|Reviewed by Kimberly Kelly-Cortez (Ph.D., M.S.Ed, MBA, CNE, NPD-BC), Senior Associate Dean and Director of Programs-Health, Leavitt School of Health.
Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with an abundance of job opportunities for those who want a career helping others. Even applicants with minimal experience have many entry-level positions to choose from. the top seven entry-level healthcare jobs that are perfect for anyone who is passionate about caring for those in need, complete with job descriptions, workplace responsibilities, salary expectations, projected job growth, and more.
1. Patient Care Liaison
A patient care liaison plays an important role in the healthcare industry, creating the bridge of communication between patients and healthcare providers and acting as a representative for both. This career is perfectly suited for compassionate people who enjoy forging meaningful relationships with patients and helping them navigate the complex healthcare system. Patient care liaisons’ main responsibilities include:
- Meeting with patients to discuss potential treatment options and healthcare coverage and helping them prepare for upcoming medical procedures.
- Collecting patient data to share with medical professionals and filling out necessary healthcare information.
- Explaining medical terminology to patients so they fully understand what to expect from a procedure and answering any questions they may have.
- Providing information to medical providers regarding patient health history, questions, concerns, or complaints.
- Scheduling patient aftercare for those who need rehabilitation once their medical treatment has been completed.
2. Registered Nurse (RN)
Registered nurses (RNs) work closely with patients and their families, providing emotional support and coordinating the appropriate care. These health professionals hold specific qualifications and have passed the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). Some RNs may also choose to specialize in areas such as geriatric nursing, cardiac nursing, or burn care. RNs help doctors with a wide range of tasks, including administering medications, unofficially providing emotional support to patients, and educating patients and their families about conditions, self-treatment options, and health maintenance. An RN’s responsibilities vary depending on their specialty, but general day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Observing and recording patient behavior.
- Performing physical examinations and diagnostic tests.
- Collecting patient health history.
- Educating patients and their families on treatment plans and overall health maintenance.
- Administering IVs and medication.
- Changing wound dressings.
- Interpreting patient information to inform decisions about how to approach care.
- Consulting with doctors to determine course of action.
- Directing other nurses and nurse assistants and aides.
- Researching ways to improve healthcare processes and patient outcomes.
- Sending e-prescriptions to the pharmacist.
Indeed reports an average annual salary for RNs of $91,494 per year. This career is expected to grow by 6% from 2020 to 2030, which will produce an estimated 203,200 jobs per year over the course of the decade.
3. Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses are registered nurses who work closely with patients in critical or life-threatening situations. Often referred to as intensive care unit (ICU) nursing, this is an example of a nursing specialty an RN could pursue after gaining licensure. These are highly trained nurses who possess a keen understanding of how to care for patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Critical care nurses' responsibilities include:
- Evaluating a patient’s condition and administering treatment.
- Providing constant support to patients in critical condition.
- Monitoring vital signs.
- Managing a patient’s ventilator or other medical equipment.
- Administering medication.
- Administering intravenous insertions and infusions.
- Maintaining running records of a patient’s health status.
Salary.com estimates an average annual salary for critical care nurses of $80,400 per year. This is an excellent career path for those who particularly value job security, as demand for critical care nurses is expected to grow over the next several years, with an expected 332,190 new jobs filled by 2029.
4. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Sometimes called vocational nurses, LPNs work in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, clinics, and even private residences to provide basic care and comfort to patients. These nurses are similar to RNs, but they have less responsibility and are required to have less education. In order to obtain LPN licensure, you must complete a one-year training program. An LPN’s responsibilities consist of:
Checking vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, and weight.
- Recording a patient's medical history.
- Assisting patients with hygiene.
- Administering medication as prescribed by the physician.
- Giving basic wound care.
- Providing immunizations.
- Entering information into computer systems.
- Educating patients and families on release instructions.
- Moving patients safely.
- Observing patient mental health status.
- Providing emotional support.
