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5 health science career pathways to start on in high school copy on image

by | Sep 12, 2022

5 health science career pathways to start on in high school

If you have the will and the aptitude to help people with healthcare needs, a health science career is a great fit. It also comes with high job security. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts job growth of up to 56% for health science careers through 2028 – that’s four times the growth for careers overall.

As a high school student, you can start on a health science career pathway now by taking career and technical education (CTE) courses. At the end of each course, you take an exam. If you pass, you get a certificate that gives you tangible proof of what you’ve learned and can be used to get an entry- to mid-level job and/or use for credit toward college classes.

5 fast-growing health science career pathways to consider now

In this post, I dig into 5 fast-growing health science career pathways and supporting CTE certificates high schoolers can work toward right now. We’ll look at forecast job growth and basic job details. I also examine stackable credentials, which are different CTE certifications that complement and build on each other. Credentials you can use to secure an entry- to mid-level position or for college course credits or both.


 

Career 1 – medical and clinical laboratory technician

A medical and clinical laboratory technician is one health science career that doesn’t necessarily work directly with patients. Instead, people in this role work in a laboratory setting with other technicians to test blood, urine, and fluids to diagnose disorders and help doctors treat patients effectively.

According to O*NET OnLine, a career exploration and job analysis tool sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the work activities a medical and clinical lab technician does regularly include:

  • Test biological specimens to get information about patient conditions.
  • Analyze laboratory specimens to detect problems.
  • Analyze laboratory findings.
  • Enter patient or treatment data into computers.
  • Operate laboratory equipment to test and analyze samples.

image of laboratory technician health science career pathway with two women preparing specimens

What about the outlook for medical and clinical laboratory technicians?

The future for medical and clinical laboratory technicians is bright. According to MyNextMove.com, future job opportunities are very likely for this career. O*NET OnLine, which uses Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage and 2020–2030 employment projects data, cites:

  • Median wage of $57,800 annually in 2021 for medical and clinical laboratory technicians
  • Number of job openings a year from 2020 to 2030 of 104,000
  • Job outlook with faster than average growth of 10 to 15% in new jobs between 2020 and 2030

Do you have the diagnostic chops to excel as a medical and clinical laboratory technician?

You may be interested in pursuing a career as a medical and clinical laboratory technician, but is it the right role for you? The best way to find out is to discover your aptitudes. Aptitudes are the natural ability to learn or perform in given areas. They solidify around the age of 14.

You can find out what your job- (or performance-) based aptitudes are by taking YouScience Discovery. It’s an aptitude-based college and career guidance solution. When you use it to uncover your aptitudes, it matches your aptitudes and interests or both by fit for more than 600 in-demand careers. Students who take Discovery often find they have aptitudes for careers they never considered and may have never heard of.

A recent study by YouScience, State of the Future U.S. Workforce, Student Ability Report, found that more students have the aptitude for health science careers than interest.

Aptitude vs interest for health science career pathways showing 1.8x more aptitude than interest

Discovery results for medical and clinical laboratory technicians

You’re likely to excel as a medical and clinical laboratory technician if your YouScience Discovery results find you have a strong talent for:

  • Attention to detail (visual comparison speed)
  • Seeing the relationship between numbers (numerical reasoning)
  • Analyzing information (inductive reasoning)
  • Mentally organizing information (sequential reasoning)

How this career's interests fit you result from YouScience Discovery for medical lab tech

The image above shows the author’s aptitude match in YouScience Discovery for a role as medical and clinical laboratory technician. The orange dots show the author’s aptitude. The white dots are the ideal aptitude for the career.

What if your aptitudes don’t align with a career as a medical and clinical laboratory technician? That’s okay, Discovery shows you hundreds of careers that do match your aptitudes. And knowing your aptitudes and the matching careers is critical for finding the fastest path to your best-fit future.

In addition to aptitudes, Discovery assesses your interests. Those destinated for a satisfying career as a medical and clinical laboratory technician will be interested in careers that are:

  • Realistic and support practical, hands-on problem-solving working with plants, animal, or inanimate materials.
  • Investigative and involve working with ideas and doing a lot of thinking.
  • Conventional and follow set procedures and routines.

Discovery also shows you how your interests align with each job.

