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Health Care Lawyer: Job Description & Career Requirements

Learn what education you'll need to become a health care lawyer. Find out about the job duties and education and licensure requirements for this career, as well as for two alternative careers.

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Career Definition

Health care lawyers interpret the highly complex health care regulations and statutes collectively known as health care law, which govern the administration of health services. These specialized attorneys advise hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and any other provider of health care on all matters affected by health care law including licensing, reimbursement, risk management, malpractice litigation, and general corporate management issues.

The scope of health care law requires highly skilled lawyers to judiciously counsel health care providers on a wide array of concerns, including bioethical issues, such as assisted reproduction. Health care lawyers also navigate the laws relating to Medicare and Medicaid compliance and the implementation of new technology in observance of patient privacy laws. Additionally, these lawyers may craft legislative strategies.

Become a Health Care Lawyer

Required Education

Health care lawyers must be licensed attorneys who have completed a Juris Doctor degree program and have passed their state's bar exam. To maximize employment opportunities, those who seek a career as a health care attorney should take courses in health care law while pursuing a law degree and seek intern and clerkship opportunities with health care providers or with governmental agencies that regulate them.

Skills Required

A logical and analytical mind is required to practice any type of law. Health care law also requires a strong affinity for policy and the legislative process in addition to general curiosity about the inner working of the American health care system.

Career and Economic Outlook

Employment of lawyers is expected to grow about as fast as average from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); however, competition for job openings should be strong due to the large number of students graduating from law school each year. The median annual salary for all lawyers, including health care lawyers, was $113,530 in May 2012, though salaries are highly dependent upon specialty, type of employer and location, according to the BLS.

Alternative Career Options

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Those who are interested in health care but prefer to enforce the law instead of interpreting it may be interested in becoming occupational health and safety specialists. These specialists inspect office buildings and other workplaces to ensure that worker-safety regulations are being followed. They may also be involved in investigating workplace injuries and training employees. A bachelor's degree in a field related to occupational health is the minimum requirement for this career, although a master's degree may be required by employers. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for occupational health and safety specialists was $66,790, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that this field will grow at a slower-than-average pace of 7% from 2012 to 2022.

Claims Examiner

The job of claims examiner may be good for anyone interested in health care insurance. These workers review health insurance claims and then authorize or deny payment of the claim amount. Although a high school diploma is the minimum requirement, a bachelor's degree or some experience in the field may increase job prospects. Claims examiners may be required to obtain a license in some states. According to the BLS, the 2012 median annual salary for claims adjusters, examiners and investigators, including health care claims examiners, was $59,960. While employment growth for this career field is expected to be slower than average from 2012 to 2022, the BLS reports that much of the growth will be in the health insurance industry.

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