Top 10 Health Science Career Opportunities for CTE Graduates

Health science is one of the fastest-growing areas in career and technical education (CTE), and for good reason.

Health science careers are in demand.

But a lot of careers are in demand these days. What makes health science so special?

The answer is sheer quantity.

Altogether, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 10 health science careers will grow by 1.6 million opportunities from 2016 to 2026 — and that’s just for these 10 careers!

So what are these career opportunities?

These are the top 10 health science career opportunities for CTE grads:

  1. Home health aide
  2. Nursing assistant
  3. Phlebotomist
  4. Physical therapy assistant
  5. Dental assistant
  6. Health information technician
  7. Emergency medical technician
  8. Licensed practical nurse
  9. Medical assistant
  10. Surgical technician

 

On this page, we'll get into the details of each career and cover their salaries, career growth, and responsibilities.

If your students want to know what they can do with their time in a health science classroom, here are your 10 best answers!

1. Home Health Aide

01-home-health-aide

Home health aides are rapidly increasing in demand in the United States.

The reason is simple: An enormous portion of the US population is aging, and more of them need assistance in their golden years.

As a result, home health aide opportunities are expected to make a huge jump between 2016 and 2026.

However, home health aides might run into financial trouble since their job is so demanding, but the starting pay is commonly low. 

Median Salary in 2016: $22,170

Overall, home health aides don’t make a ton of money on average.

In fact, $22,170 is about 21% less than the median health care support salary of $27,910.

This makes finding home health aides difficult. It requires a lot of empathy and personal drive to make up for a lower median salary, especially when there's so much work involved. 

But when a student has a passion for helping others and the self-motivation to stick with it, becoming a home health aide can become an exceptionally rewarding experience. 

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +1,179,500

Between 2016 and 2026, roughly 1,179,500 new home health aide jobs will start in the United States.

That’s a job growth rate 40% faster than average. In that respect, home health aides are one of the most in-demand careers in the entire country — not just health care.  

That means there will always be opportunities for home health aides for years to come, even after 2026. 

Specifically, these states have the most opportunities:

  1. New York (173,830)
  2. Texas (67,180)
  3. Ohio (65,710)
  4. Pennsylvania (42,890)
  5. North Carolina (39,320)

Altogether, a home health aide can expect a consistent and fulfilling career that lasts a lifetime. 

2. Nursing Assistant

02-nursing-assistant

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) forms the foundation of a medical practice and its relationship with clients.

They complete all of the groundwork nurses and doctors need before seeing a patient in non-emergency situations.

Blood pressure, pulse, and other vitals can all fall under the responsibility of a nursing assistant.

As a result, nursing assistants can work in just about any medical environment from a clinic to an emergency room.

That demand and versatility mean nursing assistants often have solid job security and multiple career opportunities.

On top of that, the average salary for CNAs roughly matches the average salary for health workers in general.

Median Salary in 2016: $26,590

In terms of earnings, CNAs make a solid living.

$26,590 is only 4.7% lower than the industry average.

So while it’s not going to make someone wealthy, a CNA will have a consistent job with a livable income, almost guaranteed.

Still, CNAs don’t have to stay in nursing for their entire careers. Some CNAs choose to pursue Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral degrees after they earn their nursing certification.

Others choose to stay nurse assistants, too.

There’s not a right or wrong answer in this case. It boils down to what an individual wants and their satisfaction with their current career.

To make matters even better, CNA opportunities are expected to grow by a lot.

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +168,400

Between 2016 and 2026, nursing assistant jobs will increase by 168,400 throughout the United States.

That’s an 11% growth rate, which is faster than most other occupations.

The reasons for this increase in demand is the same as home health aides — the Baby Boomer generation is aging, and they need an increased level of medical care.

That means more people making more medical appointments and seeing more health professionals.

Health care, in general, is a busy industry.

It’s getting busier since 2016, and it’ll get even busier by 2026.

CNAs — and the places that hire them — need to be ready.

3. Phlebotomist

03-phlebotomist

Phlebotomists are ultra-specialized medical technicians who exclusively draw blood to perform tests, transfusions, research, and / or donations.

