A career in healthcare can be rewarding on many levels. Healthcare professionals help people improve their lives, and many jobs in the field come with a large paycheck. But not all healthcare jobs will score you a six-figure salary. In fact, many of the lowest-paying healthcare jobs pay less than $50,000 a year, on average.
GOBankingRates analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine which healthcare jobs will fatten up your bank account, and which might have you living paycheck to paycheck.
20 Lowest-Paying Healthcare Jobs
Working in healthcare often requires higher degrees or special certifications. So if you’re investing time and money, it’s important to know that the payoff will be worth it. But in the case of these low-paying healthcare jobs, it might not be.
Mean Hourly Wage: $28.02
Mean Annual Wage: $58,290
Therapists can work in hospitals, schools and other healthcare facilities. The states with the highest employment levels of therapists are Indiana, Maryland and Illinois.
19. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $27.52
Mean Annual Wage: $57,250
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians operate imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests that help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. The job usually requires an associate’s degree or post-secondary certificate, with many employers also requiring a professional certification. Although it’s one of the lowest-paying jobs, the job outlook is good, with the field expected to grow at a high rate over the next decade.
18. Hearing Aid Specialists
Mean Hourly Wage: $27.42
Mean Annual Wage: $57,030
Hearing aid specialists select and fit hearing aids, administer and interpret hearing tests, and prepare ear molds. These specialists can work in health stores, general merchandise stores or medical offices. California, Florida and Texas have the highest employment levels for hearing aid specialists. But you might want to avoid living in certain California cities — such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — where the cost of living is substantially higher than the average hearing aid specialist salary.
17. Exercise Physiologists
Mean Hourly Wage: $26.31
Mean Annual Wage: $54,730
Exercise physiologists develop fitness programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve their overall health. A bachelor’s degree is typically required for the job. About half of exercise physiologists are self-employed, with others working in hospitals or with another healthcare provider.
16. Occupational Health and Safety Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $25.93
Mean Annual Wage: $53,930
Occupational health and safety technicians collect and analyze data on work environments and procedures to make sure they adhere to regulations for safety, health and the environment. The job typically requires a bachelor’s degree.
15. Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $25.59
Mean Annual Wage: $53,230
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians conduct medical laboratory tests related to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. California, Texas and New York are the biggest employers for these jobs.
14. Respiratory Therapy Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $24.47
Mean Annual Wage: $50,900
Respiratory therapy technicians provide respiratory care under the direction of respiratory therapists and physicians. Although the mean annual wage is just over $50,000, the position can pay more depending on where you work. Respiratory therapy technicians in Las Vegas are the highest paid, with the annual mean wage at $76,760.
13. Recreational Therapists
Mean Hourly Wage: $23.88
Mean Annual Wage: $49,670
Recreational therapists use activities such as arts and crafts, drama, music, dance and sports to treat people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses. The job typically requires a bachelor’s degree, with many employers requiring certification as well.
12. Athletic Trainers
Mean Hourly Wage: N/A
Mean Annual Wage: $48,630
Athletic trainers prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. They often work in schools, though some work in hospitals and healthcare centers, fitness centers or with professional sports teams. The profession is expected to grow rapidly throughout the next decade.
11. Surgical Technologists
Mean Hourly Wage: $23.11
Mean Annual Wage: $48,060
Surgical technologists typically work in hospital operating rooms, where they help prepare the room, arrange equipment and assist doctors during surgeries. The job doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, but might require an associate’s degree and/or certification.
10. Health Technologists and Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $22.45
Mean Annual Wage: $46,690
Health technologists and technicians work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices and other healthcare offices. California, Florida and Texas have the highest employment levels for this occupation.
9. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Mean Hourly Wage: $21.98
Mean Annual Wage: $45,710
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors to provide basic nursing care. LPNs and LVNs must complete a state-approved educational program, which usually takes one year to complete.
8. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $20.59
Mean Annual Wage: $42,820
Medical records and health information technicians code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement, for databases, and to keep patients’ medical and treatment histories up-to-date. The job typically requires certification and might also require an associate degree.
Mean Hourly Wage: $18.79
Mean Annual Wage: $39,070
Opticians work with customers to help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. The job usually only requires only a high school diploma or equivalent.
6. Ophthalmic Medical Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $18.03
Mean Annual Wage: $37,500
Ophthalmic medical technicians assist ophthalmologists with various tasks. They might administer eye exams, administer eye medications or instruct patients on the care and use of contact lenses. Danbury, Conn., is the highest-paying metro area for ophthalmic medical technicians, with an annual mean wage of $54,260.
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5. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics
Mean Hourly Wage: $17.64
Mean Annual Wage: $36,700
EMTs and paramedics treat patients in emergency settings by responding to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities. A license is required for the job.
4. Psychiatric Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $17.34
Mean Annual Wage: $36,070
Psychiatric technicians provide therapeutic care and monitor conditions of people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. These technicians need to have a post-secondary certificate to be qualified.
3. Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $16.69
Mean Annual Wage: $34,710
Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the injuries and illnesses of animals. The pay is shockingly low for the education required to hold the job. Technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree, and technicians typically need an associate degree. Plus, both must take a post-secondary program in vet technology and become certified.
2. Pharmacy Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $15.90
Mean Annual Wage: $33,060
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists with the dispensing of prescription medication to customers or health professionals. The job requires a high school diploma plus on-the-job training.
1. Dietetic Technicians
Mean Hourly Wage: $14.24
Mean Annual Wage: $29,610
Dietetic technicians work under the supervision of a dietitian to create and teach about food and nutrition programs. These technicians work in hospitals, nursing care and retirement facilities, and schools. California, Illinois and Texas are the biggest employers for this occupation.
