What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Health Science?

Ann Feeney, CAE
Updated September 8, 2023
Looking for a job in the health field that doesn't require going to med school? See our roundup of high-paying health science careers.
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Health science jobs feature high salaries, rapid job growth, and the satisfaction of helping people. Whether you enjoy research and desk work, or prefer working hands-on with individual patients, there’s a health science job to match your goals.

This guide covers some of the best-paying jobs in healthcare that do not require a medical degree.

Health Science Career Overview

Most health science graduates specialize in fields like public health, bioinformatics, diet and nutrition, or epidemiology. While you need a master’s degree for many of the health science jobs with the highest salaries, there are plenty of good, high-paying jobs for those with an undergraduate degree as well. Because of the growing demand for health science occupations, employers may help pay for a graduate degree.

Highest-Paying Undergraduate Health Science Careers

Maybe you are looking for a high health science salary but don’t want to pursue a master’s degree. These jobs offer opportunities to help others, earn a good living, and come with the possibility of career growth. Whatever your strengths, these are some of the best-paying jobs in healthcare for those with an undergraduate degree, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Highest-Paying Undergraduate Health Science Careers
CareerAverage Annual Salary
Medical and Health Services Manager$119,840
Biomedical Engineer$101,020
Radiation Therapist$94,000
Dental Hygienist$81,360
Dietitian or Nutritionist$65,620
Source: BLS

1. Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers oversee hospitals and health systems, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare facilities and programs. They must understand how health systems work, but they do not require any clinical expertise. Medical and health services managers should be exceptionally organized, good communicators, comfortable with technology and data, and strong problem-solvers. They must work with a variety of professionals, including medical, legal, information technology, administrative, and other staff members.

Most medical and health services managers have an undergraduate degree in a management or health sciences field, such as health administration, business administration, or health informatics, and develop experience in healthcare. Annual salaries average more than $100,000, though this figure includes professionals with both a graduate and an undergraduate degree.

Average Annual Salary: $119,840

2. Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers specialize in developing medical products and usually work for medical equipment and supply manufacturers, research and development firms, or other medical industries.

While the primary focus is developing or improving medical devices and equipment, some biomedical engineers specialize in installation and troubleshooting, project management, or sales and support. This profession lets you be on the cutting edge of new technologies, such as remote robotic surgeries or developing brain-machine interfaces.

Most biomedical engineers major in bioengineering or another form of engineering, such as mechanical or electrical engineering. A master’s degree is helpful for management or senior roles, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Internships can help you gain experience, develop a network of professional peers, and experiment with different disciplines.

Average Annual Salary: $101,020

3. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists administer radiation therapy, primarily to patients with cancer. You can become a radiation therapist with either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, though many employers prefer the four-year bachelor’s degree for management and higher-level roles. In most states, you must earn certification by graduating from an accredited school and passing the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists certification examination.

Radiation therapists must be detail-oriented and focused on safety. Because patients are often in physical and/or mental distress, this work requires empathy and communication skills, as well as technical expertise. Radiation therapists also need physical stamina to assist patients as necessary.

Average Annual Salary: $94,000

4. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists perform dental cleanings, take X-rays, polish teeth, and assist dentists with different procedures. They also help educate patients on good dental hygiene. Most dental hygienist positions require only an associate degree, which typically takes three years and a state license. The specific requirements vary by state, but most require graduating from an accredited program and passing a licensing examination.

Dental hygienists must be able to communicate well with patients and address their physical and mental discomfort. This physically demanding job also involves frequent bending and standing.

Average Annual Salary: $81,360

5. Dietitian or Nutritionist

Dietitians and nutritionists educate clients on food choices and nutrition and help them adopt the right diet for their health needs. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, government branches, nursing and residential care facilities, and physician or other health services offices.

Dietitians must earn certification and are legally allowed to treat clinical conditions related to diet and nutrition. Requirements for nutritionists vary by state and are typically less demanding. Some states do not have any requirements. However, nutritionists can receive certification from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists.

Dietitians and nutritionists must understand psychology and communications, as well as the biology of diet and nutrition.

Average Annual Salary: $65,620

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Highest-Paying Graduate Health Science Careers

Many of the best-paying jobs in healthcare require a master’s degree and also often require certification. The average health science salary for these positions is higher than the average salary in the U.S. of $58,260, according to the BLS. Most of these jobs are also growing faster than average, given the aging U.S. population and demand for healthcare.