5. Medical Laboratory Technician
Medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform laboratory tests which play a vital role in the effective diagnosis and treatment of patients. Their work helps doctors and other medical professionals detect diseases and give life-saving treatment to patients. Laboratory technicians have a wide range of responsibilities depending on the specialty of the lab they work in, but some general daily tasks include:
- Analyzing and testing bodily fluids, such as blood, urine, and tissue samples.
- Operating lab equipment, performing tests, logging data, and discussing test findings with physicians.
- Preparing samples and processing them as needed.
- Following a laboratory’s standards and policies.
- Ensuring quality control of samples.
The U.S. BLS reports a median annual salary for clinical laboratory specialists of $57,800. The job outlook for this career path is promising, with a projected growth rate of 11% between 2020 and 2030, producing roughly 25,600 new roles per year.
6. Surgical Technologist
Also commonly referred to as operating room technicians, surgical technologists help prepare patients and operating rooms for surgery and provide critical assistance to surgeons during an operation. These professionals play a vital role in safe and successful procedures by creating a sterile and organized environment in the operating room. Some of their main responsibilities include:
- Sterilizing tools.
- Ensuring that an operating room has adequate supplies and properly functioning equipment.
- Handing surgeons the tools they need during an operation.
- Helping prepare patients for surgery.
- Assisting in retracting tissues from the surgical patient.
- Applying dressings to surgical sites.
- Disposing of needles and gauze.
These healthcare professionals earn a median salary of $48,530 per year, according to data from the BLS. The number of jobs in this career are expected to increase by 9% from 2020 to 2030, creating an estimated 9,600 new openings each year.
7. Billing and Coding Specialist
Billing and coding specialists track and manage critical patient information and help providers coordinate billing to insurance companies and individuals. They monitor administered medical care and record and process patient data such as treatment records, insurance plan information, payment data, and more. Most importantly, these healthcare professionals work directly with patients’ health insurance providers to ensure that medical bills are paid. Their day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Reviewing patient data and assigning codes for data analysis and billing purposes.
- Organizing and maintaining databases and registries.
- Requesting payment from insurance companies.
- Performing administration of electronic health records.
- Ensuring HIPPA compliance in record keeping.
- Correcting rejected claims.
- Tracking payments.
- Following up with patients and insurance companies about unpaid bills.
Billing and coding specialists earn a median salary of $46,660 per year, according to data from the BLS. This career is expected to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030, yielding 14,900 jobs per year on average.
Start Building Your Healthcare Career
If any of these careers sound like a good fit for you, consider exploring WGU’s bachelor of science in healthcare management degree. This program is designed to prepare you with the education, skills, and confidence to be a successful manager in the healthcare industry. You’ll be able to play a vital leadership role in a wide range of patient care environments, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and government offices. At the end of your program, your experience and skills will help you stand out from your colleagues, allowing you to earn raises, promotions, and new career opportunities. There has never been a better time to get a healthcare management degree. This path provides hundreds of thousands of job openings in a variety of fields, as well as competitive salaries, the ability to make a positive impact on individuals and communities, and emotional fulfillment.
If you’re particularly interested in patient-facing careers, WGU’s nursing bachelor's degrees are also a great route. Nurses are constantly needed as the healthcare industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. Any of our nursing degrees will give you skills and credentials that allow you to impact patient outcomes, influence the industry in a positive way, and make a real difference in your community. Whether you're just entering the field or looking to enhance your credentials, a bachelor's degree in nursing from WGU can help you meet your goals.
At WGU, you don’t have to deal with rigid deadlines and test times set in stone. WGU’s competency-based curriculum allows you to advance through the coursework at your own pace by empowering you to take exams only when you’re confident you’ve mastered the material. This means WGU is an equally great choice for those who have a family to take care of and a full-time job, as well as those who want to quickly earn their degree and begin their new career. WGU is also one of the most affordable higher education options. Our tuition model, charged per term rather than per credit, allows you to take as many classes as you want each semester, giving you control over the total cost of your education. Learn more to see how WGU’s healthcare management degree can take your career to the next level on your own terms.