Edward Lai, currently the Vice President of Business Development at Bensonhurst Rehabilitation Center, Hopkins Center and Fairview Rehab discusses the types of job opportunities that are trending in today’s healthcare industry, shares his own career insights and how candidates can best prepare for those career prospects.
Audience: Job Seekers — those looking to pivot their careers into healthcare or even just considering to begin their career in healthcare.
What is the Trend?
America is aging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Population Projections, in the next few decades, 1 in every 5 residents will be older than age 65, a number that’s projected to outpace those younger than 18 for the first time in history. By 2050, the senior population will have doubled to 90 million. More specifically, the number of adults ages 85 and older will nearly quadruple.
According to a study by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, as the population ages, 8% will have cognitive impairments, 60% will have mobility limitations and 20% will have high needs.
According to Edward, “Cognitive impairments means that mental status will be down, they may not know what they may be doing at times and it happens a lot. We see a lot of these kinds of patients in nursing homes. Mobility limitations are from strokes, from surgery, and a lot of different types of effects on the patient’s well-being as they get older. I suspect the high needs are bed down patients which we will be caring for. So this is the trend in America which is why healthcare is blooming.
Ten Reasons To Consider a Healthcare Career
This is the reason why Edward ended up with this career path.
- You’ll enjoy job security. “During Covid lockdown, there have been unfortunate events that happened like being laid off and companies going out of business — but I have not missed a day of work. I was here everyday serving the patients.”
- You will do work that interests you. “You will get to pick the field that you find most interesting to you to pursue your work in.”
- You can live and work anywhere you want. “Once you have that profession, like a nurse, nurse practitioner, physical therapist — you name it, technically you can work in all states and everyone needs your service.”
- You can find a health career that fits your educational plans. “What that means is that if you don’t want credentials that require a lot of schooling. For example, you don’t want to do 4 years of nursing school but you only want to do 2 years, then studying to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) would be the best option for you. You are still a nurse, but a lower grade nurse — in this case that fit your needs.”
- You can learn by reading and doing. “Healthcare is pretty straightforward.”
- You can get help to pay for school. “Definitely true. My sister went to nursing school. There’s a lot of scholarships and grants. You want to pay for your schooling so you can hurry up and get into position to serve the population in the hospital — so there are actually a lot of opportunities.”
- You’ll have a clear path to advancement. “You go in as entry-level and in several years, you may be offered a higher level position, whether it is a nurse manager, a rehab director, you name it.”
- You will earn a good salary. “Definitely true, but it depends on what you consider a good salary though because most of us won’t earn $1 million a year. In general, it is a pretty good income for many folks.
- You can work with people, or you can choose not to work with people, “because once you have the credentials, you can do a lot of things in your liking.”
- You can make a difference in people’s lives. “This is my favorite part because this is what I do on a daily basis.”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections
Employment is projected to grow from 162.8 million to 168.8 million over the 2019–29 decade, an increase of 6.0 million jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. This reflects an annual growth rate of 0.4 percent, slower than the 2009-19 annual growth rate of 1.3 percent, which was bolstered by recovery from the 2007-09 Great Recession. The healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to add the most new jobs, and 6 of the 10 fastest growing occupations are related to healthcare.
Fastest Growing Occupations
Listed at #2 in job outlook growth rate 52%, a Nurse practitioner-requires a Master’s degree and extensive nursing experiences, its 2020 median pay is $111,680! These medical professionals are highly sought after because they are working in every medical settings and although they can only work under MDs and DOs; they are practitioners and can perform like a doctor rather independently.
On your #4, the OTA has a growth rate of 35% with a median pay of $62,940. The job requires an OTA license. They work with the occupational therapist.
A very familiar job to many of us, the HHA/PCA is coming in at #6 in job growth at 34%, this is due to population is getting older and the need for home care is in the raise. HHA is averaging a little over 27K in 2020. It is based by the State.
