Hot jobs available in health care

Jennifer Jenkins, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida's Medical Laboratories Sciences program, now works for the Orlando Regional Medical Center. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel)

Graduates of her program "are a key part of health care. They are the first line of diagnosis to help patients."

While the sheer number of health-care workers is projected to increase, the range of occupations in the industry is expected to grow as technology advances and new specialties are created. Less certain is how federal health-care reform and renewed emphasis on efficiency will affect demand for certain specialties.

Besides the better-known occupations of dentist, optometrist and pharmacist are jobs such as medical assistant, cardiovascular technologist, audiologist, occupational therapist, radiation therapist, speech-language pathologist and medical records and health information technician.

While many health-care occupations require a bachelor's degree as a minimum, many others such as home health-care worker, do not.

'Fertile ground'

Some nursing and other health-care jobs are open to those with an associate's degree, but advancement requires master's and doctoral degrees.

Physicians, besides earning a medical doctor degree, are required to perform years of post-graduate work in clinical settings such as hospitals to achieve full certification.

UCF recently added a master's degree program in health informatics, which relates to technology in research and record-keeping, a rapidly developing field.

The first class had 27 students. The next added 50 more, UCF's Liberman said.

"Most of the tech fields provide fertile ground for individuals looking for stable career choices," Liberman said. "Few people with a master's have trouble finding jobs."

While some colleges and universities can expand degree programs in health-care fields to meet growing demand, others are limited in their ability to do so by space and faculty shortages or lack of clinical training opportunities.

'Don't be complacent'

Although Belt was aware that her job prospects would be bright, she didn't go through the motions and wait for opportunities to fall in her lap.

She went after a job as a lab assistant at a hospital while still a student so she could learn what the work environment was really like.

Now she was a known quantity in the real work world. She knew on-the-job training would give her a leg up on the competition for entry-level jobs — a lesson well-known to savvy job-seekers no matter the industry.

The result: multiple job offers in hand two weeks before graduation.

So instead of chasing job leads after picking up her diploma, "I took two weeks off before starting my new job."