Sure, doctors and dentists sport salaries to match their degrees, and there are a number of high-paying nursing positions. But you can earn a lucrative healthcare salary in a number of other jobs as well. Here are seven top-paying clinical healthcare occupations requiring various degrees and certifications, with data from our Salary Wizard:
Median Salary: $127,366
Typical Requirements: Licensed with two to four years of undergraduate work and a four-year degree from a chiropractic college
Due to the increasing demand for alternative and complementary treatments, chiropractic jobs are expected to grow by more than 14 percent -- to an estimated 60,000 jobs -- from 2006 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Chiropractors must be able to deal with all aspects of patient care, including patient diagnosis, lab tests and treatment (mostly through spinal manipulation). And it's a career that lends itself to self-starters -- roughly half of all chiropractors are self-employed.
Median Salary: $107,910
Typical Requirements: Licensed, with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Students typically do two to three years of undergraduate work followed by three to four years of graduate study at an accredited college of pharmacy.
While still dealing with the basic role of drug dispensing, pharmacists now do less compounding (physically combining ingredients to make medications) and more advising and counseling of patients and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. The BLS projects big job growth -- an estimated 53,000 additional jobs in the 2006-2016 timeframe -- as an aging population requires more medications. One small drawback: With extended or around-the-clock hours for many hospital and even some community pharmacies, the hours vary and can include some nights and weekends.
Median Salary: $108,055
Typical Requirements: Bachelor's degree followed by a one- to four-year perfusionist program and the Certified Clinical Perfusionist credential.
Working closely with anesthesiologists and surgeons as a member of a surgical team, the cardiopulmonary perfusionist operates high tech medical equipment -- mainly heart/lung machines -- during open-heart surgeries, organ transplants and other procedures. Since cardiac surgery is often unplanned, this is most definitely an on-call position that combines chemical, mechanical and electrical expertise. Perfusionists often deal with long-term, postoperative care.
Median Salary: $104,923
Typical Requirements: Most optometrists do four years of undergrad study before completing a four-year program for a Doctor of Optometry degree.
Not to be confused with ophthalmologists (who perform eye surgery) or opticians (who help pick and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses), optometrists diagnose vision problems, prescribe glasses and contacts, and test for and treat eye diseases or problems. Since most optometrists run their own practice or work for franchised vision stores, they often run an office as well. The BLS projects optometry jobs will grow 11 percent between 2006 and 2016 as the population -- and its eyes -- age.
Physical Therapy Director
Median Salary: $98,414
Typical Requirements: Minimum of a bachelor's degree and extensive experience in the field. Most directors are physical therapists, who now require a master's in physical therapy.
From setting policies to scheduling, the physical therapy director (PTD) deals directly with physical therapists while reporting to upper management. While the position usually requires administrative expertise, many PTDs rise through the physical therapist ranks. The PTD is also responsible for ordering inventory, preparing budgets, supervising staff and dealing with departmental administrative tasks. The physical therapy field is projected to grow by more than 20 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the BLS, and more physical therapists mean more physical therapy directors.
Median Salary: $89,869
Typical Requirements: Radiation therapy certification followed by specialized training or a two-year dosimetry program
As part of a radiation oncology team, medical dosimetrists help treat cancer patients by calculating the radiation dose needed to destroy tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact. Many in the field begin as radiation therapists before specializing in dosage distribution through a tough training program. Hours are as standard as they get in healthcare -- generally 40 hours per week for weekday work. The pay jump from radiation therapist to dosimetrist is roughly $20,000 per year. Medical dosimetrists (who are also called radiation therapy dosimetrists) often report to radiation physicists, who oversee all radiation equipment and advise on treatment schedules and dosage. The median salary for radiation physicists? $151,712.
Median Salary: $82,874
Typical Requirements: Bachelor's degree followed by a two-year physician assistant program
From taking medical histories to examining and diagnosing patients to treating injuries, physician assistants (PAs) may work directly under a physician, but may also provide primary care in many states. With more physicians and hospitals relying on PAs to provide primary care to reduce costs, the PA job outlook is excellent, with the BLS projecting an estimated 18,000 more jobs between 2006 and 2016.