Healthcare careers offer good pay, steady work, and a sense of purpose. They allow you to contribute to the lives of others in meaningful ways. While the roles of nurses and doctors are most familiar to the general public, there are also many other essential and in-demand healthcare professions to consider for your career.
“Research is showing over and over again that the demand in healthcare is only going to continue to rise based on the aging population needing more healthcare and the retiring of those who are currently in the healthcare field,” says South College Asheville campus president Lisa Satterfield, whose background includes working in x-ray, nuclear medicine, women’s breast health care, healthcare administration and management, and—for the last 15+ years—higher education leadership.
Recently, Dr. Satterfield sat down with us to talk about four healthcare career areas you can pursue with either an undergraduate degree or certificate program that are experiencing growing demand in the Asheville area. Here’s what we learned.
1. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate medical imaging equipment to capture images (known as sonograms or ultrasounds) of patients’ organs and tissues. After reviewing the images for quality, sonographers share the images with physicians, who use them to assess or diagnose the patient.
In gynecologic sonography, for example, sonograms are used to assess a baby’s health and growth. In other cases, ultrasounds can help to determine whether tissue is cancerous or benign. Some sonographers focus on generating images for a particular area or body part, such as the heart, abdomen, or reproductive system. Sonographers may also answer patient questions and record their medical histories.
Job Outlook & Salary: According to the US Department of Labor, diagnostic medical sonographers had a median annual wage of $71,410 in 2017, and certain specialties can lead to even higher earnings. The job outlook for diagnostic medical sonographer is strong and expected to grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026.
2. Radiologic Technologist (Radiographer)
Like sonographers, radiologic technologists (also called radiographers) acquire images that are vital for diagnosing illness or injuries in patients.
“The difference between these roles are largely the tools and methods used,” explains Dr. Satterfield. “Radiographers work with x-ray machines rather than ultrasound equipment.”
In addition to operating x-ray imaging equipment, radiographers must properly position patients and operate equipment while providing radiation protection and keeping the patient dose as low as reasonably achievable. They meet regularly with physicians to discuss what imaging exams are needed, to evaluate image quality, and to determine when to complete additional imaging. They also may gather and record patients’ medical information and answer questions about procedures.
Job Outlook & Salary: According to the US Department of Labor, the median annual salary for radiologic technologists in 2017 was $58,440. After gaining experience in this role, many radiologic techs move on to specialize as a MRI technologists, a role where the median wage is $69,930 a year. Together, employment for these two roles is projected to grow 13% between 2016 and 2026.
3. Surgical Technologist
Surgical technologists provide critical support to surgeons before, during, and after surgery. Usually, they’re the first person into the operating room before surgery. They set up and sterilize the instruments and equipment, ensuring everything required is on hand and functional. Sometimes they help prepare patients for surgery, including positioning them, disinfecting incision sites, and placing sterile drapes where needed.
During surgery, the surgical technologist is the operating team’s extra hand, passing them supplies and solutions, as well as holding retractors or internal organs in place. “Surgical technologists are actually right with the doctors, and the patients, while they are in surgery,” says Dr. Satterfield. “A number of the healthcare team may be in the room, but having a surgical technologist assisting the physician is critical.”
After the procedure, techs may apply bandages and dressings, transfer the patient to another room, take specimens to labs for analysis, and restock the Operating Room.
Job Outlook & Salary: According to the US Department of Labor, the median annual wage for surgical technologists in the US in 2017 was $46,310, with employment expected to grow 12% between 2016 and 2026.
4. Medical Assistant
Medical assistants provide valuable support to other members of the healthcare team. On the administrative side, they can schedule appointments, do billing and coding, and enter patient information into electronic health records. Their clinical duties may include taking vital signs, assisting with patient exams, giving injections or medications under physician direction, preparing blood samples for testing, and helping patients understand procedures, treatments, and terminology. Some medical assistants focus solely on either administrative or clinical work.
Interested in Starting a Healthcare Career?
In upcoming blogs, we’ll explore (with more insight from Dr. Satterfield) the skills required for each of these roles, how to build those skills, and the diverse career paths you can take upon entering the healthcare field.
Of course, you can also request information from South College at any time, and our admissions team will listen to your career aspirations and help you find a program that can prepare you with the training and skills to pursue your goals!