physical therapist

Physical Therapist

*After watching parents or older peers suffer unemployment during the Great Recession, job security is at the top of students’ minds when choosing a career path.

With a growing number of older adults in the United States, health care utilization is expected to rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care sector is expected to grow 28 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Increasing demand for qualified professionals makes a career in health care a savvy choice.

Physical Therapists at work

Physical therapists at work. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are on the front lines of providing care for patients with musculoskeletal problems, pain, injuries and other conditions. The job outlook for physical therapists is excellent, with an estimated 39 percent growth from 2010 to 2020. Physical therapists also make a competitive salary, with average annual wages of $76,310 in May 2010. In daily life, physical therapists evaluate patients’ movements, set up treatment plans, use exercises and stretches to improve movement, and educate patients about the recovery process. Although some physical therapists hold a master’s in physical therapy, many positions require a doctorate degree, which typically takes three years of post-baccalaureate study.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses have the flexibility to work in a variety of environments, from nursing homes to hospitals and outpatient clinics. Many states are concerned about nursing shortages, making this a smart career move because of numerous job prospects. Demand for nurses will grow 26 percent by 2020. There are three major education paths for registered nurses: a diploma from an approved nursing program, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). The average registered nurse makes $64,690 per year, with BSN graduates typically commanding higher salaries.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists are experts in the rehabilitation process following injury, illness or disability. These health care professionals help patients learn to eat, drive, use computers or operate medical equipment. Demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow 33 percent by 2020, with especially high demand for experts in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders and cerebral palsy. Occupational therapists typically hold a master’s degree and earn an average of $72,320 per year.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists in hospitals and neighborhood drug stores. They count medication, interact with customers, mix medications and process payments. According to, demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow 32 percent by 2020. Completing a pharmacy technician diploma program is a good way to break into this field, which pays an average of $28,400 per year. Top earners may make over $40,000 annually.

Home Health Aide

With a growing number of aging or disabled adults, demand for home health aides is high. These health care workers work with clients to perform basic daily tasks, do housekeeping activities, plan appointments, arrange transportation and provide companionship. Demand for home health aides is expected to grow an impressive 70 percent by 2020. Home health aides typically hold a high school diploma and may complete a certificate program. Most work in clients’ homes, although some work in larger care communities. The average annual salary for home health aides is $20,170.

Kim Cox is a freelance writer who covers health and fitness.