How this career fits you result from YouScience Discovery for medical lab tech

The image above shows the author’s interest match for a role as medical and clinical laboratory technician. The blue dots show the author’s interest. The white dots are the ideal interests for the career.

What about education?

If you plan on a future as a medical and clinical laboratory technician, you want to finish high school. You also want to plan on earning a bachelor’s or associate degree.

You can take a shortcut by earning CTE certificates in high school that help you skip entry-level college courses or go right to work in an entry- to mid-level career.

Stackable credentials for medical and clinical laboratory technician and other health science career pathways

Precision Exams by YouScience offers industry-recognized certifications that can help your CTE teacher prep you for a role as a medical and clinical laboratory technician as well as for other health science career pathway, including:

  • Clinical Laboratory Technology that covers reagent preparation, registering patient samples, processing specimen samples for analysis, and working with laboratory equipment.
  • Medical Forensics which covers laboratory skills and safety, microscopy, toxicology, measurement, physical evidence identification, pathology, anthropology, entomology, psychology, and blood spatter analysis.
  • Health Science Fundamentals that offers an overview of beginning anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical ethics, diseases, and disorders.
  • Medical Terminology that gives an overview of medical terms and the proper pronunciation, spelling, and use of medical terminology.

Find added stackable credentials below.

 


 

Career 2 – nurse

The nation needs nurses perhaps more than for any other health science career. McKinsey & Company reported that there may be a shortage of between 200,000 to 450,000 registered nurses (RNs) by 2025. And, in addition to RNs, the nation needs nursing assistants, nurse practitioners, and acute care nurses too.

What do nurses do? A lot. According to O*NET OnLine, the top activities in a nurse’s day include:

  • Helping and caring for patients.
  • Documenting and recording patient information.
  • Making decisions about and solving problems with patient care.
  • Communicating with patients, doctors, and peers.

image of nurse health science career pathway with nurse reviewing chart

The job outlook for RNs and nursing assistants

The job outlook for nursing roles doesn’t quite mesh with reports of a nursing shortage. The BLS forecasts only a normal job growth rate of 9% for RNs and 8% for nursing assistants. Regardless, the nation will need nurses, who per O*NET OnLine, can expect:

Registered nurses Nursing assistants
Median annual wages $77,600 $30,310
Annual job openings 194,500 187,000

What aptitudes set nurses apart?

Nurses need:

  • Inductive reasoning abilities to draw conclusions from what’s in front of them and quickly solve patient needs.
  • Sequential reasoning to layout patient information in a logical order, understand it, and explain it to doctors, technicians, other nurses, patients, and families.

You’ll also find nursing enjoyable if you find the following types of work interesting.

  • Investigative — work that lets you search for facts and figure out problems mentally.
  • Social — work that lets you communicate with and teach people, typically by offering a service or help to other people.
  • Conventional – work that is practical and detail-oriented and uses set rules and processes.

Types of work that interest you results from YouScience Discovery

YouScience Discovery assesses interests as well as aptitudes and shows you the types of work you might enjoy based on your interests. The interests here are those of the author.

Education pathways for nurses

RNs typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree while a nursing assistant needs at least a high school diploma. A postsecondary certificate can also help a nursing assistant get ahead as a certified nursing assistant or CNA.

Whether you want to become an RN, nursing assistant, or another type of nurse, you can take advantage of your high school CTE program to earn certifications now.

Stackable certifications for nurses

High school students interested in a future career in nursing can get a jump start by taking these exams:

  • Earning a Nursing Assistant certification proves you’ve mastered the competencies needed to perform as a nurse assistant under the direction of the registered nurse.
  • National Health Science Certification (NCHSE National Exam) is available as a capstone exam or a four-part series, this national exam offers a comprehensive certification of skills in every aspect of medical care.
  • Health Science Fundamentals offers an overview of beginning anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical ethics, diseases, and disorders.
  • Medical Terminology gives an overview of medical terms and the proper pronunciation, spelling, and use of medical terminology.
  • Customer Service covers the strategies, skills, and abilities needed to work with customers.
  • Business Office Specialist lets you master Microsoft Office, including Microsoft Excel, which is a critical skill needed in health science roles.

Find added stackable credentials below.

