What Does It Take to Break Into Health Care?

While many sectors of the economy are shrinking, health care is growing. And the industry is expected to expand dramatically during the next 20 years as boomers age and increase demand.

The health care industry is on track to open 3 million new jobs in the period from 2006 to 2016 – a 22-percent increase.

Bottom line: It’s a good time to explore a health care career.

“You have a lot to think about, because there are so many types of health care jobs,” says Debra Stock, vice president of member relations at the American Hospital Association.

Positions are open for nurses, physician assistants, audiologists, physical trainers and dieticians, to name a few. Health care also offers various settings: hospitals, nursing homes, schools, sports organizations, pharmacies and other environments.

Stock suggests starting your search with the American Medical Association’s Health Care Careers Directory.

The publication – online at ama-assn.org/go/alliedhealth – explores 81 careers, their job responsibilities, salary averages and education requirements. After you have a sense of what you’d like to do:

Talk to others in the field.

If you don’t know anyone personally, ask around or contact professional associations that may put you in touch with members. Another option: Post questions to online message boards related to your profession of interest.

Determine your commitment level.

A career in the health field usually takes some type of certification or training. Becoming a registered nurse, for example, could take between one and four years full time, depending on your previous course work and the pace of the program.

Look at area colleges.

See what nearby community and four year colleges offer and ask whether the training options will fulfill your state’s requirements.

Check program availability.

Many nursing programs, for example, have waiting lists. If your local college has one, consider adding your name and taking general education courses in the meantime. Or you may train in a related health care occupation (technician, aide, etc.) and continue to pursue your long-term goal.

Consider how you will pay for the training.

Do you have savings or an individual retirement account? Will you need student loans? (See Question 5: How do I finance the transition to an encore career?)

Excerpt from Question 8 of the Get Started Guide, funded by MetLife Foundation and published by Civic Ventures

For the full Q and A, see the attached PDF.

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