Choosing a Healthcare Career

Healthcare careers can be a satisfying choice for people who love helping others and who are interested in science, technology, medicine, and math. But while these jobs are in high demand and can pay very well, they also involve a lot of stress. Burnout is a risk. And the educational and training requirements can be costly and time-consuming.

Before you decide on a healthcare career, consider whether these types of jobs are a good fit for your temperament and experiences. With many opportunities to choose from, you can zero in on the area of healthcare and role that suits you best.

Benefits of Healthcare Careers

Young female nurse reading medical records by file cabinet at clinic
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A career in healthcare offers many advantages. An ageing society means the outlook for jobs in this field is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities in health care will grow 16% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than average and translates to about 2.6 million new jobs. This also means that salaries in the field are often higher than average, and come with good benefits.

A healthcare career is not limited to being a physician or nurse. There is a huge variety of jobs in healthcare, from athletic trainer to pharmacist to veterinary technician, not to mention supporting roles in areas such as finance, maintenance, research, or communications.

In healthcare, you have the opportunity to specialize in a field that is meaningful to you. But all involve helping people, which makes the work fulfilling. And the environment tends to be fast-paced, which is a plus for many people.

Educational and Training Requirements

The degrees, diplomas, and training required for various healthcare jobs can run the gamut from a high-school diploma to a medical degree plus advanced specialization. Being a doctor or a high-level nurse can be a significant investment of time and money.

When considering a career in healthcare, think about how to finance and make time for the necessary education. If a medical degree doesn't seem feasible, consider alternatives such as physician's assistant or nurse practitioner programs. Educational requirements for healthcare jobs vary considerably.

With a high-school diploma diploma or equivalent, you could become a home health aide, orderly, optician, pharmacy technician, psychiatric aide, veterinary assistant, or lab animal caretaker.

With an associate's degree or postsecondary training certificate, you could qualify to be a dental hygienist, emergency medical technician, medical sonographer, cardiovascular technologist, licensed practical nurse, massage therapist, medical assistant, medical records specialist, medical transcriptionist, nuclear medicine technologist, certified nursing assistant, psychiatric technician, occupational or physical therapy assistant, occupational health and safety technician, paramedic, phlebotomist, radiation therapist, radiologic or MRI technologist, respiratory therapist, surgical technologist, or veterinary technician.

With a bachelor's degree, you could become an athletic trainer, lab technician, dietitian or nutritionist, exercise physiologist, recreational therapist, or registered nurse.

With a master's degree, you could pursue a career as a genetic counselor, mental health counselor, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, occupational therapist, orthotist, prosthetist, physician assistant, or speech-language pathologist.

With a doctoral or professional degree, you could be an audiologist, chiropractor, dentist, optometrist, pharmacist, physical therapist, physician, psychologist, surgeon, or podiatrist.

Skills You Will Need

Each health career requires different skill sets and personality traits. However, there are a few common attributes. Most roles require excellent interpersonal and communication skills, some level of technical or mathematic capacity, and a strong work ethic.

Additionally, most healthcare careers entail a great deal of responsibility and maturity. Your patients' well-being and even their lives could depend on the quality of your work.

If you love to learn new things, that will serve you well as a healthcare professional. The healthcare field changes constantly with the development of new technology, advanced procedures, emerging treatments, and even new diseases.

Your Interests

What is your passion? No matter what drives you, there is a role for you in the medical field. You may have already considered being a nurse or a doctor. However, allied health care offers a world of opportunity.

For example, if cardiology (heart health) is a cause that moves you, you could be a cardiologist, a cardiovascular technician, a cardiac nurse, or cardiac perfusionist. If you love working with kids, pediatrics could be the field for you—as a medical assistant, occupational therapist, physician, psychologist, or registered nurse.

Within each medical specialty, jobs are available for any level of education or area of interest. If you love statistics and math, maybe medical research is appealing, for example. If you are into sports and fitness, you might consider a career in athletic training, exercise physiology, physical therapy, or sports psychology.

The Work Environment

In which type of environment would you be most comfortable, and most successful? For example, if hospitals seem too cold or too large, you probably should not be a surgeon or a hospital nurse. If you love being around people and working hands-on with patients, a career in research or pathology may not be satisfying.

Remember that there are healthcare jobs in many settings other than hospitals, doctors' offices, and care facilities. Healthcare providers work on military bases and cruise ships, at schools and factories, and in clinics serving remote communities.

Work-Life Balance

Be sure to consider how your life and family will be affected while you are in school, completing training, and after you get a job in healthcare. For example, doctors, nurses, and many other healthcare providers may be required to work nights or weekends, work long shifts, and be on call.

Additionally, investigate whether jobs and training programs are available in your area, or whether you may have to relocate. Is this feasible for you? How will the financial requirements of education and training affect your family? It is crucial to think about all of this before you begin to invest energy, time, and money towards pursuing a career in the healthcare field.

A Word From Verywell

With such a wide range of opportunities in the healthcare field, you have many choices if you are interested in a healthcare career. Though it will take an upfront investment of time and money for training, a job in health care offers many rewards, both financial and intangible. Planning ahead can help you achieve your goals.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Healthcare occupations. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

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