You don't have to be a doctor or nurse to reap the rewards of the expanding job openings in health care. There's a wide-ranging roster of health-related jobs that don't require years of preparation. For some of them, a certificate in proficiency will get you in the door; in others, all you need is a knack for on-the-job training.
Thanks to our fast-aging population, employment in health care–related occupations will grow 19 percent, or by 2.3 million new jobs, from 2014 to 2024 -— much faster than the average for all types of work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects. Many of the new positions involve directly providing medical care, but there are plenty of others swirling around the edges, including support jobs that often let you slice and dice your time commitments. Increasingly, too, people are starting their own entrepreneurial ventures to meet market demands.
Here are five great health care jobs to consider.
1. Massage therapist for older people
The nitty-gritty: For Michele Barie-Dale, 52, who runs her own massage practice, the Personal Touch in Pittsburgh, a typical day finds her in the homes of clients age 70 and over. She arrives with her massage table, linens, towels, aromatherapy candles and almond oil cream. "The senior crowd is my favorite," says Barie-Dale. "It's a special relationship. It becomes a friendship."
The benefits for her clients include boosting circulation, improving flexibility and providing stress relief, she explains. "But in many ways, it's chitchat — the social contact. They want to talk to me and to hear about my life, and I learn about their lives. It brings joy to me." But the work can be physically demanding. "I have to watch my back — sometimes I have to lift and move walkers and wheelchairs, and help my clients climb safely on and off the table."
Barie-Dale opted for private practice. But massage therapists also work in group practices, chiropractic clinics, nursing homes, airports, hospices and hospitals. Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pay range: The average wage is $19.30 per hour, according to PayScale, an online salary, benefits and compensation information company. Annual salaries range from $22,318 to $94,367. Some therapists who make house calls, like Barie-Dale, charge between $55 and $125 for a 90-minute massage.
Qualifications: Most states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy. You must get either a license or certification after graduating from an accredited training program. You may also need to join a massage professional organization for insurance coverage. The American Massage Therapy Association offers professional memberships, which include liability insurance, for $235 a year.
2. Medical biller/coder
The nitty-gritty: Skip the healing, hand me the computer. The gist of this back-office job is to convert medical terminology for everything from shingles to a torn ACL into the numerical codes that insurance companies use for reimbursement processing. You fill out electronic forms to get the claims started. Potential employers include billing companies, physician offices, hospitals, hospices, clinics and insurers.
Pay range: Hourly pay ranges from $12.19 to $24.36, according to PayScale. Annual pay ranges from $25,684 to $52,380. The national average salary: $40,000, according to job board Glassdoor.
Qualifications: Plan on four months to one year of education, though with an online course you can go at your own pace. In general, you'll need a high school diploma or GED, and must pass an accredited program in medical coding. Most employers require that you get certified through a nationally recognized professional organization such as the American Academy of Professional Coders or the American Health Information Management Association.
3. Medical interpreter
The nitty-gritty: With the global economy running on multiple languages, the BLS projects 29 percent employment growth for interpreters and translators. Specializing in health care increases your opportunities, but you'll need to know quite a collection of medical terms in both languages. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but the need for Arabic, Chinese/Mandarin, German and Russian is growing.
Interpreters help patients communicate with doctors, nurses and other medical staff, either face-to-face or remotely by phone or video link. Translators, meanwhile, handle written material such as informational brochures, forms that patients must read and sign, and patient records.
You need to be able to nimbly translate with a calm, reassuring demeanor. An understanding of differing cultural practices concerning health care will help too.
Pay range: The median annual salary for medical interpreters was $42,066 as of the end of November 2016, with a range usually between $37,026 to $46,108, according to Salary.com. Top earners can pull in more than $78,250, according to the BLS.
Qualifications: You don't need a college degree, but employers generally prefer to hire certified medical interpreters or certified healthcare interpreters. Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs. For example, Hunter College in New York has a 48-hour course for tuition of $1,250 and a one-time $35 registration fee.
The nitty-gritty: You can't hide your agin' eyes, to borrow from the Eagles rock band. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS projects that optician employment will grow by 24 percent. The country's aging population is driving much of that expansion.
Your job is to order, fit and adjust new eyeglasses — and sometimes chime in with your fashion sense. You interpret the prescription written by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to help a client select the right frame and lens. Jobs are typically in stores that sell eyewear, or in an ophthalmologist's private-practice office.
Pay range: The median optician salary is $43,170 a year, as of the end of November 2016, according to Salary.com.
Qualifications: About half of all states require a license. That usually means completing an on-the-job apprenticeship or formal education through an approved program at a community college or technical school. As of 2015, the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation had accredited 22 programs in 14 states.
Certification requires passing exams from the American Board of Opticianry/National Contact Lens Examiners. Nearly all state licensing boards use these groups' exams as the basis for licensing.
5. Telemetry technician
The nitty-gritty: Here's one from the heart. Telemetry technicians perform cardiac tests on patients using an electrocardiogram, or EKG. You're in charge of prepping a patient for an exam, taping electrodes to the chest, arms and legs, and monitoring cardiac activity as it blips up and down on a computer screen. You may also perform more specific monitoring, such as stress testing, in which the patient walks rapidly on a treadmill.
Pay range: Between $10.69 to $19.29 per hour, or annually between $22,366 and $41,360, according to Payscale.
Qualifications: Most of the training can be done on the job, but many employers prefer to hire a certified technician. A telemetry course usually takes about 120 hours of study and may require a high school diploma or GED and drug screening. Check out agencies such as the American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals or the Cardiovascular Credentialing Institute.
Kerry Hannon is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Find more from Kerry at www.Kerryhannon.com.