There are many different career options within healthcare, each with their own unique roles and responsibilities, but which ones pay you the most for your time?
Although money should never be your primary motivation when choosing a career, it is still an important part of the decision-making process. Another important factor to consider, however, is time – not just the amount of time it takes to get into that career, but also how much time you put in each week to earn your salary.
These are the 10 healthcare jobs with the highest hourly pay.
Highest-Paying Healthcare Jobs
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Physician Assistant
- Nurse Practitioner
- Radiation Therapist
- Physical Therapist
10 | Physical Therapist
Number ten is physical therapist.
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who help patients improve mobility and manage pain through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. They play an important role in preventative care, rehabilitation, and the treatment of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.
They can work in a variety of different settings including private offices and clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Physical therapists make an average of $91,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week giving us an average rate of $44 per hour.
To become a physical therapist in the United States, you must earn your DPT, or Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, from an accredited program and pass a state licensure exam. Most physical therapy programs are three years in length and require applicants to obtain a bachelor’s degree before admission.
Some programs offer a 3+3 format where you take 3 years of specific undergraduate and pre-physical therapy courses before advancing into the three-year DPT program; however, most programs follow the more common 4+3 model.
9 | Radiation Therapist
Number nine is radiation therapist.
Radiation therapists are healthcare professionals who work alongside radiation oncologists to treat cancer. They are the ones who run the machinery and administer the radiation treatments to the patient.
Common duties include explaining treatment plans to patients and answering questions, performing x-rays to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment, examining machines to ensure they are safe and working properly, and delivering radiation therapy. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or outpatient cancer treatment centers.
Radiation therapists earn an average annual salary of $94,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week, yielding an average hourly wage of $45.
To become a radiation therapist, you must gain certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists by completing either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy and passing a state licensing exam.
8 | Nurse Practitioner
Number eight is nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have completed additional training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease. NPs work in a variety of different specialties so their roles and responsibilities can vary significantly.
Most nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a physician; however, some states allow NPs to practice independently without supervision, which may pose an increased risk to patient safety.
Nurse practitioners earn on average $112,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week, translating to an average hourly rate of $54 per hour.
If you are already a registered nurse, there are two pathways to becoming a nurse practitioner. There is the Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP. MSN programs typically last 1-2 years whereas DNP programs usually take 3 or more years to complete. Once you have completed an accredited program, you must pass a national board certification to become licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
7 | Physician Assistant
Number seven is physician assistant.
Physician assistants are midlevel providers who assist doctors in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients. Much like nurse practitioners, physician assistants can work in a variety of specialties, so their roles and responsibilities are dependent on many factors.
Physician assistants earn on average $115,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week, giving us an hourly wage of $55 per hour.
To become a physician assistant, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisite coursework in basic and behavioral sciences. In addition, many PA programs also require prior healthcare experience with hands-on patient care. Common examples include being a medical assistant, emergency medical technician, or paramedic.
Most PA programs are around 26 months in duration and award master’s degrees. Once you graduate from an accredited PA program, you are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, or PANCE, and become a certified physician assistant.
6 | Optometrist
Number six is optometrist.
An optometrist is a healthcare professional who provides primary vision care. Not to be confused with ophthalmologists who are medical doctors, optometrists practice optometry which involves giving eye exams, writing prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses, identifying abnormalities in the eye, and treating certain diseases of the eye like glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Optometrists take home $118,000 per year on average and work an average of 40 hours per week, yielding $57 per hour.
To become an optometrist, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and physics. You must also take the Optometry Admission Test, or OAT, and gain shadowing experience with at least one optometrist.
Optometry school is typically four years long and grants you a Doctor of Optometry, or OD, degree. Some optometrists choose to do an additional one-year residency to further subspecialize; however, it is not required.
To practice as an optometrist, you will also need to pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry test and obtain state licensure.
5 | Pharmacist
Number five is pharmacist.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who focus on the safe and effective use of medications. They dispense prescription medications and offer expertise to patients and other healthcare professionals on how to use or take the medication, correct dosing, and potential side effects.
The average pharmacist earns $129,000 per year and works an average of 40 hours per week giving us an hourly wage of $62 per hour.
To become a pharmacist, you typically need at least two years of college education; however, most aspiring pharmacists earn their bachelor’s degree before applying to pharmacy school.
Before applying to pharmacy school, you also need to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test or PCAT. This exam covers topics including writing, biological processes, chemical processes, and clinical reasoning.
Once you complete these requirements, pharmacy school typically lasts 3-4 years and awards you with a PharmD degree. There are also “0 to 6” programs that allow high school students to gain both their bachelor’s and PharmD degrees in 6 years; however, these programs are more competitive than the more traditional pharmacy school training pathway.