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20 Highest-Paying Healthcare Jobs
The highest-paying jobs in healthcare tend to be those that require graduate degrees and other specialty training. But with salaries ranging from $103,000 to $265,000, the additional years of education could definitely pay off.
20. Nurse Midwives
Mean Hourly Wage: $49.83
Mean Annual Wage: $103,640
A nurse midwife is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), and they must earn at least a master’s degree to hold the position. They must also be licensed in their state and pass a national certification exam. Not only does the job pay well, but there is also a growing demand for it. However, it’s important to note that nurse’s pay varies from state to state.
19. Physician Assistants
Mean Hourly Wage: $50.37
Mean Annual Wage: $104,760
Physician assistants work with physicians, surgeons and other healthcare workers to examine, diagnose and treat patients. PAs must be licensed and also have a master’s degree. There is a growing demand for this high-paying occupation. In fact, it’s one of the jobs with the most security.
18. Nurse Practitioners
Mean Hourly Wage: $51.68
Mean Annual Wage: $107,480
Like nurse midwives, nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and they must earn at least a master’s degree plus be licensed to hold the position. NPs work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics and other healthcare settings.
Mean Hourly Wage: $57.26
Mean Annual Wage: $119,100
Optometrists perform eye exams; diagnose and treat visual problems and diseases, injuries and other disorders of the eyes; and prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses if needed. Optometrists must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree and obtain a license to practice.
Mean Hourly Wage: $58.52
Mean Annual Wage: $121,710
Pharmacists dispense prescription medications, and can also conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee medication plans and provide advice to patients on medications and other health matters. A four-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree is required.
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Mean Hourly Wage: $71.38
Mean Annual Wage: $148,470
Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle and lower leg problems. In order to practice, podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree and complete a three-year residency program.
14. Nurse Anesthetists
Mean Hourly Wage: $81.47
Mean Annual Wage: $169,450
Nurse anesthetists have to earn at least a master’s degree and also be licensed to hold the position. They can work in a variety of healthcare settings, and the demand for this occupation is growing rapidly.
Mean Hourly Wage: $83.71
Mean Annual Wage: $174,110
Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums and mouth. They must be licensed and graduate from an accredited dentistry school.
Mean Hourly Wage: $90.16
Mean Annual Wage: $187,540
Pediatricians are physicians who diagnose, treat and help prevent children’s diseases and injuries. No matter where they are employed, they are likely paid well. But in certain cities — such as Daytona, Fla., where the annual mean wage for pediatricians is $285,700 — the pay is even greater.
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Mean Hourly Wage: $94.69
Mean Annual Wage: $196,960
Prosthodontists construct oral prostheses to replace missing teeth or other oral structures in order to restore or maintain oral function, or to improve appearances. Texas is the biggest employer for this occupation.
Mean Hourly Wage: $95.37
Mean Annual Wage: $198,370
Internists are physicians who diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. Internists work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, schools and other care centers.
9. Dentists (Specialists)
Mean Hourly Wage: $96.15
Mean Annual Wage: $199,980
Dentists that have a particular specialty earn even more than a dentist with a general practice. California, Florida and New York have the highest employment level for this occupation.
8. Family and General Practitioners
Mean Hourly Wage: $100.27
Mean Annual Wage: $208,560
Family and general practitioners are physicians who diagnose, treat and help prevent common diseases and injuries. California, Florida and Illinois employ the most family and general practitioners.
7. Physicians and Surgeons
Mean Hourly Wage: $101.63
Mean Annual Wage: $211,390
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. The pay is high, but the requirements to qualify to earn a doctor’s salary are very demanding. Physicians usually need a bachelor’s degree, a four-year medical school degree, and — depending on their specialty — three to seven years in internship and residency programs.
Mean Hourly Wage: $103.89
Mean Annual Wage: $216,090
Psychiatrists diagnose, treat and help prevent mental disorders. California, New York and Texas have the highest levels of employment for psychiatrists.
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Mean Hourly Wage: $110.28
Mean Annual Wage: $229,380
Orthodontists design and create devices that help align teeth and jaws for improved function or aesthetics. The New York metro area employs the most orthodontists and also has an annual wage mean that’s slightly above the national average: $230,470.
4. Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Mean Hourly Wage: $113.10
Mean Annual Wage: $235,240
Obstetricians and gynecologists provide medical care related to pregnancy or childbirth, and diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases that affect the female reproductive system. California, New York and Florida employ the most OBGYNs.
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Mean Hourly Wage: $116.70
Mean Annual Wage: $242,740
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgery on the oral and maxillofacial regions to treat diseases, injuries or defects. They usually work in a dentist office.
Mean Hourly Wage: $121.10
Mean Annual Wage: $251,890
Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, diseases and deformities. Not only is a surgeon one of the highest-paying healthcare jobs, but it’s also one of the highest-paying jobs overall.
Mean Hourly Wage: $127.88
Mean Annual Wage: $265,990
Anesthesiologists administer anesthetics prior to, during or after surgery and other medical procedures. Not surprisingly, getting this high-paying job takes a lot of schooling. Anesthesiologists must graduate with a four-year undergraduate degree, then complete four years of medical school and four additional years of specialty training.
What Are the Best Jobs in Healthcare?
A good predictor of how well a healthcare job pays is how much education is necessary to qualify for the job. The highest-paying jobs require an undergraduate degree plus a master’s or medical school degree, whereas some of the lowest-paying jobs require only a high school degree. In addition, technician and technologist jobs in the healthcare field tend to pay the least.
However, pay isn’t everything. To find the best healthcare jobs for you, consider the other perks that come with it, such as health and retirement benefits. You’ll also want to figure out if the job offers the stability and work-life balance you’re seeking, among many other factors.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed employment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. The most recent data is from May 2017. Healthcare occupations were ranked according to hourly and annual wages.