The fastest growing jobs in the fastest growing field — STEM, or science, tech, engineering and mathematics — are in health care.
“Health care is still booming,” said Marisa Streelman, national director of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), a professional nursing association with members in the U.S. and internationally.
“Cybersecurity in healthcare, physical security, system improvements, telehealth, and the need for monitoring in the home and community health,” Streelman said, are some of the jobs in health care that are experiencing swift growth.
Among the top 30 fastest-growing professions are medical and health services managers, physician assistants, speech pathologists, substance abuse and mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The highest paying jobs in health care, according to BLS, are physician assistants, who make $115,390. Tech jobs like software developers by comparison make $110,140. Epidemiologists, or those who investigate patterns and causes of diseases, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, make an average of $74,560, according to BLS figures.
Aging populations and the COVID-19 pandemic have driven up the demand for healthcare positions, particularly for practitioners and technicians who diagnose or treat illness or have the technical skills to perform procedures and work with special equipment, according to BLS.
Veterinary skills are also in demand.
“What COVID did is it showed our gaps,” said Streelman, referencing the difficulty for some individuals to get time off work to visit a doctor when a video or phone appointment could suffice.
The pandemic has resulted in needs in telehealth and public health, such as for local health sites for emergency uses like testing centers, vaccines, and nursing staff.
“The pandemic brought to everyone’s attention that telephone triage and telehealth is safe, that it has the same outcomes as inpatient care, that is a huge satisfier to people that would much rather stay home and do their visit from the comfort of their home, especially if you’re sick,” said Kathleen Martinez, president of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, an organization for a community of registered nurses.
Management consulting firm Mckinsey & Company said in February, online consultations through Practo, a telehealth company in India, grew more than tenfold from April to November 2020. Although in-office visits will resume, telehealth is likely to increase, the report added.
Research-based healthcare jobs will also see a rise in job opportunities resulting from the pandemic.
An updated BLS report in February found that there are “strong gains in jobs related to research and development in STEM (including physical, engineering, life sciences and health-related job clusters.”
The report predicts that there will be “strong growth” in specialized areas including, “epidemiologists, medical scientists, biochemists and biophysicists, and biological technicians.”
Nursing informatics is a discipline that will be in high demand and analyzes data to improve nursing practice. It is focused on technology helping the nursing workflow, such as managing electronic health records, or EHRs, that are required of all care facilities.
“Nursing informatics is huge right now,” said Streelman. “As more and more of our systems become electronic, and more and more of our equipment is used at the bedside and beyond, you see more and more equipment, wireless equipment and monitoring equipment that can be used in the home.”
Opportunities in biotechnology and biomedicine will be on the rise to assist the changes in health care.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, experts say, will move healthcare forward, as well. AI can analyze large volumes of data to more quickly diagnose and treat patients and illnesses.
“On the information technology side, we’re seeing engineers and scientists utilizing AI tools to transform the traditionally unstructured data, like MRI images, audio sounds, and diagrams which pose different kinds of information, which are unstructured and very hard to interpret,” said Linxin Gu, a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum.
Gu began with a degree in biomedical engineering from Sichuan University in China and has studied at six institutions, including in China, Japan, and the United States.
There are numerous applications for AI in healthcare, Gu said. She said someone interested in joining the industry should research it first to find where their personal interests fit.
“First understand yourself and then, second, do research about the people that are already holding your position,” she told VOA.
An early start and experimenting in different areas within the industry is crucial for success, she added. Qualifications and degrees needed to join the technological side of the healthcare industry also vary depending on the person’s goal, Gu said.
“If you want to work more on the information side,” she said, “there’s no required degree, but most people would get at least a bachelor’s degree to work on the IT side, either in biomedicine, biomedical engineering, or bioinformatics or computer science.”
Location is another key factor, Gu said. “In China, you have to get a master’s degree, because there are so many people with abundant degrees,” she said.
“If you want to conduct research,” Gu added, “master’s degree and a Ph.D. are both good. But in terms of independent research, you have to get a Ph.D.,” she said.
But ultimately, Gu said, several factors guide a person to achieve success in the industry. It depends on “where you want to go, what really interests you, and will you feel like you’re passionate about and where you want to work,” she said.