Explore a Career in Health Care

If you are looking for a secure, rewarding career where the demand for workers will always exceed the supply, look no further than the health care industry. Here's a brief look at the opportunities that await you.

Oklahoma Needs You

The second largest industry in Oklahoma, health care provides nearly 200,000 jobs, or 14% of the state's total employment. Surveys show Oklahoma is experiencing a strong demand for several key nursing and allied health positions. Take a look at the projected needs below to see how a career in health care in Oklahoma is a choice that promises secure employment.

OccupationProjected Shortage in 2012
Registered Nurses3,135
Medical and Lab Technicians and Technologists606
Occupational Therapists171
Physical Therapists432
Surgical Technicians303

Major Oklahoma Health Care Employers

Oklahoma's hospitals employ thousands of health professionals. But there are also plenty of opportunities with other facilities such as nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, public health agencies, physician and dentist offices, surgical centers, and more. Some hospitals, including those below, employ thousands of people.

Career Pathways in Health Care

Health care is a field of specialists. Some work directly with patients to improve their health or conduct diagnostic tests. Others work behind the scenes or develop new ways to treat diseases or injuries. Below are a few of the categories of health care occupations to consider. For a more detailed look, visit the Oklahoma Career Informatin System and click the Health Science occupational cluster.

Therapeutic Services workers provide patients with direct care and treatment. They may give information and counseling so patients can care for themselves. Occupations include anesthesiologists, athletic trainers, dental hygienists, pharmacy technicians, emergency medical technicians, nurses, veterinary technicians and more.

Diagnostics Services workers conduct tests and evaluations to identify diseases and injuries. Occupations include cardiovascular technologists, nuclear medicine technologists, and radiation therapists.

Health Information workers deal with patient information and records, often compiling records or creating bills. This sector also includes administrators who manage hospitals, nursing homes, clinics or departments. Occupations include pharmacy aides and medical transcriptionists.

Support Services employees pave the way for other health care workers to do their jobs. They keep machines and offices running smoothly or see that patients get healthy meals. Occupations include dietetic technicians and medical secretaries.

Biotechnology Research and Development scientists typically work in laboratories. They might try to discover new treatments for diseases or injuries. Or they may develop medical devices to help patients live fuller lives or to improve diagnostic tests.

Training and Skills Needed for Health Care Occupations

While various health care careers call for their own individual skills, there are plenty of common denominators. Academically, the focus is on biology. Beyond that, you can expect to use a wide range of skills ranging from the highly technical to some very general workplace proficiencies.

In addition to basic high school graduation requirements, you'll need a good knowledge of human structure and function and the things that can go wrong with them. This includes:

  • Cells, tissues, organs and systems and their interrelationships
  • Body planes, quadrants and cavities
  • Diseases and disorders and their causes, diagnoses and therapies
  • Control of disease-causing microorganisms
  • Types of immunities
  • Aging and disease processes in various body systems 

In addition, you'll need skills in: 

  • Communications
  • Legal responsibilities
  • Ethics
  • Safety practices
  • Teamwork
  • Information technology, and other areas. 

For a more detailed examination of the health sciences skill requirements, see the Cluster Knowledge and Skills section of Career Cluster Resources for Health Science, a book published by the States' Career Clusters Initiative project of career educators across the nation.

Training and Education Opportunities

Medical career training is everywhere - colleges and universities, community colleges, public career technology centers, private career schools and colleges, and elsewhere. Find a comprehensive list at Oklahoma Job Link. Click on Training Providers in the left navigation column and select from more than 500 specialties.

How Much Can You Earn?

Health care pay scales vary widely, depending in part on the amount of training and education you have. This table offers some examples.


Hear from those who are glad they chose a career in health care.

Starting Out: Kayci Hale, Registered Nurse

Kayci Hale

Labor and Delivery Nurse
Integris Baptist Medical Center
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Career Plan Delivers For New Nurse

Kayci Hale remembers caring for her brother when he was sick, and she has always enjoyed taking care of people. Now she's a nurse in labor and delivery at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

With a career goal in mind, Kayci took all the science classes she could in high school, including two advanced biology classes. That helped with college science courses, she says, and helped her win admission to the highly competitive nursing program at the University of Oklahoma. In the summer before her senior year, she interned at Baptist Medical Center. She continued as an "extern" during her senior year, and after graduation she became a full-time registered nurse at the medical center.

"It's the best," she says. "It's hard at times, but it's worth it."

Career Changer: Mike Zimmerman, X-ray technician

Mike Zimmerman

X-Ray Technician
Valley View Regional Hospital
Ada, Oklahoma

Retooled Radiation Technician Radiates Enthusiasm

Mike Zimmerman was 53 years old when he finally got the opportunity to pursue a nagging lifelong ambition to work in health care. Four years, he's working for the first time in a job he's excited to walk into every day. Bigger paychecks are a bonus.

Mike had been in sales, marketing, factory work, call center management and other jobs before getting a chance to serve as an aide in the radiology department at Valley View Regional Hospital in Ada. That provided the motivation and the opportunity to study radiation technology at Metro Tech in Oklahoma City.

"It changed my life entirely," he says. "Health care is what I was meant to do, and now I have that opportunity."

As an x-ray technician, Mike prepares patients and takes x-rays that help doctors diagnose and treat those patients.

"Most patients would rather be somewhere else," he says. "As a health care worker, you need to understand that anxiety and fear and help them through it." If you're considering a health care career, try volunteering first to see if it's something you really want, Mike suggests.

As for his own career, Mike thinks he might add three-dimensional CT and MRI imaging at some point, but for now, with the conversion from film to digital imaging, constantly evolving technology and a stream of ailing patients, he's finding plenty of opportunity right where he is.

Veteran: Jesse Dragoo, Vice President, Nursing

Jessie Dragoo

Vice President, Nursing
St. John Medical Center
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dragoo Climbs the Health Care Ladder from Candy Striper to Nursing Executive

"I always felt like nursing was a calling for me," says Jessie Dragoo, 34 years and several advances into a career in that field.

After starting as a volunteer candy striper in rural Arkansas, she earned an associate's degree in nursing and went to work, eventually landing at St. John. After rising from night shift to shift supervisor to manager, Dragoo went back to school – while still working full-time – for the bachelor's degree she would need to move into leadership positions. Two promotions later, she is St. John's vice president of nursing, a position she had a hand in creating to help the organization deal with recruiting, strategic planning and other issues.

"I like change, and I like to learn new things," Dragoo says by way of explaining the evolution of her career. "And opportunities have been here for me."