A phlebotomist may work in similar environments as someone like a nursing assistant, but their job is distinctly different.

In addition to their work in drawing blood, phlebotomists also often learn strong interpersonal skills so they can help patients relax before drawing blood.

The reason is because roughly 10% of Americans have a severe fear of needles.

That number is probably low, too — the most severe cases of needle phobia compel individuals to avoid medical treatment altogether.

Regardless, phlebotomists are highly in demand in today’s job market, and that will only increase over the next few years.

To make matters even better, phlebotomists often earn a nice living. 

Median Salary in 2016: $32,710

The average pay for phlebotomists — $32,710 — is a comfortable salary for a health care worker.

That’s 17% higher than the 2016 average for health care employees, and it can always increase with experience, location, and other factors.

While it may seem like phlebotomists get paid a lot to only perform one task, there’s a lot that goes into drawing blood to justify that salary — especially when something goes wrong.

There’s also the natural hazard of working with blood and the possible exposure that includes.

While that may be true for any health professional, it goes double for phlebotomists since their responsibilities all revolve around blood and its transportation.

For these reasons, phlebotomist opportunities are expected to grow nicely before 2026.

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +30,000

Between 2016 and 2026, phlebotomist career openings will increase by 30,000 positions.

That’s a 24% increase in 10 years, which is significantly faster than average.

Part of the reason is that phlebotomists may only work with blood, but that work is needed for hundreds of medical issues.

Oncology, toxicology, genetic profiles — they all rely on blood tests and phlebotomists.

That makes phlebotomy a smart, hyper-specific career choice for any health science student with a friendly disposition, a steady hand, and an interest in all areas of medicine.  

4. Physical Therapy Assistant

04-physical-therapy-assistant

Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) — sometimes called physical therapy aides — assist in someone’s recovery from an injury.

Whether it’s a lifesaving surgery or an unfortunate accident, PTAs are at the constant disposal of a client.

Often, that means helping clients regain movement capabilities and manage pain. PTAs are almost always on their feet, and they regularly set up and maintain therapy equipment.

That makes being a PTA a pretty demanding job, especially physically. There’s no desk time, and unless a client skips an appointment, you’ll always have someone to see.

That urgency is reflected in the PTA median salary.

Median Salary in 2016: $45,290

PTAs earn a median salary of $45,290, which is 62% higher than the health care average.

This is because physical therapy is becoming more important as the Baby Boomer generation ages — much like home health aides.

PTAs often work in private offices, though they also work in hospitals. Most training occurs on the job, even after a PTA earns a certification.

That means becoming a PTA is attainable for a wide variety of health science students.

That’s good, too, since PTA career opportunities are expected to grow steadily.  

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +42,300

Between 2016 and 2026, the US will add about 42,300 PTA jobs to the economy. That’s a growth of 30%, which is much higher than average.

PTAs can expect a relatively secure career in that respect, not to mention the ability to seek opportunities at other medical businesses.

Altogether, becoming a PTA is a smart and safe career choice for any individual.

5. Dental Assistant

05-dental-assistant

Dental assistants are some of the busiest CTE graduates in the health care industry.

They can wind up doing just about anything from operating X-ray equipment to managing an office’s internal files.

Most of the time, they’ll help dentists with client checkups and basic dental procedures (like cleanings and fillings).

Dental assistants are also some of the only workers in health care that aren’t required to get a certificate or license in every single state.

As a result, you may be able to become a dental assistant in your state with nothing but a positive attitude and a willingness to learn on the job.

Still, some background in dentistry is recommended before starting as a dental assistant.

Median Salary in 2016: $36,940

Overall, dental assistants earn a decent living with a median salary of $36,940. That’s 33% higher than health care’s average.

Naturally, this varies based on someone’s training, experience, and location, so it’s not a guarantee that an unskilled worker can walk into a dentist’s office and earn $36,000 per year right away.

Still, it’s a promising benchmark that points to a positive and supportive career.

Even better, those careers are expected to grow.  

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +64,600

Dental assistant jobs will grow by 64,600 between 2016 and 2026 — about 19%.

That 19% may not seem like much compared to some other careers on this list, but it mirrors the growth of dentists (17%).

