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According to Explore Health Careers, there are over 120+ defined health careers. Below are the most common.
Dentists are highly skilled health professionals who provide a wide range of oral health care that includes the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of problems associated with the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. They examine the teeth, mouth, and associated tissues, diagnose and treat diseases, restore defective teeth and tissue, and replace missing teeth. Dentists are instrumental in the early detection of oral cancer and systemic conditions that manifest in the mouth. Today's dentists are at the forefront of a range of new developments in dental implants, computer-generated imaging and cosmetic and aesthetic procedures. Eighty percent of practicing dentists are engaged in general practice. The remainder specialize in one of nine areas, including orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, dental public health, and oral and maxillofacial radiology. There are over 60 accredited dental schools in the United States that grant Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D) degrees. Education includes a bachelor's degree and four years of dental school and additional training for specialties.
Allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) medicine include diagnosis of disease and other medical problems and all provide for treatment through surgery and the prescription of medications. While individual modes of diagnosis and treatment may be similar, there are also distinct differences outlined below.
Allopathic (M.D.) medicine
Allopathic medicine is based on the concept that the biology of diseases can be understood by reducing the body to its parts, organs, tissues, and systems. Medications and treatments are developed and prescribed based on biomedical research and systematic clinical trials.
The allopathic physician's responsibilities cover a wide range of functions in the maintenance of health and the treatment of disease, including both acute and chronic care and preventive approaches involving substantial patient education. These include diagnosing disease, supervising the care of patients, prescribing medications and other treatments, and participating in the delivery of health care. Although most physicians provide direct patient care, some concentrate on basic or applied research, become teachers and/or administrators, or combine various elements of these activities.
After completion of four years of medical school physicians are required to complete a residency program in order to focus their medical training. Areas of specialties include anesthesiology, family and general medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, surgery and vary in length. There are over 140 allopathic medical schools in the United States that grant the Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree. Education generally includes a bachelor's degree, four years of medical school, and from 3-8 years of medical residency training.
- Association of American Medical Colleges
- American Medical Association
- American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
Osteopathic (D.O.) medicine
Osteopathic physicians diagnose illness and injury, prescribe and administer treatment, and advise patients about how to prevent and manage diseases. A major distinction between the M.D. and the D.O is that the D.O. has a strongly holistic philosophy and practices osteopathic manipulative medicine, a distinctive system of hands-on diagnosis and treatment which focuses specifically on the musculoskeletal system.
Approximately 50% of the 54,000 osteopathic physicians in the United State practice general or family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics. The rest specialize in a wide range of practice areas, including emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and surgery. Like M.D.s, osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to diagnose, treat, prescribe, and perform surgery in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
There are over 30 accredited osteopathic medical schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Education includes a bachelor's degree, 4 years of osteopathic medical school, and from 3-8 years of medical residency training.
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- US Medical Schools (D.O.)
- American Osteopathic Association
- Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA)
- Read about Osteopathic Medical School Profiles
- The Road to Becoming a Doctor (AAMC)
Health Administration/Management (M.H.A., M.B.A., M.P.H., etc.)
Health administration and management is a very general classification of many business and management careers involved with health care. Healthcare managers hold leadership roles in hospitals, physician group practices, nursing homes, and home health agencies. They can also work with insurance companies, HMOs, companies that make disposable supplies and equipment, pharmaceutical companies, consulting firms, state health departments, private foundations, federal programs, and national associations.
Entry-level jobs vary in terms of the graduate’s interest, skills, and experience. Upon graduation, many graduates select either line management positions with staff supervision responsibilities - such as the Director of Admitting in a hospital - or staff positions - such as a Managed Care Analyst, Consultant, or Sales.
Degrees in healthcare management/administration are available at the baccalaureate, masters and doctoral level. A B.S. or B.A. degree - in any field of study - is the primary prerequisite for admission to a graduate program. A few common routes include a master’s degree in health administration (MHA) or public health (MPH), degrees in business (MBA) with course concentration in health services management or joint degrees (MBA/MPH).