The PTA (#7) is also highly sought after by hospitals and nursing home at a growth of 33% and a median pay of 59K. PTA requires a PTA license and works closely with the physical therapist.
Edward’s profession — and folks in management positions like #8 Medical and Health Services Managers earns an average of just over 6 figures. These are folks like me in management positions, like medical site managers, facility administrators, office managers, marketing executives etc.
Rounding the top 20 growing jobs according to BLS are #9 PA which makes 6 figures and the Speech-Language Pathologist making on an average 80K.
U.S. News Ranked #3 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Nurse Practioner (NP)
“They are seen in hospitals, nursing homes and normal medical practice. They examine and treat patients independently. They don’t need the doctor to stand next to them. They make those determinations on their own. They can ensure proper illness and injured care and disease prevention. They can do treatment and recovery. They can also provide medications. Nurse Practitioners are something I know a lot about because that is what my younger sister wants to become, so she is starting as a Registered Nurse. After a few years of becoming an RN, then you can become a NP once you have all that experience, expertise and higher educations, etc. It is a very good career to have and the salary is also high.”
U.S. News Ranked #70 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)
“They work very closely with the rehab team in nursing homes. They can also work in hospitals. Very good pay. This job does not require a 4 year degree. basically you just need to get the license. It’s roughly about over 1 year. A lot of people get an Associate’s Degree within 2 years. It is a very easy occupation to enter. The salary range is $55K-$67K annually. Based on this compensation and work environment, this is a very rewarding profession. You basically work in a rehab gym — it is very safe, quiet and this position typically has its own schedule. It is very flexible and spaced out. You normally would work with each patient for about 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time. The COTA helps patients perform activities of daily living as they recover from their illness and injury. The COTA basically works under the Care Plan.
In case you are not aware, Occupational Therapy is not like Physical Therapy. OT focuses more on the upper body like using your hand movements, getting up from your bed, etc. PT focuses more on the lower body.”
U.S. News Ranked #28 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Home Health Aide (HHA)
“It is pretty surprising that the HHA position is ranked so high in the BLS Projections and U.S. News 100 Best Jobs. You may think working as an HHA is so simple since there is no specific educational requirements. You can just obtain a license from many places fairly easily. Many HHA agencies do not require you to pay. You just go to school, they pay for your license or they reimburse you, and you get the job.
HHAs spend a lot of time with their clients in their own home and assist them with their daily living and activities such as cooking for them, cleaning up the house and accompany them to medical appointments, etc. This job is very high in demand right now and it doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon. They have fringe benefits as well and typically in NYC I would say the salary is about $35K to begin with.”
U.S. News Ranked #13 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)
“The national average salary for this role is $63K. The PTA prepares the patient and equipment for therapy and implements the treatment plans. They do exercivses, stretching, maneuvers, and they help the patient to increase their mobility. Being a PTA requires an Associate Degree. It’s a pretty satisfying job.
In senior year of high school, I went to a rehab hospital in Texas and this hospital basically opened my eyes up. I was volunteering for about 3 weeks. Everyday I was there and I saw how they worked and performed; the way PTAs assisted patients with walking them to see them get better.”
U.S. News Ranked #4 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Medical and Health Services Managers
“Including me, these are administrators, executives, directors, planners, coordinators that works behind the scenes to keep hospitals, nursing homes, group therapies and other healthcare facilities running. We are pretty organized individuals. We are administrators, we work with Department of Health, we hire the staff to provide the care to our patients.
The unemployment rate for this group is just 1.1% and the average salary is about six figures. The average number of jobs in this field are about 133K. In order for you to work in a hospital or nursing home, the minimum requirement would be a Bachelor’s Degree. If you are highly experienced in a certain area like Marketing or Healthcare Management, they can always look at other options. There is no certification per se, basically a lot of us are just providing opportunities somehow because we have been doing this for a while.
For example, I have been working in this field for 9 years in home care setting. After a while if your boss trusts you, you get more responsibilities and from there — you just grow. I am very fortunate that I was provided that opportunity.”
