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The 36 Top Health Care Jobs of 2015

Evan Taylor

An industry dedicated to quality care

Demand for support staff for top-tier professionals, home health care needs for aging Americans and affordable quality care are driving employment increases throughout the health care industry. That growing need is partly why health care jobs claim seven of the top 10 spots among U.S. News' Best Jobs overall -- including the No. 1 profession of 2015: dentist. Here are the Best Health Care Jobs this year.

1. Dentist

Median Salary: $146,340

Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 23,300

More studies are linking oral health to overall health, so regular visits to the dentist are important. Dentists are among the best-paid health care professionals due to their expertise and ability to perform extensive oral procedures. Thanks to dentists' handsome salaries, comfortable work-life balance and a booming employment growth rate of nearly 16 percent by 2022, this profession snagged the No. 1 spot among U.S. News' Best Jobs overall

2. Nurse Practitioner

Median Salary: $92,670

Unemployment Rate: 0.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 37,100

Nurse practitioners can extend the services a physician provides by authorizing treatments, performing physical exams and counseling patients in hospitals and clinics.

3. Physician

Median Salary: $186,850

Unemployment Rate: 0.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 123,300

The titles Medical Doctor (M.D.) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) are earned after years of study, medical school, internships and residency. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for physicians and surgeons will increase by nearly 18 percent by 2022.

4. Dental Hygienist

Median Salary: $71,110

Unemployment Rate: 1.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 64,200

Dental hygienists do more than scrape tartar off your teeth. They also provide guidance to patients on how to best protect their oral health. Hygienists work in private offices, schools and public health programs and hold research-focused positions. According to the BLS, more than half of hygienists work part time and pull in about $34 per hour.

5. Physical Therapist

Median Salary: $81,030

Unemployment Rate: 1.5 percent

Expected Job Openings: 73,500

As the population ages, the demand to hire physical therapists will grow. Physical therapists are charged with helping their patients increase mobility and reduce the pain associated with moving.

6. Registered Nurse

Median Salary: $65,220

Unemployment Rate: 2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 526,800

Registered nurses may specialize in a specific condition, part of the body or environment -- like the emergency room. Their duties range from dispensing medications and performing tests to administering procedures.

7. Physician Assistant

Median Salary: $92,970

Unemployment Rate: 1.4 percent

Expected Job Openings: 33,300

Physician assistants must be prepared to face a range of concerns, illnesses and injuries while they move from patient to patient. They work in primary care, family medicine, psychiatry and emergency medicine practices.

8. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Median Salary: $66,410

Unemployment Rate: 2.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 27,000

Beyond determining the sex and condition of babies in the womb, sonographers examine muscles, the nervous system, the abdominal cavity and breast tissue to diagnose medical conditions. The advances in imaging technology will lead facilities to use sonographers in place of more invasive and costly procedures.

9. Occupational Therapist

Median Salary: $76,940

Unemployment Rate: 0.6 percent

Expected Job Openings: 32,800

Occupational therapists help their patients live independent lifestyles despite health-related limitations. They may work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, medical offices and clients' homes.

10. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Median Salary: $55,270

Unemployment Rate: 2.4 percent

Expected Job Openings: 12,900

The BLS estimates this profession will grow by 42.6 percent by 2022, as more baby boomers need assistance with physical and emotional health issues. An occupational therapy assistant's tasks may include helping the elderly with everyday activities like getting dressed or grocery shopping.

11. Esthetician

Median Salary: $28,940

Unemployment Rate: 3.8 percent

Expected Job Openings: 17,700

You can find these skin care specialists in salons, spas and medical offices, where they evaluate the appearance and condition of skin, discuss possible treatments and administer peels, scrubs, masks and other treatments. However, compared with other health care jobs, the pay isn't particularly high.

12. Pharmacist

Median Salary: $119,280

Unemployment Rate: 2.3 percent

Expected Job Openings: 41,400

Pharmacists must understand the complex compositions of both over-the-counter and prescription medicines, how drugs interact with one another and the laws that regulate them. They also need some flare for customer service, as they're tasked with dispensing advice from behind the counters of grocery and drug stores, as well as hospitals and clinics.

13. Medical Equipment Repairer

Median Salary: $44,180

Unemployment Rate: 6.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 12,800

These troubleshooters fix CAT and MRI scanners, ultrasound machines and other medical equipment. According to the BLS, a greater reliance on imaging machines to make diagnoses and guide treatment plans will spur employment growth for medical equipment repairers by about 30 percent by 2022.

14. Dietitian and Nutritionist

Median Salary: $55,920

Unemployment Rate: 2.1 percent

Expected Job Openings: 14,200

Dietitians and nutritionists must be assertive to help people alter their eating habits. The BLS predicts the national spotlight on obesity and an increasing crop of health-conscious parents will drive employment growth in this profession.

15. Radiologic Technologist

Median Salary: $55,200

Unemployment Rate: 2.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 41,500

Radiologic technologists use X-ray generators and CAT and MRI scanners to assess a patient's ailments, and they can provide radiation therapy treatments. Most of these technologists work in state, local and private hospitals, physician offices and medical and diagnostic laboratories.

16. Marriage and Family Therapist

Median Salary: $48,160

Unemployment Rate: 3.8 percent

These professionals help resolve conflicts between couples and families, and help clients manage and overcome emotional issues. Completing a bachelor's degree program is required to practice, and having a master's degree is recommended.

17. Epidemiologist

Median Salary: $66,330

Unemployment Rate: 1.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 14,200

Epidemiologists help determine what causes diseases, what triggers their spread and how to stop outbreaks, for example. Epidemiologists use critical-thinking, mathematical and statistical skills to develop their research findings.