 


 

Career 3 – dietitian and nutritionist

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in and advisors on diet and nutrition. They work directly with patients or patient groups (such as at a hospital or care facility) on what foods they should and shouldn’t eat. They’re also critical advisors for patients with eating disorders, allergies and food sensitivities, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy and other health challenges.

O*NET OnLine lists the top 5 work activities for dietitians and nutritionists as:

  • Offering personal help, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to customers or patients.
  • Gathering information from relevant sources.
  • Keeping current with knowledge and technology needed for the role.
  • Documenting and keeping written or electronic information.
  • Translating or explaining what information means and how to apply it.

image of dietitian health science career pathway showing discussion with patient

Job growth forecast for dietitians and nutritionists

The outlook for roles as a dietitian and nutritionist is strong. The projected growth in new jobs from 2020 to 2030 is 10 to 15% – faster than average. And O*NET OnLine shows that for this role, the:

  • Median wage for dietitians and nutritionists in 2021 was $61,650
  • Projected job openings each year from 2020 to 2030 are 5,900

What natural abilities suit dietitians and nutritionists?

People with natural abilities for these aptitudes will excel as dietitians and nutritionists and they’ll enjoy their work because it will come naturally to them.

  • Idea generation with a tendency toward being a brainstormer so you can quickly analyze a patient’s situation and offer solutions.
  • A timeframe orientation as a future focuser, which means you focus on longer-term goals, which will help you help clients and patients over months or years.
  • Sequential reasoning so you can mentally arrange information in logical order.

You’ll also be interested in types of work that let you be:

  • Investigative — work that lets you search for facts and figure out problems mentally.
  • Social — work that lets you communicate with and teach people, typically by offering a service or help to other people.
  • Enterprising – work that let you start up and carry out projects.

What education do you need to become a dietitian and nutritionist?

According to the BLS, dietitians and nutritionists need a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in programs that cover dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area are the most common.

Added on-the-job training and often a license are also required. The most common license is the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential, administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some dietitians and nutritionists hold a master’s degree.

Stackable certifications for this role

High school students can get a jump start as a future dietitianand nutritionist by taking these exams:

  • Dietetics and Nutrition I that covers food safety and sanitation, culinary technology, food preparation and dietary analysis to develop a healthy lifestyle with pathways to career readiness.
  • Nutrition and Wellness that introduces students to nutrition principles and applications; influences on nutrition and wellness; food preparation, safety, and sanitation; and science, technology, and careers in nutrition and wellness.
  • Health Science Fundamentals that offers an overview of beginning anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical ethics, diseases, and disorders.
  • Medical Terminology that gives an overview of medical terms and the proper pronunciation, spelling, and use of medical terminology.
  • Customer Service that covers the strategies, skills, and abilities needed to work with customers.
  • Business Office Specialist that lets you master Microsoft Office, including Microsoft Excel, which is a critical skill needed for dietitians and nutritionists.

Find added stackable credentials below.

 


 

Career 4 – physical therapist or physical therapist assistant

Physical therapists (PT) help people recover mobility after a surgery or injury or deal with chronic conditions that affect mobility and comfort. They may work in a hospital, care facility, clinic, or independently. Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) help physical therapists and act much like a medical assistant would for a doctor or a dental assistant for a dentist.

According to O*NET OnLine, the top activities in the day for a PT or PTA include:

  • Helping and caring for patients.
  • Documenting and recording patient information.
  • Making decisions about and solving problems with patient care.
  • Working directly with people.
  • Gathering information.

image of PT science career pathway with PT and patient talking

The job outlook for physical therapists and physical therapy assistants

The BLS forecasts higher than average job growth and solid salaries for both PTs and PTAs through 2030. It forecasts 21% growth for PTs and a whopping 32% for PTAs.

PTs PTAs
Median annual wages $95,620 $49,180
Annual job openings 239,200 140,500

What aptitudes set those in physical therapy apart?

PTs and PTAs use inductive reasoning abilities to draw conclusions from what’s in front of them and quickly solve patient needs. They use sequential reasoning to lay out patient information in a logical order, understand it, and explain it to the patient, doctors, and other care providers.

Those attracted to physical therapy are typically interested in work that is investigative, social, and realistic.