U.S. News Ranked #1 Out of 100 Best Jobs
“This profession is needed for medical practitioners to see patients — diagnose and treat. Normally when a doctor comes in the room to see patients, they are not really MDs (allopathic doctor) or DOs (osteopathic doctor). Those are the big doctors. In most cases, it would be the Physician Assistant that would come in to see you. The average for a Physician Assistant — they earn well over six figures and they are very important in the hospital settings because when the patient discharges, they have to be approved by the physician, but most of the time — the Physician is not available so the PA would approve most of those discharges. They would go in to talk to the patients and families to explain different procedures that they have to do and care plans, etc.
Very valuable profession, highly respected in the industry. And one of the reasons why this job is so popular is because the Physician Assistant completes their education in a short amount of time. On the other hand like in medical school, you have to go through 4 years of undergrad, and you have to have 4 years of medical school — after the 4 years, you have residency, internships… it’s just a ton of time that you have to put in and I know many people that went to medical school that failed and it’s just not too pretty.
But for Physician Assistant, some schools offer a Bachelor’s program and the most would be a Master’s program that most schools now require. In New York, I think there’s 1 or 2 schools that allows a Bachelor’s program for the Physician Assistant. So if anyone is interested in this #1 job in the U.S., you guys should take a look since there is a lot of opportunities out there for this profession.”
U.S. News Ranked #7 Out of 100 Best Jobs
Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)
“Basically for this position, they work in schools. They work for non-profits. They are also in nursing homes as well as hospitals. The average pay is $84K.
They basically access and treat speech and language disorders. They use a lot of cards and games to help people use their speech accordingly. They are wonderful people. A lot of them have their own practice so they can help people regain their speech.
Normally, they would have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. And most of these SLPs that I know have some Science Degree. But the ones who work in nursing homes, normally have a certification that allows them to do the swallow test as well — because a lot of times after the patient get a stroke, they would request a test so that we know that they can swallow. It is very important because if they can’t swallow, they can’t eat. If they can’t eat, then we might have some intensive procedures to do the feeding, etc.
A Speech-Language Pathologist does more than just speech. They would help us with these swallow tests. They do need to have a certification — that is required.”
Jobs Not Ranked But Highly In Demand
Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) are a few of the many highly demanded jobs. Edward mentions that “these are not ranked by the BLS, but it is ranked as one of the 100 Best Jobs as you can see.”
Registered Nurse (RN)
“The RN position is ranked #37. Why is the RN position so popular? This is actually my recommendation to everyone. I actually missed that opportunity when I was young. I was working as a CNA in college just X amount of years ago. I was working in a nursing home and that was one of my very first jobs, actually.
When I went to college, I went to visit this nursing home in Abilene, Texas and I just feel drawn. So I started working for them as a CNA — the nursing home offered me the opportunity to go to nursing school for free and I turned it down. I was young and pretty naive and I didn’t want to get tied down because they wanted me to sign a 3 year contract.
Now if someone offers you a nursing school education, an opportunity to be and you just spent 3 years of commitment, just take it. I did not.”
So Edward answers WHY? for RN. His personal recommendation is “if you really do have the time, the investment to do this, go for the RN. Basically RNs are the first ones to access the patients. They record the patients’ medical history, symptoms. They work in hospitals and nursing homes — and they basically set up plans for patient care. They operate more into medical equipment. They have to run a lot of tests. They provide a certain comfort in a medical setting because doctors don’t really have times to explain that many things. But when the nurses are treating you, that is the frontline of care. So I believe that nursing is the most important especially since I work in a nursing home — and who’s the most important? Of course it’s the nurses.”
“The opportunity for nursing is tremendous. You start off as an entry-level RN and you start to move towards a different capacity like a Unit Manager, a Floor Manager, you know, like.. very specific units. Like the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), they pay more critical care nurses. Then you can become the Director of Nursing.”
