A Guide to Healthcare Careers: Finding Your Path


Choosing a career in healthcare can be very rewarding, but also challenging given the many options. Healthcare encompasses a broad range of occupations focused on providing medical services, improving public health through education and policy, or conducting research to advance medicine.

Physicians: Extensive Training for Patient Care

Becoming a physician requires extensive education and training, but offers the ability to diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, and directly oversee patient care. The first step is to complete a 4-year pre-medical undergraduate degree, followed by 4 years of medical school resulting in a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. New physicians must then complete a residency program lasting 3-7 years, giving hands-on supervised experience in their specialty, such as family medicine, pediatrics, surgery, or psychiatry.

Landing a medical residency is highly competitive. Most physicians become board certified in their specialty, after passing scores on rigorous exams. With this training, physicians assess patient symptoms, order diagnostic tests, develop treatment plans, and recommend prevention measures.

Nurses: Caring for Patients at all Levels

Licensed nurses provide hands-on care and emotional support directly to patients. Required training begins with earning either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) addressing topics like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and ethics. Nurses then must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to get state licensure that allows them to practice. Various nursing roles require additional certifications like Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or an advanced Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Common types of nurses include registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse midwives (CNMs), and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). These nursing careers differ by specialization, management vs bedside roles, autonomy in caring for patients, and average salary.

Medical Assistants: Critical Role on Healthcare Teams

Medical assistants play a critical support role in working alongside physicians and nurses. According to the experts in online education programs at ProTrain.edu, medical assistant training typically requires 1-2 years to complete academic coursework and hands-on clinical experience in areas like terminology, anatomy, record-keeping, medications, exam room procedures and lab techniques. An externship working in a clinic rounds out the training.

Some medical assistants go on to sit for a national certification like the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam through AAMA, or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) through AMT. The nationally recognized credentials can provide a hiring edge and opportunity for increased pay. Medical assistants capably manage routine administrative and clinical tasks under physician supervision, freeing up doctors and nurses to focus on advanced care.

More Opportunities: Educators, Technologists and Beyond

Many other roles keep healthcare delivery running smoothly. Healthcare administrators manage clinic and hospital departments, combining medical knowledge with leadership abilities. Most have master’s degrees in health administration or business. Public health officials identify health concerns of entire populations rather than just treating individual patients. They assess risks and educate the public to improve wellbeing. Biomedical technologists operate equipment like CT scanners, lab testing machinery and heart monitors, requiring specialized technical certifications.

Pharmacy graduates with Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degrees fill prescriptions and counsel patients. Physical and occupational therapists rehabilitate injured patients. Dental hygienists clean teeth, take x-rays and screen for oral diseases under a dentist’s supervision. Each vital healthcare career option offers people the chance to pursue livelihoods centered on compassion and scientific discovery.


Healthcare continues to be a profoundly meaningful and in-demand career sector. It offers something for every interest between working directly with people, conducting medical science research, developing new tools/technologies, and creating wellness education programs. For those eager to help people through science in a rapidly growing industry, a healthcare career promises ample opportunity to make a difference in building a healthier tomorrow.

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