Health Care Specialist Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a healthcare specialist. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering Health Care Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Health Care Specialist?

A health care specialist is a professional who works in the health care industry in clinical or nonclinical settings. Professions in a clinical setting include doctors, nurses and surgical technologists, among other healthcare workers, and all work directly with patients. Alternatively, you could consider a job in a medical office, such as a medical secretary or a records and health information technologist job. A nonclinical option is a job as a medical equipment repairer, where you would use advanced technologies to fabricate and fix medical devices, based on the instructions of physicians.

The chart below can give you an overview of some requirements and details for health care specialists, including medical equipment repairers, surgical technologists and medical records and health information technologists. You'll also find information on more advanced health care specialists, such as doctors and nurses, later in the article.

Medical Equipment Repairer Surgical Technologist Medical Records and Health Information Technologist
Degree RequiredAssociate's Postsecondary non-degree award or associate's Postsecondary non-degree award or associate's
Education Field of StudyBiomedical equipment technology or engineering Surgical Technology Health information technology
Licensure RequiredCertification not mandatory, but many hospitals prefer it Certification not mandatory, but can be beneficial Most employers prefer professional certification
Job Growth (2014-2024)_6%* 15%* 15%*
Median Salary (2015)$46,340* $44,330* $37,110*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Health Care Specialists Do?

The term 'specialist' applies to a person who has specialized training and experience focused in a given field or subfield. It can apply to almost every area of health care, such as laboratory work, medical assisting in a doctor's office, surgical assisting, medical records management, insurance billing, physician's office management, therapy and other health care fields.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a specialist may be part of a support team, such as a medical or surgical assistant with a 1- or 2-year certificate in basic medical or surgical procedures. A specialist may be certified in laboratory work, health information management, billing or coding (www.bls.gov).

A professional, such as a physician or nurse, may specialize in areas such surgery, obstetrics, internal medicine, home health care, elder care, pediatrics or emergency medicine. A specialist may also be a therapist who concentrates in occupational, recreational or sports medicine or in audiology. Other specialists repair the complicated equipment used in diagnosing and treating patients.

Where Do Health Care Specialists Work?

The kind of work you do determines your work environment. Health care specialists may work in a hospital, doctor's office, nursing facility, school, insurance office or laboratory. The BLS reports that some specialties may require extensive travel. Nurses may travel throughout school districts or to patients' homes, while medical equipment repair specialists often need to travel to fix critical diagnostic equipment.

What Kind of Education or Training Do I Need?

The education you'll need depends on your area of interest. If you're thinking about becoming a health information technician or administrator, you'll need to take courses in medical billing, records management, medical office procedures and related topics, reports the American Medical Association (AMA). Many community colleges offer training leading to an associate's degree or certificate in this field. Records management, reimbursement and coding are all sub-specialties in this field, reports the AMA (ama-assn.org).

According to the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA), certification is strongly recommended for surgical assistants, who may have 1-2 years of special training through accredited institutions. Courses usually include operating room and surgical assisting procedures, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology and surgical pharmacology (www.surgicalassistant.org).

The BLS states that registered nurses can gain formal training through diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs. A 4-year degree program typically includes courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as clinical experience, in order to obtain a license, which is required in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

What Kind of Salary Could I Earn?

The BLS reports that annual earnings for health information technicians can vary from $24,190-$61,400 for those with an associate degree and experience. Average median earnings for health information technicians in 2015 were $37,110 annually, according to the BLS. Nurses earned a median annual salary of $67,490 as of May 2015; most physicians earned over $187,200 annually. Medical equipment repair specialists earned median salaries of $46,340 annually, which equates to $22.28 hourly as of May 2015, according to the BLS. Surgical assistants or technologists earned a median yearly income of $44,330, which equates to $21.31 per hour, during the same period.

What's the Job Outlook for Health Care Specialists?

The growth outlook for health care jobs is expected to be strong between 2014 and 2024, according to BLS projections. Job opportunities for doctors were projected to grow 14% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. The BLS projects job openings for nearly 439,300 nurses between 2014 and 2024, with the profession expected to grow much faster than average. The need for surgical assistants was expected to grow by 15% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Strong growth of 15% is also indicated for those interested in health information technology, report the AMA and BLS.

Trained support health care specialists, such as certified laboratory personnel, medical office support specialists and many other health care specialties should find good employment opportunities as well. The BLS added that the aging population, retirement of current health care workers and the development of new technologies and procedures point to demand most likely exceeding the number of qualified applicants from 2014-2024.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a variety of other health-related job options not covered above. For instance, you might also be interested in a job as a medical transcriptionist. In this job, you would use specialized software to convert audio recordings made by doctors into text formats for input into electronic health records. You need to complete a postsecondary training program in order to get this job. At a higher level, you might consider getting a job as a dentist. These professionals focus their practice on the health of the mouth, teeth and surrounding tissues. To become a dentist, you need to complete dental school, and you may choose a residency program in a particular specialty area of interest.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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