 2 Years

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists work to create internal images of the body through the use of specific medical equipment, such as MRIs, CT scans and the like. Their job includes adjusting and maintaining that equipment, preparing patients for the imaging procedures, consulting with physicians about the images they want to obtain, keeping the patient comfortable throughout the process, taking and developing the images, reporting the findings to physicians or other appropriate healthcare providers, and keeping detailed records. They might also handle patient medications, such as injectable contrast, which help create more detailed images of certain areas of the body.

  • Experience needed: None to enter the field; MRI technicians need up to five years of experience in radiology
  • Minimum education: Associate degree
  • Common education: Associate degree
  • Certifications needed: Most states require licensure or certification; this often requires graduation from an accredited program and passing an exam.
  • Key skills: Physical stamina, technical savvy, attention to detail, math and interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, physicians’ offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers

Median salary (2021):
$61,980

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
254,000

Career Advancement:
MRI technician, nuclear medicine technologist, sonographer

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Radiologic Technicians.

Discover what’s out there for aspiring radiologic technologists:

1.5 – 2 Years

Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers, sometimes known as ultrasound techs, create images of the inside of the body through use of high-frequency sound waves. Their duties include preparing the patient for the procedure, preparing and maintaining the equipment, operating the equipment to produce images and reviewing them for clarity, identify diagnostic information to share with physicians, and record their findings in the patient’s record. They often specialize in one type of sonpography, such as abdominal, cardiac, pediatric, obstetric and others. Though their job is mostly to gather images, they might also help with procedures, such as using ultrasound to guide doctors when giving injections into deep body tissues.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Certificate or associate degree
  • Common education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • Certifications needed: Basic Life Support (BLS), plus certification for their specialty; some sonographers have more than one certification.
  • Key skills: Hand-eye coordination, technical prowess, attention to detail, physical stamina, interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, physicians’ offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers

Median salary (2021):
$75,380

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
14%

No. of jobs (2020):
134,100

Career Advancement:
Registered nurse

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Sonographers.

Discover what’s out there for aspiring sonographers:

2 – 3 Years

Occupational Therapist Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work with patients to help them develop, improve, maintain or recover the skills they need for day-to-day living. They work closely with occupational therapists to help patients with therapeutic exercises and stretches, encourage patients to complete activities, teach patients how to use special equipment that helps them move around, and keep detailed notes on the patient’s progress. Depending upon the particular work environment, some occupational therapist assistants might work with particular populations; for instance, some might focus on helping patients recover from injuries, while others might work with children who have developmental delays.

  • Experience needed: Minimum 16 weeks of fieldwork
  • Minimum education: Associate degree
  • Common education: Associate degree via campus or online OTA programs.
  • Certifications needed: Most states require licensure; this usually includes graduating from an accredited program, completing fieldwork requirements and passing an exam.
  • Key skills: Physical strength, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, compassion and adaptability
  • Work Environment: Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists, nursing care facilities, hospitals, home healthcare, educational services

Median salary (2021):
$61,520

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
34%

No. of jobs (2020):
49,000

Career Advancement:
Occupational therapist

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Occupational Therapy Assistants.

Discover what’s out there for aspiring Occupational Therapy Assistants:

2 – 3 Years

Veterinary Technician

Veterinary techs work with animals while under the close supervision of a veterinarian. Their duties include observing and assessing the behavior and condition of animals, providing nursing care or emergency first aid, preparing animals for surgery, prepping the surgical area, performing laboratory tests and taking x-rays, administering anesthesia, restraining animals if necessary, administering vaccines and medications, and collecting patient histories. The work might be as simple as bathing animals, trimming their nails and brushing their hair, or as complicated as assisting the veterinarian during a difficult emergency surgery. The type animals they work with can vary widely a well; though most work with small animals, such as dogs or cats, they might work with exotic or large animals as well.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Associate degree
  • Common education: Associate degree
  • Certifications needed: Most states require vet techs to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination.
  • Key skills: Manual dexterity, problem-solving, compassion, attention to detail, communication, physical strength
  • Work Environment: Veterinary services, higher education, social advocacy organizations

Median salary (2021):
$36,850

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
15%

No. of jobs (2020):
114,400

Career Advancement:
Veterinary technologist, veterinarian

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Veterinary Technicians.

Learn more about working as a veterinary technician at the following pages:

2 – 4 Years

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists examine and clean patients’ teeth and provide other preventative care. They remove tartar, plaque and stains from teeth, apply sealants, take x-rays, assess oral health, apply fluoride, and instruct patients on how to maintain healthy teeth. They record their assessments and treatments in the patient file. In addition, they work closely with dentists to assist with dental procedures, such as handing the proper tools to the dentist or suctioning the patient’s mouth with needed. Depending upon the state, some dental hygienists might be allowed to diagnose certain health problems independently, or perform more complex procedures.

  • Experience needed: None
  • Minimum education: Associate degree
  • Common education: Associate degree
  • Certifications needed: Licensure requirements vary by state; in addition to licensure, CPR certification is quite common.
  • Key skills: Dexterity, attention to detail, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Dental offices, government, physicians’ offices

Median salary (2021):
$77,810

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
11%

No. of jobs (2020):
206,100

Career Advancement:
Dentist

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Dental Hygienists.

