ST. JOHNSBURY -- In 2009, the Vermont General Assembly proclaimed October as Health Careers Awareness Month in Vermont. This annual campaign is sponsored by the Vermont Area Health Education Center (AHEC) network to raise awareness of the many opportunities and benefits in pursuing a health care career in Vermont.

Demand for health care is rising as our population ages. And our health care practitioners are aging too; many will retire in the next decade. Without enough young professionals to replace them, Vermont could face serious shortages in its health care workforce. A variety of health professionals are in high demand right now, including: primary care physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, mental health and substance abuse clinicians, pharmacists and direct care workers.

"Some students may never have thought about a career in health care until we talk with them," says Kim O'Connor, Health Careers Coordinator at the Northeastern Vermont AHEC.

There are great "REASONS" to consider health care as a career include:

â?¢ Respect: Health care professionals are respected members of the community for their professionalism, knowledge, and ability to help others in need.

â?¢ Everywhere: A licensed or certified health care professional can work anywhere in the state, country or nation, and these professionals are in high demand.

â?¢ Appreciated: Health care is an essential part of human life. It is a career field where you are certain to make a difference to other people. A health care professional's work is received with a great deal of appreciation by those they help and heal.

â?¢ Salary: A health care professional earns a livable wage and frequently, valuable benefits. Compared to other professions with equivalent education beyond high school, health professionals often earn a very competitive salary. With additional training, one's income can continue grow.

â?¢ Occupations: There are over 300 health careers to consider. Education requirements vary from on-the-job training to post-graduate study and everything in between.

â?¢ Needed: According to the Vermont Department of Labor, 14 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in the state over the next 20 years will be in health care.

â?¢ Science and technology: New technologies, techniques, medicines and methods are continually being developed to improve patient care. Health professionals have opportunities to learn and grow at every stage of their career. There are constantly exciting innovations happening in the field of medicine.

The Northeastern Vermont AHEC offers health career explorations programs to middle and high schools in Caledonia, Orleans, Essex, Orange, Lamoille and Washington counties. Teachers, counselors and others interested in a presentation at their school should contact O'Connor at (802) 748-2506 or at healthcareers@nevahec.org. You can also explore careers in health care online at vthealthcareers.org.

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