5 Entry Level Health Care Jobs

Staffing shortages, an aging population, competitive salaries and opportunities for professional advancement are just a few reasons the health care industry is such an attractive career path. With an associate degree, you can easily enter the industry earning more than $50,000 annually.

Here is a look at five exciting entry level jobs in the health care industry:

1. Occupational Therapy Assistant

As an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), you work directly with patients who need to regain their independent living skills. You support occupational therapists in developing and delivering treatment plans for a wide range of conditions, such as teaching a disabled child how to get dressed, helping an Alzheimer’s patient create a safe environment or showing a bed-ridden patient stretching exercises. After completing a two-year associate degree program and passing the NBCOT exam, OTAs earn an average annual salary of $52,300. You can eventually earn additional specialty certifications or enter a bridge education program that helps you advance to an occupational therapist.

2. Physical Therapist Assistant

Patients rely on the expertise of a physical therapist assistant (PTA) to help them regain movement after a serious injury or manage the pain of their chronic illnesses. Working under the supervision of a physical therapist, you develop and deliver therapeutic exercise plans. You also interact with family members to give them the tools they need to help their loved one through the recovery process. PTA positions, which are typically available in private offices and hospitals, are expected to grow by 40 percent during the next decade. There are more than 300 accredited programs offering a two-year associate degree. Prior experience in the industry is not required since training includes supervised clinical work. After obtaining your license, you can expect to earn an average salary of $41,640 annually.

3. Dental Hygienist

The extra year dental hygienists invest toward earning their associate degree is well worth the average $71,520 salary they earn per year. However, more than half of dental hygienists work part-time, so many people find employment with two practices. You can complete a program at more than 300 accredited programs in the U.S., which prepares you for passing the licensing exam and performing your job duties of providing preventive dental care. Daily tasks include taking dental x-rays, examining gums for oral diseases, applying sealants and cleaning teeth.

4. Athletic Trainer

Becoming an athletic trainer is the perfect fit for people who are sports enthusiasts. While this job does require a bachelor’s degree plus a license, you do not need prior work experience and can expect to earn an average of $43,370 per year. This field is rapidly growing as awareness increases about sports-related injuries, particularly among youth athletes. Working with a licensed physician, your job is to prevent, evaluate and treat muscle and bone damage. You can work in a private practice offering rehabilitation services, for a university to provide first aid to players or with a professional sports team to implement an injury prevention program.

5. Respiratory Therapist

As a respiratory therapist, you work in offices or nursing care facilities to help patients manage their chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, emphysema or sleep apnea. You can also work in emergency hospital settings to help patients recover from heart attacks or drowning. After completing an associate degree program and passing a licensing exam, you can expect to earn an average of $56,730 per year.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook offers in-depth details about the future prospects of these lucrative positions in the health care industry. Carefully review your state’s requirements for licensing and continuing education since each state sets its own regulations.

See also: Is an Online Health Science Degree Worth it?