Careers in Health Professions
The term “Health professions” includes those health-related occupations for which students require specialized training, as well as an advanced academic or professional degree. Students interested in the health professions have a wide variety of occupation and degree options, including the areas of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and optometry. The health professions can also include physician assistants, physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy, as well as many others. Degrees in the health professions include the MD, DO, DDS/DMD, Ph.D., MS, MA, and MPH among many others
Generally, there are seven basic categories of healthcare careers. These categories do not represent a hierarchy; Different careers require different strengths among their professionals. We recommend that you consider careers in the category that best matches your strengths and interests.
The Seven Career Categories in Health Care
• Diagnosis/Treatment Areas
Involve direct patient care by exceptionally well-trained professionals. These fields are usually very selective/competitive, require significant levels of
science/mathematics, require, or prefer a full degree, and require a postgraduate degree.
Examples: dentists, optometrists, doctors, medical assistants, nurses, podiatrists, and veterinarians.
• Allied/Associated Fields
Either allied or perform treatments prescribed by diagnostic/treatment professionals. These fields require well-trained professionals and involve direct patient care, usually more manual labor than diagnostic/treatment fields, and therefore require strong interpersonal skills. These fields are moderate to highly selective/competitive, require moderate to high levels of science/mathematics, and generally start at the undergraduate level, but can extend to the doctoral level.
Examples: nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, genetic counselors.
• Fields of rehabilitation
They also involve direct and practical assistance to the patient by well-trained professionals. They are usually moderately selective/competitive but can be very selective/competitive if the number of applicants far exceeds the number of places available. Some require a completed bachelor's degree; others start at the university
level. Most require moderate levels of science/math and strong interpersonal skills.
Examples: audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, recreation therapists.
• Assisting/Complementary Areas
Supporting other healthcare professionals and usually primarily involve direct patient care or practical applications. These fields are low to moderately selective/competitive and generally require minimum levels of science/math. Some can be completed with just a certificate; others require an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even a bachelor’s degree plus a certificate.
Examples: technologists, technicians, assistants, or aides.
• Educational Fields
Assist patients and people with their health and with the healthcare system. Selectivity depends upon the program and degree sought, ranging from associates to bachelor’s degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates, and graduate-level degrees. These fields require little to no science/mathematics, but some science/mathematics usually provides an advantage. Some require a background in education or counseling, and a strong foundation in the humanities or social sciences is helpful. Strong interpersonal skills are usually essential.
Examples: dietary managers, biomedical writers, mental health workers, health educators, health science librarians.
• Administrative Fields
Assist or manage health organizations, not individual patients. Selectivity depends upon the program and degree sought. Degrees are offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Courses in science are advantageous but not usually required. Some degrees require a background in business, which includes mathematics, and most require a strong foundation in the social sciences.
Examples: nursing home directors, geriatric care managers, health wellness coordinators, hospital public relations officers, quality assurance directors, medical secretaries, admitting officers.
• Affiliated Fields
These are independent of but related to health care. These fields vary widely: some require direct patient care while others entail no patient care; some are science-based while others are based more in the social sciences; some are highly selective, others minimally selective. Most fields require a graduate program plus a graduate degree, often doctorate research.
Examples: biomedical engineers, biostatisticians, social workers, epidemiologists, athletic trainers, environmental health scientists.
A big part of healthy living includes health care, be it from traditional health care providers such as physicians or alternative care providers such as acupuncturists. With people living longer and the world's population increasing, the need for health care professionals continues to grow. In fact, some of the fastest-growing professions that offer the highest pay and lowest unemployment rates are in the health care field, such as a physician, physical therapists, and registered nurses. Also contributing to this growth is the use of new medical technologies to diagnose and/or treat patients. These technologies will require specialists to operate and administer them, creating more jobs in the health care arena. In addition to diagnosing and treating illnesses, most health care professionals now focus on wellness and prevention. Wellness is the state of being in constant good health while prevention means stopping illness before it starts. More and more, physicians are encouraging patients to adopt healthy habits, including eating well and exercising. Additionally, physicians and other health care providers are looking more closely at patients' lifestyles and emotional well-being to determine whether these may be contributing factors to their illnesses. Understanding exactly what a health care
professional does can help an individual decide what type of caregiver he or she should see for a particular ailment. This information can also bring a greater understanding of the vast network of health care professionals who work together to keep people healthy and well.