We cover more on the competitiveness of pharmacy, dentistry, and other medical professions in a previous article.
4 | Podiatrist
Number four is podiatrist.
Podiatrists are the experts in issues of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. This includes problems such as foot pain, abnormal growths, injuries, diabetic foot issues, and nerve damage.
Podiatrists make an average of $134,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours a week, yielding an hourly wage of $64. It should be noted that depending on practice type, podiatrists may work as little as 30 hours per week and as much as 60 hours per week.
To become a podiatrist, you must first earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree and complete standard prerequisites. Similar to medical school, getting into podiatry school also requires you to take the MCAT. So, if you thought applying to podiatry school would spare you from the MCAT, think again.
Podiatry school, just like medical school, is four years long, and will grant you the designation of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, or DPM. You’ll cover similar foundational training to MD and DO students in your first two years but focus more heavily on podiatry during years three and four.
After podiatry school, most states require a 3-year residency covering medical and surgical training; however, the duration does vary by state.
After podiatry residency, there are also options to specialize further with podiatry fellowship including sports medicine, limb salvage and preservation, and reconstructive foot and ankle to name a few.
3 | Dentist
Number three is dentist.
Dentists are the experts in oral health. They diagnose and treat problems of the teeth, gums, and other tissues in the mouth and guide patients on the importance of proper diet, brushing, flossing, and other aspects of dental care.
Dentists have an average salary of $164,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week giving us an average hourly wage of $79. It should be noted that most dentists work in private practice, so compensation and hours worked per week can vary greatly.
To become a dentist, you must first complete four years of college and take the Dental Admissions Test, or DAT. This test is composed of four sections that assess your knowledge of the natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning.
After completing these requirements, dental school is 4 years long and awards you with either your Doctor of Dental Surgery, or DDS, or Doctor of Dental Medicine, or DMD. For those who know they want to pursue dentistry in high school, there are also BS/DDS programs lasting anywhere from 5- to 8-years that allow students to gain their bachelor’s and dental degrees at the same time.
After dental school, there are residency programs available to specialize further; however, they are not required to practice general dentistry.
2 | Nurse Anesthetist
Number two is nurse anesthetist.
Nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, are nurses who have completed additional training in anesthesia administration. In general, nurse anesthetists work alongside anesthesiologists to administer anesthesia; however, some states allow them to work independently without a supervising anesthesiologist.
Nurse anesthetists earn on average $184,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week, translating to $88 per hour.
To become a nurse anesthetist, you must complete a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, or BSN, pass the NCLEX exam, and gain experience working as an RN. Most graduate nurse anesthetist programs require at least 1-3 years of experience in an intensive care unit or critical care setting.
As of 2022, the minimum degree requirement of CRNAs is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice, or DNAP. Depending on the school, nurse anesthetist programs are generally 2 to 3 years in duration.
After CRNA school, you must obtain certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) and obtain state licensure.
1 | Doctor
Last but not least, the number one healthcare job with the highest hourly rate is doctor – not a Doctor of Nursing practice, or Doctor of Physical Therapy, but an MD or DO physician.
Doctors are the leaders of the healthcare team and use their extensive medical knowledge to diagnose and treat patients.
The average primary care physician has an annual salary of $242,000 per year and works 51 hours per week giving us an hourly rate of $91. The average specialist earns $344,000 per year and works 52 hours per week giving us an hourly wage of $127 per hour.
It should be noted that physician compensation varies wildly both between specialties and within specialties with the highest-paid physicians earning well over $200 per hour.
To become a doctor in the United States, you must first earn your bachelor’s degree in university, then medical school for 4 years, then complete residency – lasting anywhere from 3 to 7 years – followed by fellowship for additional sub-specialization.
That being said, getting into medical school and becoming a doctor is much easier said than done. Of all the various medical professions, becoming a physician is the longest, most challenging, and by far the most competitive.
The path of getting into medical school is arduous, with complexities, nuances, and roadblocks that can stop even the most ambitious of premedical students.
If your dream is to become a doctor but you find yourself overwhelmed, be sure to check out the Med School Insiders Premed Roadmap to Medical School Acceptance course. Our team of top physicians came together and built this course from the ground up to streamline your entire college experience into a single high-yield resource. This is the guide we wish we had back as premeds ourselves, as it would have helped us avoid countless mistakes and made the process much smoother and less stressful.
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If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the Top 6 Doctor Specialties with the Highest Hourly Rate or the 10 Doctor Specialties with the Lowest Hourly Rate.