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These Are Some of the Best Health Care Jobs of 2016

Last updated on October 9, 2019

New Year, New Jobs! Check Out the Changes to This List for 2017.

This week, we’re starting a series of blog posts written in relation to U.S. News and World Report’s 100 Best Jobs of 2016. We’ll be breaking down the list by industry and discussing which jobs you can get with an associate degree from Dallas Community Colleges, along with a little information about what each career path might look like.

Due to the importance of health care as an industry in both Dallas County and nationally, we’re going to be kicking off the series by writing about health care jobs. But first…

Full Disclosure: Yes, Some of the Top Jobs Require Education Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree

There’s no getting around it: when you look at this list, that first chunk of jobs require more education than many of the others. Orthodontist, pediatrician, psychiatrist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner… these are not jobs you can get with an associate degree alone. That’s no reason not to consider one of these career paths for yourself, however! In 2015, Dallas native and Mountain View/Cedar Valley alumna Darnna Banks was awarded a Doctor of Medicine from the International School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba. So it goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you start – whatever your goals may be, DCCCD can help you reach them.

A Brief Explanation of Living Wage

You’re probably going to see us mention the term “living wage” more than once in these posts. For our purposes, a living wage is the absolute minimum for what an individual must earn per year, working full time to support him- or herself and any dependents (if applicable). Obviously that’s going to vary based on how many adults are in the household, as well as how many children. For example, a single adult in Dallas County earning $21,568 annually is considered to be earning a living wage; however, an adult taking care of one child would need to earn $44,548 annually to be at a living wage.

Here’s a full breakdown by family size:

  • 1 adult: $21,568
  • 1 adult, 1 child: $44,548
  • 1 adult, 2 children: $51,650
  • 1 adult, 3 children: $64,088
  • 2 adults (one working): $35,282
  • 2 adults (one working), 1 child: $42,970
  • 2 adults (one working), 2 children: $48,163
  • 2 adults (one working), 3 children: $53,408
  • 2 adults, 1 child: $48,901
  • 2 adults, 2 children: $57,060
  • 2 adults, 3 children: $65,270

Hopefully that helps give you a fuller idea of what we’re referring to when we mention the term “living wage.”

Now, moving on… let’s talk about health care jobs you can get with a two-year degree.

22. Registered Nurse

Did you know Dallas County is experiencing a shortage of registered nurses? Dallas County needs 4,000 registered nurses in 2016 – and by 2018, that number will increase by an additional 2,824. You should also know that the annual mean wage for a registered nurse in Texas is $68,000 – making it not only a rewarding career path, but also putting you easily within reach of a living wage that can support your family.

It should also be noted that, while you can get an entry-level nursing job with an associate degree in nursing, you should also consider looking into an RN-to-BSN program as well. El Centro has a transfer agreement in place for students to finish the BSN program at UT-Arlington, while Brookhaven has agreements in place with UT-Arlington, Texas Tech and the Chamberlain College of Nursing. Over time, you might also consider looking into a master’s degree to further advance your career – making future work as a nurse anesthetist (#4) or nurse practitioner (#6) a possibility.

25. Occupational Therapy Assistant & 59. Occupational Therapy Aide

An occupational therapy assistant follows the lead of an occupational therapist (#23) to help patients get back into the routine of living. They may assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, direct activity programs and document the progress of treatments. Texas is one of the best-paying states for an occupational therapy assistant, with an annual mean wage of $70,000, compared to $57,000 nationally. To be qualified for this job, you should get an associate degree in occupational therapy and take a certification exam from either the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education or the National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy.

On the other hand, an occupational therapy aide will likely perform delegated, selected or routine tasks in specific situations, such as preparing a patient or treatment room or helping patients with billing, insurance or scheduling appointments. There are no formal education requirements and the annual mean wage is just over $29,000 nationally.

36. Pharmacist

Okay, so you need a lot of school to become a full-fledged pharmacist – aspiring pharmacists have to go through a Doctor of Pharmacy program. That being said, going through a Pharmacy Technician program is a great way to get started and help you decide if pharmacy is the right future career path for you. A pharmacy technician in Texas makes an average of about $30,000 per year, putting a single adult well above the $21,568 living wage minimum for Dallas County.

42. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize the soft tissue structures of internal organs as requested by physicians to diagnose patients. Texas is also one of the top five states with the highest employment levels for diagnostic medical sonographers, with an annual mean wage of about $65,000 and expected employment growth of about 26 percent by 2024. Most people in these positions have an associate degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography and a certification from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

44. Medical and Health Services Manager & 49. Medical Secretary

For larger health care systems and hospitals, most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree – however, for a smaller private practice, the vast majority of managers have an associate degree or trade school certificate, such as through a Medical Front Office program. Graduates of the program can expect to work with patient records, insurance billing, computerized accounting and patient databases and to transcribe dictated notes and apply standardized codes to patient records.

