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The Health Occupations Boom

Article excerpt

Medical technology is evolving furiously and Americans are living longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the population over 95 is growing four times as fast as the total population. In 1993 national health care expenditures totaled more than $940 billion--$650 billion more than the defense budget.

These statistics translate into great opportunities in the health care field. Demand continues to build for technicians and care providers. used to do," says Larkin Hicks, chairman of the National Association of Health Career Schools. "It takes a lot more support services for those highly technological procedures."

Gerard Boe, executive director of the American Medical Technologists Association says "people trained in the military, at vocational-technical schools and junior colleges are all competent and can meet the requirements. There are a lot of programs at the four-year college level, but I think what we're going to see in the future is the associate's degree and many technically trained people."

In its 1994-95 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes 15 health-care related occupations as growing faster than the average overall workforce through the year 2005. Opportunities are plentiful in jobs that range from nuclear medicine technologists to licensed practical nurses. The average education requirement is a two-year associate's degree and the average annual salary is $24,094.

These 15 jobs are in broad occupational categories predicted to grow at the fastest clip through 2005--an average 34 percent compared with an overall job growth rate of 22 percent:

Professional specialty occupations--projected to be the fastest growing occupational cluster in the economy with a 37 percent growth rate. This area is expected to increase from 16.6 million to 22.8 million jobs between 1992 and 2005. The hot health care jobs in this cluster are physician assistants, recreational therapists and respiratory therapists.

Service occupations--with a 33 percent growth rate (from 19.4 million to 25.8 million jobs between 1942 and 2005). The hot health care jobs in this cluster are dental assistants, medical assistants, nursing aides and psychiatric aides.

Technicians and related support occupations--expected to grow 32 percent (from 4.3 million to 5.7 million jobs between 1992 and 2005). The hot health care jobs in this cluster are dental hygienists, emergency medical technicians, EEG technologists, licensed practical nurses, medical record technicians, nuclear medicine technologists, radiologic technologists and surgical technicians.

Here are profiles for 10 of the hottest health care related jobs. (Note: The latest available salary figures often are dated. Also, salaries vary widely depending on geographic area. Data also were drawn from the American Medical Association's 1994-95 Allied Health Directory.)

Physician assistants

PAs are trained to perform many of the tasks that physicians traditionally have done. Some of these duties include taking medical histories, examining patients, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and x-rays and making preliminary diagnoses. PAs may treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting and casting. Other duties also may include counseling patients, carrying out therapy and ordering medical and laboratory supplies and equipment.

Where they work--PAs are employed mostly in physicians' offices and clinics. If so, they are more likely to work a regular five-day, 40-hour week. PAs hired by hospital emergency rooms may work 24-hour shifts twice weekly or three 12-hour shifts each week. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, about one-third of all PAs work in communities with populations below 50,000, where physicians may be scarce.

Education and training needs--The average PA program is two years long. These programs usually are offered by medical schools, vocational-technical schools or four-year colleges. …