Well-paid and highly-skilled, physicians and nurses are among the people who are public face of health care. Learn what it takes to join their ranks.

Practitioner Careers

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%
Physician Assistants$108,43014637.4%
Physical Therapist Assistants$57,75011630.8%
Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides$50,13024329.7%
Physical Therapist Aides$28,5006729.1%
Source: 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

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.

Associate degree

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 degree

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.

Jobs in the health care field are on the rise all over the country, and registered nursing is one of the biggest gainers of all. Here's some info about how traditional and online schools in nursing can help you prepare for a health care career with real potential.

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Although physicians and surgeons are certainly one career option, practitioner careers are available to those with a broad range of educational backgrounds. If you love helping others, it doesn't take long to get ready for a job in nursing. Take the time to learn more about these and other careers in health care.


Practitioner careers are among some of the most popular jobs within the health care field.


1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 EditionTop of Form