That keeps the total opportunities for dental assistants proportionate to the opportunities for dentists, hovering around a ratio of two dental assistants for every dentist in the US.

When you add all of those benefits together, becoming a dental assistant is a secure career move with a  lot of upward potential. 

6. Health Information Technician

06-health-information-techician

Health information technicians are essential in every medical business in the United States.

They’re the record-keepers who ensure every client has an up-to-date portfolio that’s ready to share with any other medical office that needs information.

Before the invention of the Internet, health information technicians needed to be on-site in order to maintain physical records of patients.

But now, health information technicians are some of the few medical personnel who can work off-site.

That’s because most medical offices now keep digital records instead of paper ones. A technician only needs Internet access and the right passwords and they can update any record for any office in any part of the world. 

Median Salary in 2016: $38,040

The organization, knowledge, and confidentiality required in a health information technician makes it a fair-paying career in the modern American economy.

The median salary is $38,040, which is about 36% higher than the average for health careers.

Considering the laws that regulate medical record-keeping — like HIPAA — health information technicians need to stay up-to-date constantly.

One file in the wrong place can be a serious problem, and in some cases, it can lead to lawsuits.

As a result, there’s a lot of trust and responsibility placed on the shoulders of these techs from a business standpoint.

Then, health information technicians are responsible for proper filing, coding, organization, and more for each individual client. Again, one wrong move and something can go drastically wrong.

Health information technicians are a rare breed by those standards. But they’re becoming more common in CTE because they’re growing in demand.

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +27,800

Health information technician opportunities are expected to increase by 27,800 careers between 2016 and 2026.

That’s an increase of roughly 13%, which is pretty fast compared to other US jobs.

The increase in demand is a direct result of aging populations and the expansion of the health care industry in general.

More people need medical help and more people need insurance. That means more health businesses need technicians to track their growing library of clients.

With that kind of career trajectory, it’s hard to see a future where the need for health information technicians does anything other than grow. 

7. Emergency Medical Technician

07-emergency-medical-technician

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are some of the first medical personnel on the scene.

They often ride in ambulances to get to the scene of an emergency at break-neck pace. They also know that every second counts when it comes to saving someone’s life.

EMTs are trained in life-saving medical procedures that can be performed on the move — even in the back of an ambulance — and they have some of the fastest hands in medicine.

Most of the time, their job doesn’t require them to completely recuperate someone at the scene of an emergency.

Instead, EMTs stabilize those in critical condition as best they can. Then, they bring patients back to hospitals where they can receive more specialized and intensive care.

Median Salary in 2016: $32,670

EMTs can earn a nice living with a median salary of $32,670, or 17% above average.

A lot of this is because of the knowledge, reflexes, and snap decision-making that’s required for EMTs to successfully bring a patient to a hospital.

Emergencies may only involve EMTs for five minutes before a patient enters the care of a hospital doctor or surgeon.

But in those five minutes, EMTs keep patients alive by any means necessary.

They may perform CPR, clot bleeding, administer anesthetic, or perform a wide variety of other tasks to keep someone stable.

They also need the experience to learn how and when to think on their feet, which is something that can only really be taught on the job.

That gives EMTs a very steep learning curve.

Education is a key part of that curve.

The right people with the right education can make all the difference in an emergency.

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +37,400

Once again, an aging population has increased the demand for EMTs in the American medical community.

That increase is expected to be around 37,400 new career opportunities between 2016 and 2026.

That’s a lot of new recruits for a crucial area of medicine. Undoubtedly, these fresh hires will rely heavily on the 248,000 veteran EMTs who were counted in 2016.

The work may be strenuous, stressful, and demanding, but EMTs fill an integral part of the health care industry throughout the country.

Whether they work in rural country or high-population cities, EMTs are always needed to save someone’s life. 

8. Licensed Practical Nurse

08-licensed-practical-nurse

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) form the backbone of medical staffs in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, and just about everywhere else.

LPNs are so versatile because they’re trained in everything someone would need to know for proper care.

They’re also needed in just about every medical office that you can find to perform a wide range of tasks.

They may even wind up managing a nursing shift (and entire staff) at larger institutions.

