Pharmacy, podiatric medicine and physical therapy are among the top 10 health care jobs in 2015, according to the website CareerCast,  

Western University of Health Sciences offers doctoral degrees in all three programs, and officials agree that the future is bright for these professions.

Pharmacy has an average annual salary of $116,670, and the profession is projected to grow 14 percent by 2022, according to CareerCast.

Pharmacy is a great career, and it’s getting better every year, said College of Pharmacy Dean Daniel Robinson, PharmD, FASHP. Pharmacists have been ranked among the highest of all professions for honesty and ethics for more than 20 years by the Gallup Poll, he said. Pharmacists are also recognized as being the most accessible health care professionals by the public.

“Pharmacy education and the profession have evolved over the past 30 years, from a focus on the drug product to a focus on the appropriate use of drugs to manage and prevent disease,” Robinson said. “In the U.S., we spend over $300 billion annually on prescription drugs, and we spend another $200 billon on the management of adverse drug events. There is a tremendous opportunity for pharmacists to improve the outcomes of medication therapy and reduce the consequences associated with improper drug use.”

California has led the nation by expanding the scope of pharmacy practice to include greater opportunities for direct patient care in nearly all practice settings, Robinson said.

“Pharmacists are now being recognized as an integral part of the health care team, and under the Affordable Care Act, they share responsibility for improving the patient experience, improving health care outcomes and controlling costs,” he said. “This is a great time to become a pharmacist.”

Podiatrists make an annual average salary of $116,440, and the profession is expected to grow 23 percent by 2022, according to CareerCast. The aging baby boomer population is one of the drivers of the surge in job growth for podiatrists.

“Most people are going to have problems with their feet over time,” said College of Podiatric Medicine Dean Lawrence Harkless, DPM. “As Socrates said, ‘If your feet hurt, everything hurts.’ The diseases of age and overindulgence affect the feet – diabetes and arthritis put people’s feet and limbs at risk. In fact, an entirely new branch of podiatric medicine and surgery has grown out of the complications of diabetes – limb salvage surgery.”

A simple bunion or hammertoe in a person with diabetes can turn into a limb and even life-threatening problem, Harkless said.

“It is the podiatrist’s responsibility to help the patient head off problems with prophylactic surgery to correct deformities and to treat wounds if they occur due to a lack of sensation and decreased circulation,” he said. “We can diagnose and implement a treatment plan to heal you and prevent it from reoccurring.”

One of the appeals of the profession is that podiatrists can see the tangible results of their work right away, Harkless said. They can diagnose the problem, create a treatment plan, and often get the patient back to walking during the same appointment. DPMs have patients who limp into the office in pain but leave pain free. It is one of the best parts of being a podiatrist, Harkless said.

“The other thing they like is the variety of what they see,” he said. “A podiatrist sees young patients, middle-aged patients and those of senior years. They deal with sports medicine and conditions of systemic disease. Almost everything that happens to the human body manifests itself in the lower extremity. It’s challenging and not boring.”

Physical therapists have an average annual salary of $79,860, and the profession has a projected growth by 2022 of 36 percent, according to CareerCast.

“At WesternU, we are proud of our faculty and students. Our retention rate for PT is 99 percent,” said Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA, Dean of the College of Allied Health Professions. “We have a commitment as an academic team to be successful. Our participation with interprofessional education and our dynamic clinic partners contribute to our success.”

Forbes ranked physical therapists as having one of the “10 Happiest Jobs,” according to articles published in 2011 and 2013. Likewise, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center survey, reported in The Washington Post, showed that more than three-quarters of physical therapists polled reported to be “very satisfied” with their occupation. In addition, physical therapists were second only to clergy and were the only health care professionals in the top five, said Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy Education, part of WesternU’s College of Allied Health Professions.

When applicants and students are asked what has attracted them to the profession, the common theme in their responses is to make a difference and improve and enhance quality of life, Schilling said.

“Many individuals in the field have either had a personal experience with PT or have witnessed PT through a family member or friend,” she said. “The positivity of the experience in ‘hands-on’ care, personal interactions and successful outcomes has a tremendous influence on career selection.”

The vision for the PT profession, adopted in 2013, is “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” That vision holds endless opportunity, high impact and tremendous satisfaction and reward, Schilling said.

“The physical therapy profession is only limited by the limits one places upon oneself,” she said. “There is opportunity for innovation, building long-term relationships, and changing not just lives, but communities and society. Job opportunities reach across the lifespan and in a variety of settings. There is no opportunity for redundancy or boredom, as the profession requires a life-long commitment to learning, service and advocacy.”