18. Substance Abuse Counselor

Median Salary: $38,620

Unemployment Rate: 4.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 28,200

Substance abuse counselors help their patients rebuild work and personal relationships and recognize destructive behavioral patterns. Now that insurance covers counseling under the Affordable Care Act, the BLS predicts these jobs will be in greater demand, growing at a rate of 31 percent by 2022.

19. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

Median Salary: $41,920

Unemployment Rate: 3.8 percent

Expected Job Openings: 182,900

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses check patients' vital signs, deliver medicine, dress wounds, start IVs and monitor medical equipment. In this profession, bedside manner is a necessity.

20. Optician

Median Salary: $33,770

Unemployment Rate: 2.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 15,800

Opticians are responsible for making sure patients' glasses and contact lenses fit their eyes and lifestyles. They balance the science of eye prescriptions and the art of matching glasses to a facial structure.

21. Physical Therapist Assistant

Median Salary: $53,360

Unemployment Rate: 6.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 29,300

Physical therapist assistants work with clients directly and on the business side of therapy practices. They may create and execute treatment plans, aid therapists with patients and teach rehabilitation techniques to patients.

22. Pharmacy Technician

Median Salary: $29,650

Unemployment Rate: 3.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 70,700

Pharmacy technicians' precision and attention to detail allows them to fill medications quickly, but showing empathy is an equally important skill. While the majority work in pharmacies, drugstores and hospitals, some also work in department, grocery and general merchandise stores.

23. Home Health Aide

Median Salary: $21,020

Unemployment Rate: 7.8 percent

Expected Job Openings: 424,200

According to the BLS, older Americans are choosing to stay in their homes, which has boosted demand for home health aides. Employment should spike in this job by 48.5 percent by 2022. These aides may help with household duties, such as sweeping and washing clothes, and administer care to clients, including dressing injuries and giving baths.

24. Respiratory Therapist

Median Salary: $56,290

Unemployment Rate: 2.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 22,700

Respiratory therapists provide care for patients with heart and lung problems, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 million adults in the United States live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which will contribute to an increasing need for respiratory therapists.

25. Medical Secretary

Median Salary: $31,890

Unemployment Rate: 5.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 189,200

In a hectic work environment, medical secretaries may check shot records, scan insurance cards, collect copayments, take medical histories and order surgical supplies. The BLS predicts 36 percent employment growth in this profession by 2022, with the most hiring opportunities in physicians' offices and surgical hospitals where medical secretaries are critical.

26. Veterinarian

Median Salary: $86,640

Unemployment Rate: 0.6 percent

Expected Job Openings: 8,400

The demand for veterinarians is expected to increase as more people bring their pets to private practices for care. Veterinarians also fill roles related to animal safety, disease control and public health.

27. Personal Care Aide

Median Salary: $20,100

Unemployment Rate: 9.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 580,800

Personal care aides work in homes like home health aides but don't perform medical tasks. Their work starts after the client has been seen by a medical professional. Daily duties include helping clients complete basic living tasks, such as preparing meals and getting dressed.

28. Massage Therapist

Median Salary: $35,920

Unemployment Rate: 5.4 percent

Expected Job Openings: 30,000

Often considered professionals with the "magic touch," massage therapists relieve pain, reduce stress and relax muscles. In spas and small businesses, these professionals use techniques such as reflexology and acupressure to meet their clients' treatment needs.

29. Veterinary Technologist and Technician

Median Salary: $30,500

Unemployment Rate: 4 percent

Expected Job Openings: 25,000

Veterinary technologists and technicians manage lab work, radiology and nursing care and assist in animal surgeries. Although their duties often overlap, technologists typically have bachelor's degrees and technicians typically hold associate degrees.

30. Dental Assistant

Median Salary: $34,900

Unemployment Rate: 4.9 percent

Expected Job Openings: 74,400

Dental assistants don't undergo the extensive training period of a dentist or hygienist, and only some states require them to obtain a license. Still, these medical professionals fulfill important roles in any dental office -- preparing patients for treatments and cleanings, as well as maintaining patient records.

31. Clinical Social Worker

Median Salary: $50,820

Unemployment Rate: 4.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 39,200

Clinical social workers deal with the societal side of medical problems. Daily tasks may include research and paperwork as well as diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral and emotional disorders.

32. Medical Assistant

Median Salary: $29,610

Unemployment Rate: 5.8 percent

Expected Job Openings: 162,900

Likely the first and last faces you see when you visit the doctor, medical assistants fulfill a range of office tasks. Medical assistants may also work in specialized roles like assisting optometrists or podiatrists, for example.

33. Mental Health Counselor

Median Salary: $40,580

Unemployment Rate: 6.3 percent

Expected Job Openings: 36,700

Mental health counselors are problem-solvers who work with couples, college students and professionals. With psychiatrists and psychologists charging higher rates for therapy, more insurance companies are directing patients to visit these counselors.

34. Clinical Laboratory Technician

Median Salary: $37,970

Unemployment Rate: 4.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 47,900

Clinical laboratory technicians conduct tests and analyses physicians need to diagnose conditions. These analytical professionals should have knowledge of laboratory equipment and excellent judgment.

35. Surgical Technologist

Median Salary: $42,720

Unemployment Rate: 3.7 percent

Expected Job Openings: 29,300

Surgical technologists make sure tools and utensils are sterile, counted and ready during surgical procedures. With additional certification, these technologists can earn the first-assisting role in procedures, allowing them to perform tasks such as suctioning and suturing wounds.

36. Paramedic

Median Salary: $31,270

Unemployment Rate: 5.2 percent

Expected Job Openings: 55,300

Also known as emergency medical technicians, paramedics are first responders to emergencies from explosions to car accidents. They have to be quick on their feet and good decision-makers under pressure to care for patients on the scene before transporting them to a nearby medical facility.

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