7 High-Growth Health Care Career Areas in Texas
Texas is facing a serious shortage of qualified health care workers. In the years to come, an increasing number of opportunities will become available across almost every area of the state's health and medical sector. The shortage is being fueled by rapid growth in the overall population of Texans, the aging of the state's baby boomers, and the anticipated retirement of thousands of the region's most experienced health care pros.
In fact, out of 254 Texas counties, 177 of them—about 70 percent—have been designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as of 2014.* And that means new graduates of health care training programs can do very well in most areas of the state.
Of course, one of the best ways to understand the scale of this opportunity is to explore some of the compelling facts behind it. For example:
- In 2011, more than 863,800 Texans were employed in the health care sector.** They served about 25.6 million residents—the second-highest state population in the nation.***
- The Texas population is projected to keep growing at a rate that is twice as fast as the national average. Between 2000 and 2030, the state could gain nearly 12.5 million additional residents—a rise of almost 60 percent.***
- People aged 65 and older in Texas accounted for only about 10 percent of the region's population in 2000. However, they are expected to account for more than 15.5 percent by the year 2030.***
- By 2020, over half of Texas' baby boomers will have retirement eligibility, which could lead to a significant number of existing workers leaving the health care sector.****
- As of 2014, more than one million working Texans have no health insurance.*** But with new initiatives such as federal health care reform, many of them could soon gain access to services, leading to even greater demand for health workers.
Beyond these demographic changes, some other trends are also making a significant contribution to the rising need for new health and medical professionals in this state. For example, consider these numbers:
- Almost 66 percent of adult Texans were overweight or obese in 2010, putting them at much greater risk of developing chronic ailments that require treatment and other services.***
- The number of adults with diabetes in Texas could surge from about 2.2 million in 2012 to almost eight million by 2040—a roughly fourfold increase over just three decades.***
All of the above statistics represent just a few of the many reasons why health care is such a good option for career-minded Texans to consider. And here's one more: The number of potential employers is staggering. For example, in 2012, Texas was home to about 630 hospitals alone—including about 80 in the Houston area, 42 in the Dallas area, 39 in and around Forth Worth, and 32 in the San Antonio area.***
So, which general areas of the Texas health care sector have the most compelling opportunities? Here are seven of the best, including many within fast-to-train-for allied health fields:
Nurses are critical to the effectiveness of the Texas health care system. That's because they are employed almost everywhere that direct patient care is involved. But, like many other states, Texas is going to need a lot more people to enter the nursing field. Just take a look at some of the current numbers, and imagine the situation going forward based on the trends highlighted above:
- Almost 184,900 registered nurses (RNs) were employed within the state in 2011. That's about 720 RNs for every 100,000 residents—well below the national average.**
- Texas' hospitals, on their own, employ about 122,000 RNs and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs)—over one-third of their workforce.***
- In 2013, more than 41 percent of RNs, and over 34 percent of LVNs, were older than the age of 50.****
As of May 2015, Texas employs more LVNs than any other state, and it ranks second in the number of RNs. Despite those facts, more nurses will continue to be needed. And you can make a very comfortable living as a nurse in this state. The average salary for RNs in Texas was $69,890 in 2015. For LVNs, it was $45,130.†
2. Medical Technology
Health care technologists and technicians play a major role in ensuring that Texans receive timely and effective health care. They tend to use sophisticated equipment in their jobs and can be found in a large variety of different occupations. But they are especially prominent in the areas of diagnostic testing and surgery. Here are a few examples, with Texas-specific statistics from 2015:
- Medical laboratory technicians held 11,890 jobs and earned average annual pay of $38,970.†
- About 4,650 diagnostic medical sonographers (i.e., ultrasound technologists) were employed in the state. They earned almost $75,000 per year, on average.†
- In 2015, radiologic technologists held 15,570 jobs with an average salary of $55,580.†
- Surgical technologists held 9,790 positions and earned, on average, $45,100 per year.†
3. Health Care Assisting
Doctors and nurses have a lot of high-level decisions to make when it comes to caring for their patients. So they often rely on other members of their health care teams to handle many of the more routine—but still essential—tasks that need to be carried out each day. In some cases, those tasks involve direct patient care. In others, they are a little more behind-the-scenes. Here are two of the most common in-demand occupations within this category:
- About 82,660 nursing assistants (often in expanded roles as patient care technicians) were employed in Texas in 2015. On average, they earned $24,550 per year.†
- Medical assistants held 57,180 jobs. Their average salary was $29,180.†
4. Health Administration
Office work is a huge component in the health care sector. Just think of the vast quantities of time-sensitive information that have to be processed and handled with due care and attention to patient privacy. For example, in 2015, Texas was ranked first for the state with the most employed medical office specialists, and second for health information technicians.
- About 85,390 medical office specialists were employed in the state. They made $31,340 per year, on average.†
- Health information technicians (such as medical coding and medical records specialists) held 16,730 jobs with an average salary of $38,810.†
5. Physical and Health-Related Therapy
Many people find this to be one of the most fascinating areas of health care. In most cases, you get to work directly with patients and see the results of your efforts firsthand as progress is made in your patients' mobility, breathing, or other aspects of well-being. Here are three good example vocations:
- In 2015, about 6,270 physical therapist assistants held jobs in Texas. They earned an average salary of $72,820.†
- 10,890 respiratory therapists were employed at an average annual wage of $56,450.†
- Massage therapists held 5,270 jobs with annual pay of $38,770, on average.†
6. Dental Services
Oral health is an important part of anyone's overall wellness. But, as with many other areas of health care, a shortage of dental workers exists in Texas. Besides dentists, here are two other vocations in significant demand:
- Dental hygienists held 12,980 jobs in 2015 with average annual pay of $72,320.†
- About 26,380 dental assistants were employed in jobs that paid $35,260 per year, on average.†
7. Pharmacy Technology
The health and medical system relies heavily on the prescription of special medications and devices. And in Texas, the growing, aging population is generating more and more demand for those items. As a result, the state needs additional pharmacists. But it also needs more pharmacy technicians. In 2015, 32,000 pharmacy techs were employed within the state. On average, they earned $32,580 annually.†
* Texas House of Representatives, website last visited on November 5, 2014.
** Kaiser Family Foundation, website last visited on November 5, 2014.
*** Texas Hospital Association, website last visited on November 5, 2014.
**** Texas Department of State Health Services, website last visited on November 5, 2014.
† Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on April 21, 2016.