Top Paying Careers for Healthcare Degree Holders

While some might think of physicians first when they think of healthcare workers, the industry offers a wide variety of occupations ranging from administration, research, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and more. Here are the highest paying non-physician healthcare jobs, ranked using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Are Healthcare Degrees in Demand?

Nearly every occupation in the healthcare industry is seeing job growth, which may inspire you to research healthcare degrees. Overall job growth for healthcare occupations is expected to be 16% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth for non-physician jobs ranges from 3% (dentists) to 16% (occupational therapists) to 45% (advanced-practice nurses) during that same time period.

Great-Paying Healthcare Jobs That Require a Bachelor’s Degree or Lower

Some healthcare occupations where workers earn higher than average salaries require only an associate or bachelor’s in healthcare, such as an MRI technologist, registered nurse or those who work in kinesiology and exercise science. Some of the top paying healthcare careers that require a bachelor’s degree or lower include: 

1. Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers work largely behind the scenes and are responsible for coordinating the work and business activities of healthcare providers. They may practice everywhere from hospitals to long-term nursing facilities to private practice. The job requires a bachelor’s degree (though master’s degrees are also common). The annual median salary for medical and health services managers was $104,280 in 2020, and the BLS estimates the outlook for growth at 32%, much faster than average for all occupations.

2. Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers help develop medical devices, healthcare equipment and computer hardware and software. They typically work in research facilities, hospitals, educational and medical institutions and manufacturing. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or in a related engineering field is required. The median annual salary for biomedical engineers was $92,620 in 2020, and the BLS estimates 6% growth between 2020 and 2030, slower than average for all occupations.

3. Radiation Therapists 

Radiation therapists are the people who help treat patients with cancer and other diseases using radiation treatments. They usually work in hospitals, outpatient medical facilities or doctor’s offices, and have associate or bachelor’s degrees. The median annual salary for radiation therapists was $86,850 in 2020, with 9% projected growth between 2020 and 2030.

4. Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists work with drugs that have radioactive properties, administering them to patients primarily to help diagnose issues using imaging. They may work in physicians’ offices, outpatient centers or hospitals. An associate or bachelor’s degree is required. The median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $79,590 in 2020, and the outlook for growth between 2020 and 2030 is 8%.

5. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are the people who we (should) see at least twice each year to have our teeth cleaned before we see the dentist. They have associate degrees and work primarily in dentists’ offices. The median annual salary for dental hygienists was $77,090 in 2020, with 11% projected job growth between 2020 and 2030.

6. Registered Nurses

Registered nurses are needed in nearly every aspect of medicine and work everywhere from schools to hospitals, from doctors’ offices to nursing homes, in outpatient clinics and in-home healthcare jobs. A bachelor’s degree is required to be an RN. In 2020, the median annual salary for RNs was $75,330, and the projected job growth for this position between 2020 and 2030 is 9%.

Top-Paying Healthcare Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree

A master’s in healthcare fields may open up the next level of jobs for healthcare workers, those in which a person may have more authority and autonomy while working with patients. There are plenty of healthcare careers available with a master’s degree, like midwife, jobs in public health, health administration and health informatics, but some of the top-paying healthcare careers that require a master’s include:

1. Advanced Practice Nurses: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners

Nurses who have earned master’s degrees can advance to becoming nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives or nurse practitioners. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients before surgery, nurse midwives are involved in every aspect of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and nurse practitioners provide medical care, often as primary healthcare providers, in settings from rural clinics to public health facilities to urban and suburban hospitals. The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners was $117,670 in 2020, and the projected job growth for these positions between 2020 and 2030 is 45%, much faster than average for all occupations. 

2. Physician Assistants

Physician assistants are medical professionals who work in direct patient care in tandem with a patient’s primary physicians and surgeons. They can diagnose, treat and prescribe medicine. Physician assistants have master’s degrees and work in hospitals, outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices. The median annual salary for physician assistants was $115,390 in 2020, and their projected job growth is 31%, much faster than average for all occupations. 

