U.S. Markets open in 2 hrs 7 mins

The 8 Blazing Healthcare Jobs of 2012

Jessica Harper

Quality healthcare is the great equalizer, even if access to it is not. Whether you're young or old, financially well-to-do or fiscally in-between, the need for sound healthcare remains the same. Today, this requisite reaches well beyond the routine six-month physical or dental cleaning; it affects wellness as well. And for many, achieving psychological stability has become as crucial as having a healthy heart.

Because of the industry's persistent presence in our everyday lives, it's no surprise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that these eight outstanding healthcare jobs will continue to add positions well into 2020; many of these careers (like medical assistant and clinical laboratory technician) will support the many doctors and nurses who work in hospitals and private practices throughout the nation. Here's more information about the eight Best Healthcare Jobs:

1. Registered Nurse. Present in hospitals, schools, and the corporate sphere, registered nurses console patients after life-altering surgeries, update their records, and sometimes assist during procedures. Employment growth for this profession will increase 26 percent by 2020, adding more than 700,000 jobs. Most entry-level jobs require a bachelor of science, associate's degree in nursing, or a diploma earned through a certified program at a hospital.

2.Pharmacist. Prevalent in retail and hospital settings, pharmacists serve as the gatekeepers (and openers) of medicine and medical advice, enhancing the lives of the patients they serve. Prospective pharmacists should undertake at least two years of professional study at a college or university prior to starting a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program at a four-year collegiate program. Their profession will expand 25.4 percent by 2020, according to the BLS.

3.Medical Assistant. Today's medical assistants are more than sideline players. They actively assess patients' weights and prep them for examinations prior to their consultations with a nurse or doctor. Their profession will grow 30.9 percent in the next decade. Certifications are helpful, but not required.

4.Physical Therapist. Found in hospitals and clinics or in private practices and residences, physical therapists monitor and assess the muscle strength, coordination, and range of motion of injured victims, ensuring they rehabilitate properly. Their profession is expected to increase 39 percent by 2020, the BLS projects. A master's degree and a state license are required.

5.Occupational Therapist. Occupational therapists help rehabilitate sufferers of mental and physical pain by assisting them in daily tasks like eating, dressing, and operating machinery. The BLS predicts 33.5 percent employment growth for occupational therapists by 2020. Also keep in mind that this job requires a master's degree.

6. Clinical Laboratory Technician. Clinical laboratory technicians rely on the latest technology and equipment to run tests and examine body fluids at medical facilities. Their profession will expand 14.7 percent in the next decade, and an associate's degree is the minimum educational requirement.

7. Paramedic. Paramedics bear the weighty responsibility of being first on the scene of an emergency, providing prompt and competent care. Their profession will grow 33.3 percent by 2020, according to the BLS. A high school diploma is required for admittance to most emergency medical technician training programs.

8.Massage Therapists. The 153,700 certified massage therapists who use their healing hands to relax muscle cramps and spasms will see their profession expand 20.1 percent by 2020. Successful completion of a training program and examination are musts.

It's one thing to be aware of the hottest healthcare jobs; it's another to actually snag one. Here are eight tips on how to break into this industry:

1. Shadow a healthcare professional. One of the best ways to get a feel for a particular healthcare profession is to plant yourself in the environment. Afton Yurkon, associate director of management and student affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, says this is an effective method for prospective pharmacists. "If you're interested in pharmacy in general, find local pharmacy owners and see what a typical day is like at their stores," she says. "[Or] intern at a hospital and see what a day is like there."

2. Join professional networks. Linking up with a professional healthcare network can be crucial because it solidifies old connections while opening doors to new ones. Investigate which associations or organizations are most worth joining. Some might require a small admission fee, while others are free.

3. Educate yourself. Whether you're taking a continuing education class in a popular massage therapy technique or combing through case studies on the latest pharmaceutical drugs, you should gain as much training as you can and follow the latest industry trends.

Laura Allen, a nationally licensed massage and body worker at THERA-SSAGE in Rutherfordton, N.C., says those interested in a massage therapy career should remember that training never ends: "My advice is to get the best education you can and realize that education does not stop at the massage school door. It's just beginning," she says. "Be as current as possible on research because there is a lot of it being done on massage therapy."

4. Attend seminars. Whether it's a one-day refresher course on paramedic dos and don'ts or an hour-long tutorial on Swedish massage techniques, seminars are chock-full of data that's beneficial to healthcare workers.

5. Seek a mentor. More often than not, there are a handful of established workers in a given field who seek to impart guidance to newcomers. These advisors abound in the pharmaceutical field, Yurkon says. "Any pharmacist would be more than happy to dedicate some time to speak with a student about what they do on a daily basis and kind of help them navigate the whole pharmacy school process, too and [guide them] on how to apply and where to find jobs," she says.

6. Tap into client concerns. People want to feel good, says Ruth Werner, president of the Massage Therapy Foundation in Evanston, Ill. That wellness-wish is physical as well as psychological. "There has always been an interest--but maybe it's rising--about looking for healthcare that does not involve knives or needles or drugs," she says. This switch in sentiment has prompted some healthcare professionals to practice alternative forms of medicine, Werner says. "So at this point, we're talking about complementary and integrative healthcare and we're talking about interventions that look like massage or meditation or yoga or tai chi," she says.

7. Volunteer at a health organization. Volunteering at a health clinic or hospital not only benefits others; it also spurs personal growth and networking opportunities, says Cynthia Ribeiro, president of the American Massage Therapy Association."You learn things you're not taught in massage school," she says. "I believe that volunteering in a hospital is very important. Giving massages to people in need can only bring growth and possibilities and more business for you. Once you give, you get back. It's part of life."

8.Embrace the variety. One healthcare profession can serve as a springboard to another, says New Jersey-based critical-care nurse Linda Gural. "If your personal feeling is for management, you can go into it--not just in nursing--but through the corporate end of healthcare," she says.

"There's just so much you can do in the medical field, and the thing is, it's always going to be there," says Gural. "The delivery of care might change and the philosophy might change, but people will always need healthcare."

More From US News & World Report