There is a centralized application for Health Administration programs called the Healthcare Administration, Management, and Policy CAS; however, other degrees (business and public health, etc.) require individual graduate school applications and requirements.
For more information on health administration and management, see:
Nursing (ADN, BSN, MSN, DNP)
Nurses promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. They have a unique scope of practice and can act independently, although nurses also collaborate with all members of the healthcare team to provide the care needed by each patient. Nurses also serve as advocates for patients, families, and communities. They develop and manage nursing care plans, instruct patients and their families in patient care, and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health.
Nursing includes many specialty options, each with its own training/certification requirements and related professional network or organization. Among these specialties are critical care, emergency, hospice/palliative care, labor & delivery, neonatology, nurse-educator, nurse executive, oncology, orthopedics, perioperative (O.R.), psychiatric-mental health, school nurse, and women's healthcare.
Many community colleges offer an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), but there is a growing national movement to require all nurses to hold at least a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN). Thus, the length of educational training beyond high school is generally 2 to 4 years with advanced degrees an option. The Registered Nurse (RN) license is the basic credential in the nursing field. However, nursing ranges from entry-level practitioner to doctoral-level researcher.
UCR does not grant a bachelor's degree in nursing. Students interested in a four-year undergraduate nursing program should apply directly to a college/university with a nursing program. Transferring from UCR to a nursing program is difficult since such programs offer few positions for transfer students.
For more information on pursuing a nursing degree, see:
Occupational Therapy (MOT, DOT)
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from an injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
In order to acquire an occupational therapy license, students must obtain either a Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Clinical Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (DOT) from an accredited institution.
Optometry is a comprehensive healthcare field for eyes and vision, including examination, diagnosis, and treatment of the eyes and surrounding structures, and the treatment of vision problems. Optometrists (O.D.s) work with ophthalmologists (M.D.s or D.O.s) who are physicians specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and defects and who perform surgery. Optometrists also work with opticians who fit, supply and adjust eyewear according to prescriptions written by optometrists for ophthalmologists. More than 75% of practicing optometrists are in solo practice.
There are currently 21 accredited Optometry schools in the U.S. that grant the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Education includes a bachelor's degree and four years of optometry school.
Pharmacy is a doctoral level health profession in which licensed professionals provide information about medication to consumers and other health care professionals. Pharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and monitor patient health. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists must understand the use; clinical effects; and composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties. They protect the public by ensuring drug purity and strength. The goal of pharmacy care is to maximize positive health care outcomes and improve patients' quality of life with minimum risk. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drug store, or in a hospital or clinic.
There are over 100 accredited pharmacy schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Education includes at least two years of college and 4 years of pharmacy school. A Bachelor's Degree prior to admission to pharmacy school is strongly recommended and often required.
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
- Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy
- American Pharmacists Association
- American Pharmacists Association Academy of Students of Pharmacy
Physical Therapy (DPT)
Physical therapists (PTs) are experts in movement and function of the body. Physical therapy uses physical methods (e.g., manipulation, traction, exercise, massage, hot/cold therapy, etc.) to assess, diagnose, and treat injury, disability or disease. PTs work closely with patients of all ages to help them recover from and/or manage a wide variety of physical challenges and to help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients with injuries or disease. PTs work closely with patients to restore, maintain, and promote their overall fitness and health.
PTs examine patients' medical histories, then test and measure their strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. They also determine the patient's ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness. Additionally, they develop treatment plans describing a treatment strategy, its purpose, and the anticipated outcome.
There are currently 200 accredited physical therapy schools in the United States which grant a Master's of Physical Therapy or Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) degree. (By 2020, only the D.P.T. will be granted.) Education generally includes a bachelor's degree and 3-4 years of physical therapy school.