3. Occupational Therapists 

Occupational therapists help patients learn how to better accomplish everyday activities despite medical conditions, illnesses or disabilities. Many work in hospitals while others are employed by nursing homes, schools and home-healthcare companies. They have master’s degrees. The median salary for occupational therapists was $86,280 in 2020, and the outlook for growth for this position is 17%, much faster than average for all occupations.  

4. Genetic Counselors

Ongoing innovations and developments in technology and genomics are contributing to an increase in genetic counselor positions. These professionals typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics, board certification and work with patients who may have inherited risk or medical conditions. They often work with specialized doctors, such as oncologists. The median annual salary for genetic counselors was $85,700 in 2020, and their projected job growth between 2020 and 2030 is 26%, much faster than average for all occupations.

5. Speech Language Pathologists

Speech language pathologists (SLPs) work with patients who have communication disorders or difficulty with swallowing. They have master’s degrees in speech language pathology and tend to work in schools and hospitals with patients from infants to seniors. The median annual salary for speech language pathologists was $80,480 in 2020, and the job growth for SLPs is projected at 29% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than average for all occupations. 

High-Paying Healthcare Careers That Require a Doctorate

The highest level of healthcare jobs (other than MDs) require doctoral healthcare degrees. Earning a doctorate in healthcare may take longer and require a more intensive course of study than master’s and bachelor’s degrees, but it also allows for direct patient care and can equate to a higher salary. There are several healthcare careers where a doctorate may be beneficial, such as Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Occupational Therapy, but some of the top-paying careers that require a doctorate include:

1. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Oral or maxillofacial surgeons are the professionals who treat complex dental issues and do procedures such as root canals, wisdom-teeth removal or facial-trauma surgery. The position requires a doctoral degree. Oral or maxillofacial surgeons work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and dental offices and earn a mean annual wage of $234,990.

2. Orthodontists

Orthodontists examine, diagnose and treat people whose teeth need to be realigned for health- or appearance-related reasons, typically using braces or retainers. They have doctorates and work in private practice or in dentists’ offices, doctors’ offices or hospitals. The mean annual salary for orthodontists is $237,990.

3. Dentists

While dentists most commonly fix cavities and screen for gum disease, their responsibility goes deeper than just those things. They are educated about how oral health affects our physical health, including prevention and diagnosis of oral disease, monitoring the development of teeth in children and adolescents, repairing cracked or broken teeth and looking for warning signs of disease elsewhere in the body. They most often work in private practice and have doctoral or professional degrees. The median annual salary for dentists in 2020 was $164,010, and the estimated job growth between 2020 and 2030 is 8%. 

4. Pharmacists

Pharmacists—the people who fill our doctors’ prescriptions and make sure we know how to use them properly—have Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degrees and work in pharmacies that may be standalone or in drug and grocery stores. The median annual salary for pharmacists in 2020 was $128,710. However, the BLS estimates that job growth between 2020 and 2030 will decline by 2%.

5. Physical Therapists 

Back pain, mobility issues, injuries caused by sports, accidents, falls, or overuse, or recovery after surgery—physical therapists (PTs) are there for all of these issues and more, helping people achieve better movement and pain relief. PTs have doctoral or professional degrees, and most often work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, residential care facilities and home healthcare. The median annual salary for physical therapists was $91,010 in 2020, and the BLS estimates the outlook for growth between 2020 and 2030 at 21%, much faster than average for all occupations.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Healthcare Degree?

That depends on the degree, the field of study, the school’s graduation requirements and whether you attend part-time or full-time. In general, associate degrees typically take two years; bachelor’s degrees typically take four years; master’s degrees take an average of two years; doctorates tend to take five to seven years.

How to Choose Which Healthcare Degree Is Right for You

While this article focuses on ranking healthcare jobs according to top salaries, choosing the one that’s right for you is a more complex matter. Yes, salary and job growth matter, but so does career satisfaction. Do you want to work as a nurse in hands-on patient care, or behind-the-scenes in administration, research or engineering? Which occupations appeal to you most? How much time do you want to invest in your education? And would pursuing an online nursing degree or another online healthcare degree fit into your life better than an on-campus degree? Online bachelor’s degrees in healthcare and online master’s degrees in healthcare are available at many universities, and can often better accommodate your work, family and other commitments. 

Last updated January 2022