Everyone needs health care.

From newborns to seniors, Texans require professionals who are experts at diagnosing and treating disease, using medical technologies, and providing preventive care. Although everyone thinks of doctors and nurses when they contemplate careers in health care, there are hundreds of other specialties available in the Health Science industry, including technicians, skilled support personnel, dentists, and scientists. In fact, a typical medical center is a giant business with employees as varied as aides and CEOs (Chief Executive officers).

As the baby boomer generation in Texas ages, demand for health services increases, meaning that job security in the cluster is strong. If you feel a calling to care for others, won’t faint at the sight of blood, or want to pursue a profession on the cutting edge of technology, then Health Science may be the right career path for you.

Health science futures.

Medical advances and rising demand are creating exciting opportunities in Health Science. “To be successful in health science,” says Cora Lahey, health science instructor at McNeil High School in Austin, “one needs to be patient and detail-orientated, have excellent work ethic and a great sense of responsibility.”

Health science is serious business, but if a student has what it takes to succeed, the industry offers a vast array of career possibilities. Exciting research in medical technology, including that involving robotic parts that can be installed directly into the recipients existing muscles, medicines tailor-made for a person’s specific DNA, and pill-sized cameras recording internal views of a patient’s digestive tract, is opening new possibilities for healing and new opportunities for students with an interest in science. At the same time, the increasing healthcare needs of an aging Texas population is driving the demand for well-trained medical professionals.

Limitless opportunity.

“As medical technology advances and the demand for a high level of expertise increases, the opportunities in healthcare become virtually limitless,” says Renee Tonquest, curriculum specialist at the University of North Texas in Denton.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, eight of America’s 20 fastest growing occupations are in health services. The Texas Workforce Commission says Texas healthcare and social assistance positions are expected to grow 31 percent by 2016, with the greatest increases projected for home health care services. As the population ages, jobs in this area are expected to grow 48 percent.

The demand for nurses is also increasing. Texas will need as many as 138,000 registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and nurse’s aides in the next seven to 10 years. Average annual salaries for RNs are well over $60,000, with signing bonuses up to $5,000.

“There is currently an abundance of available work in many specialty areas,” says Faith Macienko-Krenk, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Rowlett Pediatrics in Mesquite, who adds that students can enter the field at a variety of educational levels.

Home Health Aides can enter the workforce with a high school diploma and short-term on-the-job training. An associate’s degree and license qualify RNs for employment. Clinical laboratory scientists require a bachelor’s degree while physical therapists need a master’s degree. Physicians must earn a doctor of medicine (MD) degree, plus complete years of hands-on training as interns and residents in a particular medical specialty. Pay rates range as widely as educational requirements, from an average of $8.86 an hour for home health aides to $88.53 an hour for orthodontists.

Early opportunities.

Lahey says students need to have an early opportunity to sample the variety of health science careers. High school health science classes prepare students to take exams for pharmacy technician, board certification and phlebotomy technician certification.

“After high school, the student can apply for work in either field and have a job while in college that pays $13.68 an hour,” says Lahey.

Lahey believes the future looks bright for students and for the future of medical science. “What makes me so optimistic,” she says, “is the potential that I see in some of the students. Their generation will answer many of the questions that scientist have been researching for years.”

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