The following includes possible entry-level job titles and salary information for Texas:

Job Hourly Mean Wage in Texas Annual Mean Salary in Texas
Medical records and health information technicians $18.06 $37,560
Medical secretaries $14.68 $30,530
Medical transcriptionists $16.30 $33,910

58. MRI Technologist

MRI Technologists operate machines that use a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of patients’ organs, tissue and bones. You can study through a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) program in order to jump right into this field, or you might consider studying Radiologic Sciences and then specializing in MRI technology once you’re on the job. After meeting certain criteria, you can then sit for the certification exam as part of the post-primary pathway with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Either one is a great choice, because MRI technologists in Texas make an annual mean wage of just over $66,000.

62. Cardiovascular Technologist

Cardiovascular technologists help patients when they experience symptoms like chest pain, irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath. DCCCD offers two ways for you to become a cardiovascular technologist: the Cardiac Sonography program or the Invasive Cardiovascular Technology program, both of which are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Cardiovascular Technology and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Another option might be to major in Radiologic Sciences and then specialize in cardiovascular technology while working. Texas also has the highest employment levels for cardiovascular technologists, with an annual mean wage of just over $54,000.

65. Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist specializes in helping to treat people who have breathing problems or diseases. While career advancement may eventually mean you’ll want a bachelor’s degree, you can start out with an associate degree from a Respiratory Care program and a certified Rrspiratory therapist certification. Texas respiratory therapists made a mean annual wage of about $55,000 in 2014.

66. Clinical Laboratory Technician

A clinical laboratory technician is responsible for things like examining bodily fluids and cells and matching blood for transfusions, and you’ll likely use equipment like microscopes and cell counters. You can become qualified to become a clinical laboratory technician through a Medical Laboratory Technology program or a Biotechnology program and a certification from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science. Lab technicians in Texas make a mean annual wage of $37,980.

69. Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses check vital signs, perform enemas, install catheters, dress wounds, deliver medicine, massage muscles, assist patients in maintaining their hygiene, help with feedings, start IVs, monitor medical equipment and so much more. You can become an LPN/LVN through a one-year vocational nursing program. Texas is one of the top employers for LPNs/LVNs, and they make an annual mean wage of about $45,000.

72. Dental Assistant

Just to note: a dental hygienist (#32) and a dental assistant aren’t quite the same thing. Often, a dental hygienist will actually be the person cleaning your teeth, while a dental assistant is more like a second pair of hands to the dentist – taking impressions, sterilizing and disinfecting tools and keeping them organized, preparing patients for treatment and so on. Becoming a dental assistant doesn’t technically require any formal training, but a certificate in dental assisting certainly helps, and in Texas you might also find yourself needing to pass the certification test from the Dental Assisting National Board. The Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex has one of the highest levels of employment for dental assistants, and they make an annual mean wage of about $34,000.

78. Home Health Aide

Home health aides do exactly what their title implies – sure, they might help with household chores, but most often they assist with patients who need full-time care due to a chronic condition or disability. Formal education is not technically required, but in order to work with an agency you’ll probably need to get certified from the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. If this career path sounds appealing to you, you should also consider earning a Patient Care Technician certificate to help you get started. Home health aides earn an annual mean wage of about $20,000, while health care support workers in general make closer to $37,000 in Texas.

86. Phlebotomist

A phlebotomist draws blood from patients, usually for the purposes of testing in a medical lab or for blood donations. You can usually become a phlebotomy technician and earn your certification in less than a year depending on the program. Phlebotomists make an annual mean wage of about $30,000 in Texas.

87. Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are usually the first person you see during a doctor’s appointment. They might cover the front desk, answering phones and filing forms, and they might also do hands-on tasks like drawing blood, administering injections and making sure medical histories are accurately recorded. Technically, there is not any required formal training for an entry-level medical assistant, but it helps to go through a Medical Assisting program and earn a certification in order to stand out and get ahead among other applicants. Medical assistants in Texas make about a $28,000 annual mean wage.

95. Veterinary Technologist & Technician

Veterinary technicians and technologists handle dozens of tasks related to animal health care, helping with everything from monitoring anesthesia and sterilizing equipment to preparing vaccines and serums. You’ll probably work in a private clinic or animal hospital and you should definitely be committed to animal care. You can become a veterinary technician by earning an associate degree, while most veterinary technologists have at least a bachelor’s degree. (Should you decide to continue your career in the veterinary field, you should know that Cedar Valley has transfer agreements with several veterinary assistant programs to help you do that.) Veterinary technicians and technologists make an annual mean wage of about $28,000 in Texas.

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