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    New report names nursing top job

    Each year, U.S. News & World Report compiles a list of the best careers based on the Labor Department's employment projections. The just-released list names nursing as the top job opportunity, which includes five healthcare professions in the top 10.

    The others are pharmacist, medical assistant, physical therapist and occupational therapist.

    The report describes how to approach each of these five professions:

    Registered Nurse
    Salary Range: $44,190-$95,130
    ‘One of the first things you should determine when entering this field is what type of nursing you'd like to do. According to Michael Wolf, an economist with the BLS, one of the reasons this profession will gain nearly 712,000 positions this decade is because it's such an expansive profession, period. “Actually its growth rate is good, but not out of line with some other occupations," he says. "Registered nurses should grow by about 26 percent. The healthcare practitioner occupations as a whole have a growth rate of about 26 percent, though." The bench might be deep, but the playing field is still competitive. For a better chance at landing a nursing job, you'll want to determine your niche early, consider using virtual networking tools, and look for employment outside a hospital setting.’

    Pharmacist
    Salary Range: $82,090-$138,620
    ‘There are some obvious perks to this profession. The compensation is one – pharmacists earn one of the highest average salaries of all of our Best Jobs – and excellent job prospects is another. But these literal pill pushers also undergo years of study, several examinations, and a postgraduate residency before donning their white coats. And like many healthcare practitioners, pharmacists frequently work evening shifts, weekends and some holidays. Place yourself ahead of the competition during your job hunt by trying to secure internships early in your education. Also consider taking a few business courses if your program doesn't already include them in the curriculum, since many pharmacists work within retail facilities.’

    Medical Assistant
    Salary Range: $20,810-$40,190
    ‘There's no formal training required to become a medical assistant – technically. But if you want to distinguish yourself from the 162,900 other budding medical assistants out there, you must get a gimmick, says Jean Lynch, director of communications and marketing at the American Association of Medical Assistants. For example, if you want to work in a dermatologist's office, consider training and certification as an esthetician or massage therapist. Keep in mind that the additional knowledge, when coupled with experience, could lead to a promotion into other healthcare-support positions.’

    Physical Therapist
    Salary Range: $53,620-$107,920
    ‘This is another healthcare job that requires a minimum of a master's degree to begin practicing. And with good reason, since physical therapists often see patients overcoming adversity: Injured athletes, amputees and stroke victims might all find themselves working with these professionals to rebuild their range of motion, coordination and muscle strength. This profession graces our top 10 not only because of its comfortable salary and good job prospects, but because it's also one of the faster-growing occupations of the next decade. There should be a nearly 40-percent increase in available positions by 2020.’

    Occupational Therapist
    Salary Range: $48,920-$102,520
    ‘The term "occupational therapist" is purposely vague, because the purview for which these highly trained professionals could provide therapy is exhaustive. Patients with mental, physical, developmental and emotional disabilities might see an occupational therapist to learn to function independently. There is no "typical" day, and therapists' specific – yet varied – skills will particularly be in demand as a large chunk of our population ages. This is one of fastest growing occupations this decade, but to land one of the 36,400 positions available before 2020, you'll have needed a head start. Certified therapists must earn at least a master's degree from an accredited university.’

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