Healthcare Practitioner Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a healthcare practitioner career? Get real job descriptions, salary statistics and career outlook information to determine whether a career as a healthcare practitioner is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Healthcare Practitioner Career

In broad terms, healthcare practitioners provide medical care to patients in diverse fields and settings. Read the following pros and cons to decide if becoming a healthcare practitioner is for you.

Pros of a Healthcare Practitioner Career
Some positions are very lucrative (average salary of some physicians and surgeons was over $189,000 as of May 2014)*
Make a living helping people*
Many positions offer good salary payoff compared to education/training requirements*
Positive career outlook (14%-30% job growth projected for most occupations from 2014-2024)*
Flexibility in terms of job location*

Cons of a Healthcare Practitioner Career
Potential for exposure to disease and harmful chemicals**
Some positions very stressful and fast-paced*
Long hours may include evenings, weekends and holidays*
On-call duty a necessary part of some occupations*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Nursingworld.gov.

Basic Career Information

Job Responsibilities

Each healthcare practitioner has specific duties related to their particular field. Basic duties may include conducting physical exams, taking histories, making diagnoses, interpreting and ordering lab tests, patient education, dealing with emergencies, recommending treatment, treating the patient, writing prescriptions and documenting treatment. While specialized occupations within the healthcare practitioner category may enjoy somewhat stable workdays, many healthcare practitioners can expect the unexpected on a daily basis.

Beyond providing specialized care to patients with varied maladies, healthcare practitioners also need to be able to educate patients and their families. Making sure that each patient understands the procedures and treatment strategies available to them is an important responsibility of any healthcare practitioner. Those who provide primary care must also be sure to stay abreast of current research and developments related to treating different types of diseases and disorders.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected faster than average job growth for nearly all healthcare-related occupations. Employment of physician assistants, for example, was expected to increase by 30% from 2014-2024. The BLS also expected job growth of 16% for registered nurses and 14% for physicians and surgeons during the same period.

Salaries vary widely among healthcare practitioners. The BLS reported a mean annual salary of about $189,760 for most physicians and surgeons as of May 2014. A mean annual wage of $97,280 was reported for physician assistants. Medical assistants earned a mean salary of $31,220, while registered nurses had a mean annual wage of $69,790.

Requirements

Just as there is a very wide range of occupations included under the healthcare practitioner umbrella, the requirements for these occupations can also vary significantly. For most any position involving direct patient care, a bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement and usually must be accompanied by state-specific licensure or certification. Positions such as medical assistant and paramedic often require only a non-degree award, such as a certificate focused in technical training. If you're interested in becoming a physician, dentist or specialized practitioner (such as an audiologist or podiatrist), you'll need to earn a doctoral or professional degree. Physicians must typically complete a 4-year undergraduate education, four years of medical school and 3-8 years of residency.

No matter which level of healthcare practitioner you aspire to become, you'll need to possess certain qualities to succeed. Patience and compassion are very important for those dealing with injured or ill people, and a detail-oriented nature is certainly a helpful attribute for anyone wishing to help treat disease or injury. Emotional stability is another vital requirement for healthcare practitioners, since they often encounter stressful and dire situations.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Demand for healthcare practitioners is generally very strong. Depending on your education and experience, you might find work in a vast array of healthcare settings. A few postings open as of mid-April 2012 offer a glimpse of the current healthcare job market.

  • A Kansas medical center sought a physician assistant to work in emergency medicine. Some responsibilities of the position included applying casts and splints, wound suturing, spine immobilization, performing incisions and inserting venous catheters. Completion of an accredited physician assistant program and current licensure in the state of Kansas were requirements of the position.
  • A Texas facility specializing in dialysis and kidney disease services looked for a registered nurse to direct services to patients. At least one year of hemodialysis experience was required. Candidates must also have held a current Texas registered nursing license and CPR training.
  • A Florida digestive health clinic sought a certified medical assistant to provide both clinical and business office assistance. Duties included performing basic laboratory tests, drawing blood, sterilizing medical instruments, answering patient questions and recording medical histories. Medical assisting certification was required for the position.

How to Stand Out in the Field

For positions that do not explicitly require them, advanced degrees can be a good way to set yourself apart from other jobseekers in the healthcare field. Registered nurses, for example, may find it advantageous to pursue a master's degree in nursing if they want to further their professional standing. Health educators, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals may also want to consider pursuing graduate degrees to enhance their qualifications.

Specialization is another way to gain an advantage over others in a competitive job market. Nurses and physician assistants might focus their work in specific settings, such as dialysis clinics or OB/GYN offices. Physicians may choose to focus in areas such as psychiatry, anesthesiology or family medicine.

Alternative Career Options

If you're interested in healthcare but don't want to be directly involved in patient care, you have many options. Epidemiology involves investigating the causes of disease and preventing them from spreading or reoccurring. By reporting their findings to policy officials and the general public, epidemiologists play an important role in combating illness and other public health threats. Working as an epidemiologist requires at least a master's degree, and the BLS reported a median annual salary of $64,000 as of May 2011. The BLS also projected employment of epidemiologists to increase by 24% from 2010-2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

If a healthcare career without direct patient interaction interest you, you might also consider a career in medical science or research. By executing clinical trials and investigating treatment methods, medical researchers can advance the field and even help cure deadly diseases. Working as a medical scientist requires a doctoral or professional degree, and the BLS projected employment in the field to increase by 36% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $76,000 for medical scientists.

Popular Schools

  • Campus Locations:
    1. American National University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Medical Assisting - Associate
      • Medical Assisting - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Campus Locations:
    5. College of Health Care Professions

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Limited Medical Radiologic Technologist-Certificate
      • Medical Assistant-Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Campus Locations:
    7. Altierus

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Surgical Technology
  • Towson, MD

    Towson University

  • Washington, DC

    Howard University

  • Durham, NC

    Duke University

Featured Schools

American National University

  • Medical Assisting - Associate

What is your education level?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Bachelor: Health Science

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

College of Health Care Professions

  • Limited Medical Radiologic Technologist-Certificate
  • Medical Assistant-Certificate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Altierus

  • Surgical Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?