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Medicine and healthcare

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October 14, 2007

Between an aging population and rapidly increasing technological advances, there is no stop to the growing need for most healthcare practitioners. Nurses, medical technologists of all types, pharmacists, physicians, and physical therapists are all in short supply, and most salaries continue on a steady upward trajectory.

With its many excellent, large medical facilities and schools, the Boston area is a great place to study and find fulfilling work upon graduation. But the schools can’t graduate specialists fast enough, and teachers are sorely needed to educate aspiring nurses and other practitioners.

"There is an incredible shortage of preceptors and educators to help," said Thom Bosanquet, director of employment and employer relations for Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Burlington. "Experienced educators are in shorter and shorter supply."

Experience counts in nursing, too, he added, noting that those with several years' experience and training in specialty areas such as telemetry are in the greatest demand. There are only so many new, inexperienced nurses hospitals can absorb, he said. Needs are also very high for nurse assistants, pharmacists, and professionals with training in the latest diagnostic technologies.

For those in nursing, Bosanquet said, "The best advice is, in the last year or two of school, get a part-time job, even as a unit clerk, to get experience, get familiar with the culture. The people who’ve had experience are the most attractive, people who already are at your place, ... already know the ropes."

Visit healthcareerweb.com, nursingworld.org.

DENTISTS

Average salaries: $142,520 (general dentists); $179,530 (oral surgeons). Self-employed dentists usually earn more than those on salaries.

Demand: Good. Demand is growing as baby boomers age and need more complicated dental care, and the general population becomes more concerned about dental health; new dental technologies offer more options and better care.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree plus four-year dental school and licensure. Specialists need additional training.

DENTAL HYGIENISTS

Average salary: $73,180

Demand: Strong. Dental hygienists are doing more work once done only by dentists, and increasing concern over dental health boosts demand.

Qualifications: Graduation from accredited school of dental hygiene; clinical and written exams, plus licensure.

DIETITIANS AND NUTRITIONISTS

Average salary: $49,120

Demand: Very good. As the population increases and ages, there is growing need for specialists to plan healthier diets in hospitals, residential care facilities, schools, and community centers.

Qualifications: Degree in foods and nutrition or a related field; certification or license necessary in some states.

LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSES

Average salary: $49,370

Demand: Very good. As the population ages, nursing homes and long-term care facilities need a growing number of these professionals; the push to reduce healthcare costs adds to demand.

Qualifications: A one-year approved study program, plus license.

NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGISTS

Average salary: $70,140

Demand: Excellent. This specialized field is expanding, but not enough people are going into it. New technology and the aging population mean nuclear medicine is growing in importance for diagnosis and treatment.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degrees, becoming more common, are almost guaranteed to get you a job; some positions still available to those with one-year certificates or associate's degrees.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS

Average salary: $64,280

Demand: Very good. This field is growing in response to greater needs of disabled persons, heart attack and stroke victims, and increasing numbers of children with sensory disorders.

Qualifications: Degree in occupational therapy, plus post-baccalaureate certificate; master's becoming more desirable.

PHARMACISTS

Average salary: $81,370

Demand: Excellent. A short supply is related to the aging demographics, rapid growth of newer pharmaceuticals, and expansion of the retail market. Big box stores with local pharmacies add to demand ; schools cannot produce enough graduates.

Qualifications: Doctor of pharmacy degree now required to enter the field, plus state exam and license; those already in the field can still practice with a bachelor's degree and license.

PHYSICIANS

Average salaries: $161,080 (general practitioners); $173,060 (obstetricians and gynecologists); $144,690 (pediatricians); $193,540 (surgeons). Self-employed physicians usually earn more than those on salaries.

Demand: High. The graduating supply is not meeting the demands of a growing, older population. Patients often wait weeks for appointments. Needs are high in low-income and rural areas, and for geriatrics, cardiology, and certain surgical specialties.

Qualifications: Minimum four-year postgraduate medical school, plus residency; specialties require four to seven more years of study.

PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS

Average salary: $80,720

Demand: Excellent. Opportunities are growing in offices, hospitals, medical centers, and inner-city and rural clinics for these cost-effective, educated members of the medical team. They can provide primary care and assistance with medical and surgical procedures.

Qualifications: Accredited formal training program with a bachelor's degree and two-year health care training; graduate degree becoming more important.

PHYSICAL THERAPISTS

Average salary: $66,000

Demand: Very good. Needs are great for these therapists to help the elderly, people recovering from heart attacks or strokes, those with disabilities, and children with severe birth defects. Technological advances are expanding treatments for people with disabling conditions.

Qualifications: Bachelor's or master's physical therapy degree in accredited program, plus license; doctorate increasingly necessary.

RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGISTS AND TECHNICIANS

Average salary: $64,510

Demand: Strong. Need is increasing rapidly for these specialists who operate much of the latest diagnostic imaging equipment. The growing older population, along with expanded testing and more outpatient clinics means schools can't keep up with demand.

Qualifications: Two-to-four year degree programs with training in radiography and ultrasound. Demand is highest for those with certification and experience in complex imaging specialties.

RADIATION THERAPISTS

Average salary: $71,000

Demand: Very good. New technologies and treatments for cancer patients, a growing and aging population, and more satellite clinics generate greater need for these important members of radiation oncology teams.

Qualifications: Minimum associate's degree in radiation therapy; bachelor's now preferred.

MEDICAL AND CLINICAL LABORATORY TECHNOLOGISTS

Average salary: $51,240

Demand: Very good. Increasing numbers and types of diagnostic testing fuel demand, but some growth is curtailed by newer, simplified tests which patients or doctors can perform.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree with major in medical technology or life sciences; some other degrees can qualify workers with experience and training.

RESPIRATORY THERAPISTS

Average salary: $56,050

Demand: Excellent. Growth in the numbers of middle-aged and elderly Americans means increased need for respiratory treatments for cardiopulmonary diseases; therapists also are needed for premature infants, accident victims, disease-prevention programs, and emergency care.

Qualifications: Minimum associate's degree; bachelor's preferred. Hospitals and medical schools have a variety of programs, usually two to four years; cardiopulmonary skills are in top demand.

REGISTERED NURSES

Average salary: $76,100

Demand: Excellent. Demand and salaries continue to go up for this hot career. Experienced critical care nurses trained in telemetry, those able to care for the sickest patients, are in greatest demand. Experienced educator nurses are also needed. Retirements add to shortage.

Qualifications: Graduation from approved nursing program, plus clinical experience, national exam, and license. Programs range from two to four years; bachelor of science degree and specialty studies broaden opportunities; must be caring, responsible, detail-oriented.

SPEECH/LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS AND AUDIOLOGISTS

Average salaries: $62,000 (speech/language pathologists); $58,540 (audiologists)

Demand: Very good. Older people with speech and hearing impairments, and young children who are regularly tested for problems generate demand; medical advances that save lives of trauma victims and premature babies also increase need.

Qualifications: Master's degree, 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, plus additional postgraduate experience; licensure in many states; doctoral degree increasingly becoming standard in audiology.

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