Edward provides a personal touch to this story.. “Recently, I helped this lady from Beijing. She worked at another nursing home. She worked so hard and I can see it. She has such passion for patients so I spoke with the Fairview administrator and we were able to offer her a position as an Assistant Director of Nursing. These are great examples that if you put some hard work into things, you get rewarded. It just happened yesterday that she was able to get this position and she was very happy about it.”
“So what is the earning potential for an RN? You start off as around national average $70K? If you move up to let’s say, an Assistant Director of Nursing over here in my group, then it would be around $140K-$150K. For Director of Nursing, it would be around $180K (this is for nursing homes). If you work in a hospital setting, you are talking about high-level nurse administrators — and those would be over $200K.”
“I think that as a nurse you obviously, especially with COVID — a lot of people say that it is a very dangerous occupation and it is no fun, but that is not the case. A lot of times, you have your PPE; it’s a pretty safe environment to work in. They don’t just throw you in a dangerous (position) for no reason; you will have your protection — and as you move up, it’s pretty much going to be an office job setting. For example, I see a lot of Nurse Managers in an office setting. They are no longer on the floor. As you move up, you are more like a manager, sort of speak.”
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
“The LPN won’t have that much opportunities, but as an LPN — it takes fairly little time for you to complete your education and start working so potentially you can start working for hospitals, nursing homes… Nursing homes mostly, because you will be doing medication and some treatment. Not a lot though, because a lot of the assessment is done by the RN.
However, as an LPN — you have an opportunity as a lower level manager that supervises all the CNAs on the floors as well.”
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
“A CNA is what I started off as and in this position — it is very frontline. You care for the patients, you bathe them, etc.”
Edward emphasizes the importance that “all in all, these 3 positions are highly in demand. After you get out of school, get your license, you will get a job right away — and get a job in my group.”
Top “Entry Level” Healthcare Openings
Edward asserts that, “a lot of 2 year colleges, career schools, Allied Health schools have programs for you to complete your education and be onto a career.”
Allied Health professionals are involved with the delivery of health or related services pertaining to the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; rehabilitation and health systems management, among others. Allied health professionals, to name a few, include dental hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, dietitians, medical technologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiographers, respiratory therapists, and speech language pathologists. Many of these professions are ranked by US News, including dental hygienist at #32, medical sonographer at #33 and respiratory therapist at #57.
Think Outside The Box
What Edward wants everyone to do is to think outside the box.
“A lot of times, people will think that all you have are doctors and nurses as healthcare jobs. But that’s not the case with a lot of stuff going on. I want everyone to put some thinking caps on to see what’s out there for them.. really. Do some research and find something that is to your liking.”
Healthcare Jobs That Typically Do Not Require a 4 Year Degree
EMT: No degree or even high school diploma required!
“I have so much respect for them. Just imagine our world without EMTs. What are we going to do? They are usually the first ones there if we need help. They perform CPR, they stop the bleeding, things like that.
To become an EMT, you just go to EMT school. Its about 3-4 months of night school or full-time day hours and you can get the license to start practicing. The average salary is around $36K. Although not a lot of money, they are highly respected.”
LPN: No degree required!
“Most LPNs already have Associate Degrees although no degree is required at this point. Certifications are necessary though.”
Pharmacy Technician: No degree required!
“When you go into Walgreens for example, they all have their license. If you go to your local Chinese pharmacies, many of them do not have their license because you don’t need that to become a Pharmacy Technician.
Medical Coding and Billing: No degree required!
“You have schools to study for medical coding and billing, and there are certificate programs for it but it is not required. Basically after Physicians treat their patients, they don’t bill them. Physicians would just hand over to the medical billers, and the billers according to what procedure is being done — they would submit those coding for payment — to the insurance companies
Medical Assistant: No degree required!
“They have a certificate program and they would have to go for an internship. Most of them are seen at medical clinics. They assist the doctor with a ton of responsibilities from the paper work to medications, to finding he right equipment, etc.”
