Practitioner careers are among some of the most popular jobs within the health care field, and there is an increasing need for skilled workers, particularly within the realm of nursing and health care assistants.
Those hoping to work as a medical practitioner need to be detail-oriented and possess critical thinking skills. What's more, they should be excellent communicators and have a high level of empathy. For those with the right combination of education and interpersonal skills, practitioner careers can be a rewarding way to find a job that's in-demand and offers above average income potential.
Hot practitioner careers in health care
Physicians and surgeons are the nation's most highly paid professionals in the nation. As of May 2014, all five of the occupations earning average annual incomes in excess of $200,000 belonged to physician and surgical specialists. However, to join the ranks of these highly paid professionals, students may have to spend 8 years in school and up to 8 years in a residency or internship program.
Students hoping to enter the workforce more quickly shouldn't overlook jobs in nursing. As another category of practitioner careers, nurses may not earn six figure salaries but they do earn above average incomes. In addition, in some cases, people can enter the field without a degree.
Other hot careers in health care include jobs in occupational therapy, physical therapy and dentistry. Here's a look at expected job growth for some of these occupations from 2012-2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Occupational therapy assistants: 43%
- Physical therapy assistants: 41%
- Physician assistants: 38%
- Physical therapists: 36%
- Dental hygienists: 33%
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses: 25%
- Registered nurses: 19%
How to become a heath care practitioner
You don't have to spend years in the classroom to become a practitioner. Depending on the job, you can be ready to enter the workforce in as little as two years or less, and can even get your nursing degree online.
Diploma or certificate
Nursing offers one of the fastest ways to become a health care practitioner. Licensed practical and vocational nurses can be ready to enter the workforce after completing a one-year certificate or diploma program. Although less common nowadays, diploma programs for registered nurses are also available in some areas.
Available through community colleges or vocational and technical schools, an associate degree can open the door to a number of careers in health career. Registered nurses and dental hygienists are among the practitioners who can be ready to work with a two-year degree. Even better, these jobs offer above average annual wages with professionals earning, respectively, $69,790 and $71,970 in 2014 according to government data.
Bachelor's degrees are becoming more common for registered nurses with many nursing schools now offering RN-to-BSN programs. Although not always required, some employers may prefer their RNs have a four-year degree or may reserve high level roles for nurses with a bachelor's degree.
Graduate and professional degrees
Physician assistants, occupational therapists and nurse practitioners are among those who need at least a master's degree for their jobs. Some of these professionals may go on to earn a doctoral degree as well. For example, a Doctor of Nursing Practice is available.
Physicians and surgeons have the highest level of education required in the field and must complete a four year medical degree before moving on to an internship or residency program that can last anywhere from 3-8 years.