For more information, see:
Physician Assistant (PA)
Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. PAs should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.
Although physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is present for only 1 or 2 days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the physician. In 47 States and the District of Columbia, PAs may prescribe medications.
There are currently about 137 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States, more than 90 of which offer a master's degree. Education generally includes a bachelor's degree and 2-3 additional years to obtain a master's degree.
For more information, see:
Podiatric Medicine (DPM)
Podiatric medicine is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the study of human movement, with the medical care of the lower leg, foot, and ankle as its primary focus. A doctor of podiatric medicine has undergone lengthy, thorough study to become uniquely well-qualified to treat this specific part of the body. Many practitioners can focus on a particular area of podiatric medicine. These options can include surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, and primary care. The skills of podiatric physicians are in increasing demand because disorders of the foot and ankle are among the most widespread and neglected health problems.
There are currently 9 accredited podiatric schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) degree. Education includes a bachelor's degree, 4 years of podiatric school, and 1-3 years of residency training.
Public Health is a diverse and dynamic field that focuses on the health and well-being of populations. While medicine is concerned with individuals as patients, public health views the community as its patient. Public Health functions to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect against environmental hazards, prevent injuries, promote and encourage healthy behaviors, respond to disasters and assist communities to recover and assure the quality and accessibility of health services. There is a wide range of specialties in Public Health, including:
- Health services administration
- Health education/Behavioral science
- Environmental health
- Public health practice/Program management
- Biomedical laboratory
- Global/International Health
- Maternal and child health
Public health professionals work in both public and private sectors in such diverse positions as community health educators, researchers, and policy analysts. There are currently 40 accredited schools of public health granting masters and doctoral degrees. There are also a number of joint degree programs: MD/MPH, JD/MPH, MBA/MPH, MSW/MPH, MPP/MPH. Education includes a bachelor's degree with from 2 to 8 years of education beyond that.
- Association of Schools of Public Health
- What is Public Health?
- American Public Health Association
- Public Health Works!
- Public Health Jobs
- American Public Health Association - Student Assembly
- Public Health Online - Health Educators
Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
In addition to caring for pets and sports animals, veterinarians have traditionally maintained healthy and productive commercial food animals and livestock, secured the public health of humans and commercial animals, and treated illness and disease in livestock. Today, however, the breadth of veterinary medicine encompasses much more. While the majority of veterinarians (75%) are still in private small, large or mixed animal clinical practice, county, state, and federal governments, universities, private industry, zoos, the U.S. military, wildlife organizations, racetracks, and circuses are also some of the diverse settings that employ veterinarians.
There are currently 30 accredited veterinary schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degrees. Education generally includes a bachelor's degree and 4 years of veterinary school.
Allied Health Careers
Allied Health refers to a wide array of health careers that include technicians (assistants) and therapists/technologists. Currently, there are five million allied health care providers in the U.S., who work in more than 100+ different professions and represent approximately 60% of all health care providers. Technicians are trained to perform procedures and their education is generally less than two years. They are required to work under the supervision of technologists or therapists. Included in the allied health field are:
- Physical therapy assistants
- Medical laboratory technicians
- Radiological technicians
- Occupational therapy assistants
- Recreation therapy assistants
- Respiratory therapy technicians
The educational process for therapists or technologists is more intensive and includes learning to evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, develop treatment plans, and understand the rationale behind various treatments in order to judge their appropriateness and potential side effects.
For more information about Allied Health, see:
Health Career Resources
Explore Health Careers - Offers information on a wide variety of health professions, including education and financial aid resources and current issues and trends in health care.
AspiringDocs - Encouraging diversity in medicine, AspiringDocs.org offers information and stories from practitioners in various fields. Learn more about public policy and issues related to diversity in the health care field.
Occupational Outlook Handbook - The Bureau of Labor and Statistics puts out the Occupational Outlook Handbook to inform job seekers of the trends in employment, expected salaries, and job conditions.