Surgical Technician: Obtainable within 2 years, AOS degree
“You don’t really hear people talk much about surgical technologists. They basically prep the surgery room, the operation room and they prep it based on what the Physician directs them to do.. For example, if they are performing heart surgery — they will tell them it’s for heart surgery, to prepare equipment like knives, scalpels, cotton balls, etc.”
Licensed Health Insurance/Benefits Advisor: no degree required!
“Typically, you see these types of workers assisting clients with their Medicare applications/enrolling into Medicare programs or other health insurance programs. You actually need a license in order to be able to do that. Medicare programs. They have a base salary and comes with a very nice commission. You can make around $90K.”
CNA: No degree required!
Dental Assistant: No degree required!
“Certification required though.”
How To Prepare for a Career in Healthcare
- What specific role within the healthcare industry is most suited for you? As Edward suggests, “Just because it is suitable for me, doesn’t mean it is most suitable for you. So you need to find that passion and know what you want to do.”
- Figure out the time and money investment aspect because as Edward asserts, “some people are willing to spend 6 years of their time to pursue their dreams/goals, while some don’t have the means or patience to do so since they have to provide for their family, etc. We are all in different situations.”
- Know your own strengths and weaknesses. “I’m bad with science, I’m bad with math so I didn’t pursue being a PA, MP, all those medical professionals. I know I’m very good with selling stuff so I did marketing and I carved out my own path based on that. Slowly but surely, I moved to this level” (now as a Senior Vice President for Business Development at Bensonhurst Nursing Home).
- Volunteer to get a feel of the industry. “A lot of hospitals, nursing homes and social sectors allow you to volunteer. Get a feel of people. Get a feel of healthcare professionals.”
- Have commitment towards the credential/degree requirements. “You have to be committed to be able to succeed at a high level. I truly believe that. Once you are committed into something, then you can do it.”
Q&A from Interested Job Seekers to Edward
- Q: If I want to be a Chinese interpreter, do I have to get licence or certificate? Where can I take them?
- A: Being an interpreter is an excellent career choice. Being certified definitely gives you a leg up. You should look into being certified as a court interpreter and/or becoming a medical interpreter, I have enclosed the website: https://www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org/
- Q: I am currently in my gap year after a 16-month post-pandemic. I am an administration, office, community support, and data entry specialist. Can you advise what is the benefit as per diem basis administration position for a hospital for someone like me moving from the retail sector into healthcare/hospital? My passion is learning and helping people in the communities. I’ve left NYC for good and now living in the capital state region exploring this much-needed job market.
- A: Don’t stay away too long from action. Basic administrative role at hospitals are highly competitive. You seem to have a lot of experience from previous jobs, but you are not standing out… so my approach would be to build some relationship via volunteering in the hospital settings and then use those relationships to help you gain entrance. Benefits for working in hospital administrative roles are great benefits and longevity.
- Q: How long will it take to study LPN? How much is the salary range? Is it possible to take that course even if I am not a nursing student? I am an Engineer from the Philippines. Which is better to study health care aide, LPN or business management? My age is 61 but I look younger than my age and am strong. Which path would you think best suits me with a good salary and demand?
- A: Good choice! LPN vacancy is expected to grow 11% through 2028. National median pay is 65K, but do not expect that amount especially as a fresh grad. 45K-56K in NY, with nursing home nursing supervisor also as potentials. Great job prospects. NYC schools also hires a fair share of LPN. You do not require any previous nursing school education, but you should have a high school diploma and be able to pass the NCLEX-PN to practice in New York. I would suggest you working as a HHA to start while you attend LPN school, that way you can have some income for the time-being, and that course is super short you can complete with breeze. LPN school takes about 14 months or less. It’s never too old to pursue a dream. My father earned his doctorate at age 60. Here’s a link to one of the nursing schools: https://www.amg.edu/lpn-program/
- Q: Can I take a LPN course even as an engineering grad? How long will it take?
- A: Yes you can take LPN course as a engineering grad, any grad, as long as you have a high school diploma and is proficient in English and math.