A master’s degree in the healthcare field can be the beginning of a variety of fulfilling careers—and opportunities are plentiful. Physician assistants are the fastest growing healthcare occupation in Kentucky that requires a master’s degree.
In addition, among all careers requiring a master’s degree, healthcare social workers, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists are projected to be in the Top 10 in number of Kentucky openings in 2026.
Note: Doctoral degrees are also available in these areas, and many professionals who wish to go into leadership roles pursue these more advanced degrees.
Demand for physician assistants is growing in Kentucky, with a 23.80 percent increase in the number of positions projected from 2018 to 2028. PAs, under a supervising physician, conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications.
Master’s degree programs for PAs look for students with an undergraduate background in science and health care and experience directly caring for patients.
The University of Kentucky has a physician assistant program on its Lexington campus and at Morehead State University. There are also physician assistant programs at the University of the Cumberlands and Sullivan University.
- Physician assistants, 23.80 percent increase from 2018-2028, from 1,105 to 1,368 positions. Median wage $94,076.
Healthcare social workers
Healthcare social workers help people and families dealing with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. They may serve as case managers, therapists, or care navigators, making referrals and addressing barriers to access healthcare. To become a healthcare social worker, you usually need a master’s degree in social work.
- Healthcare social workers: 14.51 percent increase from 2018-2028, from 1,778 to 2,036 positions. Median wage $50,858.
Speech and occupational therapy
Speech language pathologists diagnose and treat swallowing and communication disorders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two out of five speech language pathologists worked in schools in 2016. Most others worked in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.
Occupational therapists treat patients with various illnesses, injuries, and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb. They help patients with skills needed for activities of daily living and working.
- Speech language pathologists: 22.41 percent increase, from 2,062 to 2,524 positions. Median wage $70,378.
- Occupational therapists: 15.87 percent increase, from 1,216 to 1,409 positions. Median wage $79,101.
Figures from the Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2028.