Education pathways for PTs and PTAs

PTs need a bachelor’s degree and roughly 44% hold a master’s. PTAs most often hold a 2-year associate degree. Both career pathways can take advantage of CTE certificates earned in high school.

Stackable credentials for PTs and PTAs

  • Introduction to Physical Therapy shows you have a solid overview of the history, medical terminology, documentation, therapy treatments, and pertinent legal and ethical considerations needed for a PT or PTA.
  • Exercise Science and Sports Medicine signifies you understand therapeutic careers, injury prevention principles, the healing process, rehabilitation techniques, therapeutic modalities, and more.
  • Medical Anatomy and Physiology proves you have a good overview of intermediate anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, diseases and disorders, medical ethics, and first aid.
  • Medical Terminology shows you understand the basics of medical terms and the proper pronunciation, spelling, and use of medical terminology.
  • Customer Service demonstrates you know how to help patients and how to assist them in making decisions and resolving concerns.

Find added stackable credentials below.


 

Career 5 – medical assistant

If you’re an organized people person, a future as a medical assistant may be your calling. And you have a variety of options. O*NET OnLine lists 10 job titles for medical assistants, including ophthalmic assistant, ophthalmological assistant, optometric assistant along with medical and doctor assistants.

Medical assistants, by any title, are the people you first talk to when you see a health care provider. The ones who come in and take your history and find out why you’re there. O*NET OnLine lists the top daily activities for medical assistants as:

  • Gathering information — seeing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Using computers to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Documenting and recording information in written or electronic form.
  • Helping care for patients by providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
  • Updating and using relevant knowledge to keep up-to-date technically and apply new knowledge to job tasks.

image of medical assistant health science career pathway with woman at microscope

The outlook for medical assistants

The forecast growth for medical assistant jobs is high at least 15% through 2030 – that’s a bright outlook according to O*NET OnLine. O*NET also lists:

  • Median wage in 2021 of $37,190 annually
  • Number of protected job openings annually from 2020 to 2030 of 104,400

The right aptitudes for medical assistants

So, what are the natural abilities that will help someone excel at and enjoy being a medical assistant? The top aptitudes for this role in Discovery are as follows:

  • Sequential reasoning, so you can arrange information in a logical and linear order and explain it to other caregivers, like the treating physician.
  • Inductive reasoning with a tendency to be a good diagnostic problem solver, so you can quickly and effectively gather information and share it with the doctor who’ll treat the patient.
  • An interpersonal style that’s more extroverted, so you’re comfortable interacting with people all day.

In addition to aptitudes, medical assistants will excel at work that meets their interests for activities that are social, conventional, and realistic.

What do you need to get hired as a medical assistant?

According to O*NET OnLine, medical assistants need at least a high school diploma. Some jobs require an added postsecondary certificate or some college, but not a degree.

And if you come out of high school with a CTE certificate or stackable certificates specific to medical assistants, you come out ahead of fellow graduates who don’t have them.

Stackable credentials future medical assistants can earn in high school

Find added stackable credentials below.

 


 

Added credentials for every health science career pathway

Here are a few added certificates to add to your “stack” no matter what health science career pathway you choose to head down.

21st Century Skills

21st Century skills – also known as soft skills or employability skills – are cited by 92% of hiring managers as equally or more important than hard skills.

The Precision Exams 21st Century Success Skills certification from YouScience gives you tangible proof of your employability skills, which include critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, leadership, teamwork, and collaboration skills, and more.

Computer skills

Virtually every job today involves technology. O*NET OnLine includes a Technology Skills section for every job included in this post. No matter the career you pursue, you need to know how to use email and various software.

A good place to start is with a certificate that proves you have basic computer knowledge. The Precision Exams Computer Technology I certification assesses computer literacy. And Business Office Specialist offers a foundation in all things computer.

There are a lot of rewarding health science careers. If you want to find your best-fit career, take Discovery to uncover your aptitudes, your matching careers, and the education pathway – including CTE certifications – to get you there.

Ready to discover 200+ stackable credentials and aptitudes and aptitude-based resume language?
Ask your school about YouScience. Or buy your own copy of Discovery to uncover your natural talents, best-fit careers, and aptitude-based resume language.