Healthcare Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Are you considering a career in healthcare? Read on to explore real job descriptions and training requirements and see if a healthcare career is right for you.
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Healthcare Careers

Healthcare careers typically offer excellent job benefits like medical insurance, paid holidays and retirement plans. There are a wide variety of occupations in the healthcare field, including paramedic, dental hygienist and surgical technologist. The following is a comparison of these occupations:

Paramedic Dental Hygienist Surgical Technologist
Career Overview Paramedics provide emergency aid to injured or ill victims Dental hygienists clean teeth and provide various preventative dental services Surgical technologists provide assistance during surgery
Education Requirements Postsecondary non-degree award Associate's degree Postsecondary non-degree award
Program Length 1-2 years beyond emergency medical technician (EMT) certification 2 years Around 1-2 years
Additional Training Continuing education required for license renewal in some states Continuing education required for license renewal in most states None required
Certification and/or Licensing License and certification required License required Optional certification available from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcare Association
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Much faster-than-average job growth (24% for all EMTs and paramedics)* Much faster-than-average job growth (19%)* Much faster-than-average job growth (15%)*
Mean Annual Salary (2014) Around $35,110 (for all EMTs and paramedics) Around $71,970* Around $45,010*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Paramedic

Paramedics respond to calls requiring emergency medical assistance. They assess the patient and then administer treatment to stabilize the patient for transport to a hospital. Typically one paramedic cares for the patient while another drives the ambulance. They inspect and clean equipment, document the treatment provided and keep track of inventory. Paramedics also transport patients from one medical facility to another. Ambulance service companies employ most paramedics, while some work in hospitals and others work for fire departments and local government agencies.

Requirements

You must first complete basic and advanced EMT training in order to be eligible for enrollment in a paramedic training program. The prerequisite training will teach you to how to treat medical emergencies and use equipment. After you are certified and licensed as an advanced-level EMT, you may enter a paramedic certificate or degree program. A typical paramedic program will provide training in advanced life-saving techniques, including defibrillation, drug administration and invasive procedures like endotracheal intubation and intravenous line insertion.

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians must certify paramedics. To receive this certification, you must complete an accredited paramedic program and pass a test that has a written and a practical component. You will need to be licensed by the state in which you plan to work.

Employers were seeking the following in December 2012:

  • A Florida hospital was looking for a paramedic with at least 1 year of experience and basic cardiovascular life support (BCLS), advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS) and National Registry paramedic certifications to help emergency department nursing staff with various tasks, including taking patient vital signs and administering treatment.
  • An ambulance service in Massachusetts sought a paramedic with a paramedic associate's degree, Massachusetts EMT-paramedic certification, ACLS certification and PALS credentials to respond to emergencies, transport and treat patients.
  • A teaching hospital in Philadelphia was seeking a critical care transport paramedic with at least 4 years of experience and Pennsylvania paramedic, BCLS, ACLS, and PALS certifications to treat patients during transport, provide detailed records of patient assessment and treatment, monitor ambulance inventory and keep patients and family members informed about treatment in the ambulance and what to expect at the hospital.

How to Stand Out

You can get a head start on a paramedic career by taking relevant courses in high school, such as physiology and anatomy. If you want to stand out among the competition for a paramedic position, or if you plan to advance your career beyond the paramedic level, you can obtain a bachelor's degree in emergency medical services or paramedicine. A bachelor's degree can also prepare you for employment as an instructor, a supervisor or researcher in this healthcare field.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients to look for oral disorders and take x-rays. They polish the teeth after cleaning, document treatment and educate patients about dental care. Dental hygienists must wear protective gear to guard against contagious illness. A full-time dental hygienist earns a significantly higher salary than the national average, but the majority employed in this occupation work part-time.

Requirements

An associate's degree is typically required to obtain employment as a dental hygienist. A degree program in dental hygiene includes courses on periodontology, dental radiology, oral pathology, anatomy and ethics. Clinical instruction is also provided.

A dental hygienist license is required in every state. In order to obtain this license, you usually must complete an accredited dental hygiene program and pass practical and written tests, although state licensure requirements vary.

This is what some employers were looking for in December 2012:

  • A Washington dental company wanted to hire a dental hygienist with at least 1 year of experience and a license to practice in Washington to provide dental care to patients.
  • A dental care company based in Baltimore had openings in several Maryland locations for licensed dental hygienists to clean patients' teeth, examine patients for signs of oral disease, maintain patient records and apply cavity preventatives. A minimum of an associate's degree in dental hygiene was required.
  • An Arizona dental care provider sought a licensed dental hygienist with at least 1 year of experience to clean teeth, take x-rays, maintain patient dental records, educate patients about oral hygiene, maintain equipment and stock supplies.

How to Stand Out

Since most dental hygienists enter the field with an associate's degree, you can gain an edge over the competition if you continue your education by obtaining a bachelor's degree in the discipline. Furthermore, a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene can help you advance your career into other areas, such as research, marketing, education and management. A typical dental hygiene bachelor's program provides courses on advanced radiology, dental hygiene research, dental materials and pharmacology.

Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists help surgeons during operations by passing them the required equipment and supplies. Also known as operating room technicians, they sterilize instruments, set up equipment and supplies before surgery and prepare the patient for the operation. They also help the surgeon and assistants put on gloves and gowns. The majority of surgical technologists are employed by hospitals, but some work in other settings where surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, such as medical doctors' offices and surgical centers. This occupation frequently requires you to stand for long periods and to be on call after normal business hours.

Requirements

Most surgical technologists begin their career after completing a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree program in surgical technology. If you enroll in one of these programs, you can expect to take courses on human anatomy and physiology, microbiology and medical terminology, as well as complete a clinical practicum. During the clinical practicum, you'll receive experience performing the tasks typically required of a working surgical technologist.

These were actual job openings posted in December 2012:

  • A Michigan medical center wanted to hire a surgical technologist who graduated from an accredited surgical technologist program and had at least 1 year of experience and current basic life support (BLS) certification to perform duties as member of a surgical team. Candidate was required to obtain Association of Surgical Technologists certification within 12 months.
  • A medical facility in Virginia was seeking a surgical technologist who had graduated from an accredited surgical technician or licensed practical nurse program to provide pre- and post-operative patient care. Surgical technician certification and orthopedic experience were pluses.
  • A Colorado healthcare system sought a medical technologist with at least 3 years of operating room experience and who completed an accredited medical technologist program to assist during surgical procedures. The candidate had to be registered with the state of Colorado as a surgical technologist or surgical assistant, and surgical technologist certification was desired.

How to Stand Out

You can increase your chances of landing a job by becoming certified, such as those offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. The National Center for Competency Testing offers certifications for several medical specialties, including a tech in surgery credential for surgical technologists. You can also receive a credential as a certified operating room surgical technician through the National Healthcare Association. This credential can help you earn a higher salary and improve your chances of job security. You must complete formal training and pass an exam to be certified by any of these organizations.

Popular Schools

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
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Colorado State University Global

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Saint Leo University

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