Highest-Paying Graduate Health Science Careers
CareerAverage Annual Salary
Physician Assistant$119,460
Occupational Therapist$89,470
Genetic Counselor$86,640
Speech-Language Pathologists$85,820
Source: BLS

1. Physician Assistant

Physician assistants are not licensed physicians, but they can diagnose and treat conditions. They typically work in hospitals and health systems or other healthcare settings, such as clinics, schools, and correctional facilities. Legally, a physician must supervise their work; however, the degree of oversight varies by state. Like physicians, physician assistants must be effective communicators.

Typical undergraduate degrees for physician assistants include health science fields or biology. You must complete a master’s degree from an accredited program and pass the licensing examination from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Many physician assistants pursue other certifications in specialty areas.

Average Annual Salary: $119,460

2. Genetic Counselor

As genetics advances as a field, it raises many complicated emotional and ethical issues, such as genetic embryonic screening and genetic testing for inherited conditions. Genetics counseling is a relatively new field that developed in response to these issues. State licensing requirements vary widely, but most employers require certification from the American Board of Genetics Counseling. To become certified, you must graduate from an accredited master’s program and pass the exam.

Genetics counselors must be expert communicators and treat their patients with respect and empathy. Their patients are often making some of the hardest decisions or facing some of the most difficult situations in their lives. While most genetic counselors work as part of a hospital or health system, especially academic medical centers, some practice independently.

Average Annual Salary: $86,640

3. Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help patients with injuries or other physical conditions that affect their daily lives. These professionals teach patients how to complete exercises and perform daily activities with less pain or risk of injury.

Occupational therapists must earn a master’s degree from an accredited school, complete fieldwork hours, and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy certification examination to get licensure. Most occupational therapists work in hospitals, physical therapy practices, or schools, though they may also work in nursing homes or home care.

Occupational therapists must be physically able to assist patients with limited mobility and demonstrate exercises. They must also be able to motivate patients, especially when exercises are painful or tiring.

Average Annual Salary: $89,470

4. Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists help patients with speech issues or trouble swallowing. They often work with children in schools or with adults in private speech therapy practices or in hospitals. Speech-language pathologists help patients recover their ability to speak after an accident or illness, such as a stroke. They also work with patients who are still developing their speech abilities.

Typically, speech-language pathologists hold an undergraduate degree in speech therapy, health sciences, or biology. All states require licensing. To be licensed, you must graduate from an accredited master’s program, complete fieldwork hours, and pass an examination. Many states or employers require certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In most states, speech-language pathologists who work in schools must receive a license specific to working with children in schools.

Average Annual Salary: $85,820

5. Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists study the distribution, causation, and prevention of diseases. This position requires understanding both the biological causes of disease and the social factors that affect them, such as beliefs, behaviors, and cultures.

COVID-19 highlighted the importance of epidemiologists in preventing infectious diseases and reducing their impact. Many epidemiologists work to prevent noninfectious preventable diseases, such as cancer, by studying environmental factors like pollution and behaviors like smoking or dietary habits.

Most epidemiologists work for state or local governments, but they also work for hospitals, health systems, and nonprofits, including international development organizations. They analyze a wide variety of data and many perform research in laboratories, communities, or both. While many epidemiologists have doctoral degrees, entry-level positions typically require a master’s degree. This is one of the few of the best-paying healthcare jobs that does not require licensing.

Average Annual Salary: $86,740

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Science Jobs

Can you become a doctor with a health science degree?

You can become a physician with an undergraduate or graduate health science degree if you attend medical school. You can also use your health science degree to enter a doctoral program in a field other than medicine, such as public health, epidemiology, biomedical engineering, or related disciplines.

What are the most in-demand health science jobs?

Some of the most in-demand health science jobs include:

  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Home health and personal care aide
  • Physical therapy assistant
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Substance use and mental health counselor

Some positions, such as home health and personal care aide, do not require lengthy education or training. Others, such as an occupational or physical therapy assistant, allow you to advance once you have more training and experience.

Can you earn a health science degree online?

Many schools offer undergraduate or graduate health science degrees online or in a hybrid format, with some on-campus requirements. If your health science program requires fieldwork, you may be able to complete fieldwork in your community, especially if you live in an area with many healthcare providers.

Is health science a difficult field?

The difficulty of the health science field depends on your individual strengths and areas that need development. You need at least a basic understanding of medicine, research methods, statistics, social sciences, and communication. However, you can choose a specialization to maximize your strengths.

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