Learn more about what it takes to become a dental hygienist at the following pages:

2 – 4 Years

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses are on the front lines of care for patients in hospitals, clinics, outpatient care centers and more. Their duties include assessing and observing patients, recording patient histories and progress, working closely with physicians to develop an appropriate treatment plan, administering medications, operating and monitoring a wide variety of medical equipment, performing diagnostic tests and interpreting results, and educating patients and their families on proper treatment and care. Some might oversee other allied health professionals. Other duties depend upon the area in which an RN works, as there is great room for specialization.

  • Experience needed: Supervised clinical experience
  • Minimum education: Diploma or associate degree in nursing.
  • Common education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • Certifications needed: Licensure is required; certification is usually voluntary but can be standard for some specialties and employers
  • Key skills: Organization, communication, critical thinking, physical stamina, attention to detail, compassion and emotional stability
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, ambulatory healthcare services, nursing and residential care facilities, government, educational services

Median salary (2021):
$77,600

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
9%

No. of jobs (2020):
3,080,100

Career Advancement:
Nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Registered Nurses.

Learn more about what it takes to become a Registered Nurse at the following pages:

5 – 6 Years

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work with patients who are ill, injured or disabled. They provide therapeutic activities that help their patients develop, improve, recover or maintain the skills necessary for daily living. Job duties include taking patient histories, keeping track of progress, developing a treatment plan, using a variety of exercises or special equipment to assist in those treatments, helping individuals complete certain tasks, and education the patient and their family on various treatments they can continue at home. Some occupational therapists choose to specialize and will work with a particular population, such as the elderly, children with developmental disabilities or those recovering from traumatic injuries.

  • Experience needed: At least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork
  • Minimum education: Master’s degree
  • Common education: Master’s degree
  • Certifications needed: Licensure is required; certification is recommended for those who want to specialize in working with certain populations
  • Key skills: Communication, patience, adaptability, compassion and interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Hospitals, private offices, elementary and secondary schools, skilled nursing facilities, home health care

Median salary (2021):
$85,570

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
17%

No. of jobs (2020):
131,600

Career Advancement:
Physician

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Occupational Therapists.

Want to learn more about occupational therapy? These links can help:

6 – 7 Years

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help those who have suffered illness or injury learn how to improve movement and manage pain. They review notes from other healthcare professionals, as well as observe and assess the patient themselves, to determine the best course of treatment. They develop individual care plans that can include exercises, stretching, the use of certain equipment and hands-on therapy. They then follow the patient’s progress, looking for improvements such as a lessening of pain or greater range of motion, and tweak their treatment plans accordingly. They speak to patients and families about what to expect from treatment, how much improvement is realistic, and what to do about the challenges that might arise as a person goes through a therapy program.

  • Experience needed: Minimum one-year residency
  • Minimum education: Doctorate
  • Common education: Doctorate
  • Certifications needed: Licensure is required; those who specialize might want to obtain board certification
  • Key skills: Resourcefulness, time management, dexterity, physical stamina, attention to detail, compassion and interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Private offices, hospitals, home healthcare, self-employment, nursing and residential facilities

Median salary (2021):
$95,620

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
21%

No. of jobs (2020):
239,200

Career Advancement:
None

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Physical Therapists.

Want to learn more about physical therapy? These links can help:

6 – 7 Years

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants work closely with physicians and other healthcare workers to examine, diagnose and treat patients. This can include taking or reviewing patient histories, performing examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, creating a treatment plan, prescribing medication, talking to patients about their health and any treatments they should pursue or maintain at home, assessing recovery and keeping detailed notes. Their specific work scope depends upon their specialty; for instance, if they work in a pediatric office with several physicians on staff, they might perform examinations and provide vaccinations, but not diagnose patients. In some rural and underserved areas, a physician assistant might be the only healthcare provider, and thus will perform most of their work independently.

  • Experience needed: Most have experience as nurses, EMTs and the like before acceptance into the physician assistant program
  • Minimum education: Master’s degree
  • Common education: Master’s degree
  • Certifications needed: Licensure requires passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination.
  • Key skills: Compassion, emotional stability, problem solving, communication, attention to detail
  • Work Environment: Physician’s offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, educational services, employment services

Median salary (2021):
$121,530

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
31%

No. of jobs (2020):
129,400

Career Advancement:
Healthcare administrator

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Physician Assistants.

Learn more about working as a physician assistant at the following pages:

7 – 9 Years

Nurse Practitioner

Physician assistants work closely with physicians and other healthcare workers to examine, diagnose and treat patients. This can include taking or reviewing patient histories, performing examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, creating a treatment plan, prescribing medication, talking to patients about their health and any treatments they should pursue or maintain at home, assessing recovery and keeping detailed notes. Their specific work scope depends upon their specialty; for instance, if they work in a pediatric office with several physicians on staff, they might perform examinations and provide vaccinations, but not diagnose patients. In some rural and underserved areas, a physician assistant might be the only healthcare provider, and thus will perform most of their work independently.

  • Experience needed: Must hold a registered nursing license to begin a program
  • Minimum education: Master’s degree
  • Common education: Master’s degree
  • Certifications needed: Depends on the specialty; most states require licensure and certification in the particular specialty.
  • Key skills: Leadership, communication, critical thinking, attention to detail, resourcefulness, compassion and interpersonal skills
  • Work Environment: Offices of physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, educational services, offices of other healthcare practitioners

Median salary (2021):
$123,780

Growth estimate (’20 – ’30):
45%

No. of jobs (2020):
271,900

Career Advancement:
Healthcare administrator, postsecondary teacher

These stats are courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Nurse Practitioners.

Learn more about working as a nurse practitioner at the following pages: