There are several reasons so many people are attracted to work in the healthcare industry. First, the industry is massive: According to one study, 1 in 8 Americans is in some way affiliated with healthcare. Secondly, the pay is reliable and typically good, and thirdly, the work is rewarding, allowing people to save and improve others’ lives and lifestyles.
The first career that comes to mind when anyone says healthcare is always “doctor,” but there are plenty of other important careers that don’t require half a lifetime of training. Here are a few other ways to get into healthcare and make a difference.
This should be an obvious choice for those interested in practicing medicine but not pursuing an M.D. Nurses are as responsible for the success of patients as physicians; they provide critical support to doctors and sometimes make diagnoses and design treatment plans on their own. Would-be nurses can begin their careers in as little as a year, after completion of a state-certified program and a passing grade on the National Council Licensure Examination. However, more ambitious nurses should begin by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing and eventually gaining higher education to quality for specialized positions or administrative roles in healthcare institutions.
Speaking of administrative roles, hospital administrators are responsible for the efficient and effective functioning of hospitals, meaning they have a hand in the successful treatment of patients, as well. Administrators aren’t trained in medicine; rather, most have a background in business. This allows them to adeptly balance budgets, hire and organize staff, develop policies and perform other duties necessary to the hospital’s function. Aspiring administrators should pursue advanced business degrees, ideally specializing in healthcare administration.
Many social workers work within healthcare institutions to help patients navigate their treatment and make informed decisions regarding their care. Some social workers specialize in certain members of the population, like the elderly or mentally ill. Typically, social workers in this sphere have advanced education, perhaps an online MSW degree, to prepare them for the type of service they will offer their clients.
Physical therapists work with patients in the recovery stage who are hoping to regain strength and mobility after a traumatic health event, like cancer, broken bones, stroke or some other issue. Working with patients one-on-one or in small groups, therapists devise rehabilitation strategies in conjunction with doctors’ treatment plans to ensure swift and successful recovery. Education requirements for physical therapists vary by state; most claim doctorates in physical therapy, which require the completion of a three-year program, clinical internship and licensing exam.
Diet affects health a great deal, and dietitians are educated and experienced at helping patients achieve the correct health results through diet manipulation. Not just working to help people lose weight — though that is a common patient trouble — dietitians also assist patients with weight gain, digestive problems and mental issues concerning food. Dietitians tend to be state-licensed, like physical therapists, meaning they must have at least a relevant bachelor’s degree, some clinical training and a passing score on a licensing exam.
Medical doctors would hardly be capable of more than prodding and guessing without the diligent work of biomedical engineers. Some biomedical engineers work alongside doctors to better understand what solutions are needed, to assist in the proper implementation of new equipment or to provide maintenance to existing machines; other biomedical engineers work to improve or replace current medical tools with more efficient ones with the result that many medical advancements of the 20th and 21st centuries are merely feats of engineering that doctors use to improve diagnoses and treatments. Biomedical engineering requires a bachelor’s degree in the field, and many engineers pursue graduate-level training to enhance their careers.
Public Health Educator
While doctors and nurses work to help those who are sick, public health officials work to prevent people from getting sick in the first place. There are dozens of ways to contribute to public health, from conducting research on waste disposal or sanitization, or on the building of sewage systems, whatever—but education is easily the most powerful method of creating a healthy population. Public health educators meet with communities and individuals to talk about critical ways to stay clean, eat and exercise well and generally maintain good health. The best news is that most public health educators find work with only a bachelor’s degree in the field.