With that in mind, LPNs have a diverse career track rich with opportunity at every turn.

Median Salary in 2016: $44,090

LPNs typically go through a year-long education course before starting their careers.

That’s a longer education track than a lot of other CTE health occupations, but LPNs have to learn a wide range of procedures, organizational strategies, and other tasks before starting their careers.

As a result of this education and their responsibilities, the median LPN salary is $44,090, which is 58% more than the industry average.

This salary reflects an LPNs purpose in health institutions. They bridge gaps that may exist among doctors, nurses, assistants, technicians, and other personnel.

LPNs notoriously do a lot in a day. They can often become a catch-all for tasks that need to be done at almost any level of a medical institution. 

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +88,600

Career opportunities for LPNs are expected to grow by 88,600 from 2016 to 2026 — about 12% faster than the US average.

It’d take a thousand more pages to explain why LPNs are so in-demand. In a nutshell, it’s because they can do just about everything in a medical institution — including diagnoses.

9. Medical Assistant

09-medical-assistant

Medical assistants — sometimes called medical office assistants (MOAs) — act as the administrative branch of a medical institution.

While their duties vary from place to place, the principle of an MOA is the same: They take care of day-to-day administrative tasks that medical personnel can’t do while they work.

That includes taking appointments, arranging meetings, and general prep work for medical staff.

In hospitals, that may mean prioritizing patients in an emergency room.

In a doctor’s office, it could mean managing the reception area.

As a result, MOAs don’t require as much training as their medical colleagues.

Still, they can earn a comfortable living.

Median Salary in 2016: $31,540

The median salary for MOAs is $31,540, or 13% higher than the industry average.

This is lower than some of the more education-intensive tracks in CTE health science, but it’s also a decent living for someone who’s not interested in learning all of that other information.

That’s not to say it’s easy to become an MOA, though. MOAs still have their own classes, lessons, and tests to pass before earning a certification, though a certification isn’t required by every state or business.

And once someone becomes an MOA, they’re not stuck in that career. MOA is a great springboard into more hands-on medical professions if someone wants.

That means an MOA can earn a nice living while also studying for the next step in their career.

It also means an MOA can start young and become proficient in just about every administrative task a medical office could need.

Either way, MOAs have the potential to become strong, senior members of a medical staff in any location.

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +184,600

Between 2016 and 2026, MOA careers are expected to grow by 184,600, or 29% faster than the average US career.

While MOAs may not administer medicine in any way, they’re needed by the individuals who are.

So while an aging population demands more doctors, nurses, and medical assistants, there’s extra administrative work that comes along with it.

That means medical offices, hospitals, urgent care facilities, and clinics all need more MOAs.

10. Surgical Technician

10-surgical-technicians

Surgical technicians are the essential personnel who work with a surgeon to arrange equipment, tools, and procedures.

In fact, most of the people in an operating room are surgical technicians. They’re the ones ready to pass scalpels to the surgeon, clean incisions, sew stitches, and more.

As a result, surgical technicians often require a higher bar of education and training than many other CTE health science careers.

Still, it’s a price many are willing to pay for a long and rewarding career in saving lives.

Median Salary in 2016: $45,160

The median salary for a surgical technician is $45,160, or 62% higher than average.

This salary comes as a result of the extra education, stricter training, and increased pressure that comes along with being a surgical technician.

After all, surgery is often a life or death situation. Even if someone is receiving a routine procedure, there’s always something that could go wrong.

It’s on the surgeon and their technicians to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Initial sterilization, prompt response to surgeon requests, and post-surgery cleanup all fall under the umbrella of a surgical technician.

As medicine advances and new procedures are invented, the need for surgical technicians has only increased. 

Projected Career Growth 2016-2026: +12,600

Surgical technician opportunities are expected to grow by 12,600 careers from 2016 to 2026. That’s about 12% faster than the US economic average.

A combination of medical research, aging population, and other factors have led to an increase in demand — even as remote surgery and other technology find a home in operating rooms!

Different states may regulate surgical technician requirements, and varying institutions will have different tenants for techs to start working.

But on the whole, a surgical technician career can be a long, rewarding, and secure job for anyone interested in medicine. 

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