Simply put, becoming a physician takes an extraordinary amount of hard work, dedication and sometimes a sense of calling that may have started at a young age. The physician is a vital member of the health care team. Their work allows for the care of the most vulnerable people—the patients. When asked, “Why am I a physician?” responses typically include:
The journey to becoming a physician is challenging, yet rewarding. Most physicians complete at least four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, three to eight years in internship and residency programs.
Most medical school applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, all students must complete undergraduate work in the following areas:
Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee. A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six or seven years.
Students spend most of the first two years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms gaining practical skills by learning to take medical histories, examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and taking courses such as:
During their last two years, medical students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery, they gain experience in diagnosing and treating illnesses in a variety of areas.
After medical school, they become a resident for three to eight years and learn all aspects of patient care while preparing for practice in a medical specialty. After residency, they may became board certified in a specialty, which involves a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation that is designed and administered by specialists in their specific area of medicine.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. They examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene and preventive health care.
Physicians are typically responsible for the following:
Nurses are vital members of a patient’s health care team, often having the most patient interaction. Nursing is an emotionally-fulfilling and rewarding career that blends science and technology with the art of caring and compassion. Individuals who excel in nursing may have many of the following interests and skills:
Nursing careers have many advantages, including:
After deciding to become a nurse, you need to determine which educational path to pursue:
Nursing education programs include the following classes:
To become a registered nurse, after completing an ADN or BSN degree, you must pass the national licensing examination (NCLEX-RN), which requires competency in:
After passing the NCLEX-RN certification your state may also require continuing education units (CEUs) over the years to maintain your license.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Registered nurses typically do the following:
Registered nurses’ duties and titles often depend on where they work and the patients with whom they work.
You are organized, excel in science and math and like to solve problems. You are naturally curious, eager to learn new technology and have strong communication skills. A career as a medical technologist might be right for you because:
There are two types of medical technologists:
Many people with varying skills and backgrounds work as medical technologists. Laboratory technologists generally have either a two-year associate’s degree studying clinical laboratory science or a four-year bachelor’s degree studying for a medical laboratory scientist degree.
Whether you graduate with a two-year degree, receive a certification from a hospital, vocational or technical school, or graduate with a four-year degree as a medical laboratory scientist, your classes could include:
Radiology technologists generally have completed a two-year certification program, a two-year associate’s degree program or a four-year bachelor’s degree program. They are also required to pass certification exams.
A two-year certificate or associate program focuses on the technical skills required by radiology, such as radiation protection and medical imaging procedures. A bachelor’s degree program can either be specialized in a specific type of radiology equipment or a more generalized focus on radiologic sciences. Classes may include:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical laboratory technologists collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances. Radiology technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations such as X-rays on patients and MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.
In general, medical technologists are responsible for the following:
Medical laboratory technologists typically do the following:
Radiology and MRI technologists typically do the following:
You are organized, have good communication skills, excel at chemistry and math, and like to solve problems. A career as a pharmacist might be right for you because:
As a pre-pharmacy student, you will complete two to four years of undergraduate school at a college or university and will take the PCAT to qualify for pharmacy school. Your pre-pharmacy studies are similar to pre-medical school and include courses such as:
Your PharmD degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy takes another four years to complete. Courses teach you about all aspects of drug therapy and how to communicate with patients and other health care providers about drug information and patient care. In addition, you will learn about professional ethics, concepts of public health and business management. Besides classroom instruction, you will experience clinical rotations working with licensed pharmacists in a variety of practice settings.
One semester of your graduate program courses may include:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also provide advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations and oversee the medications given to patients.
Pharmacists typically do the following:
You are organized, like mathematics and excel at written and oral communication. You also enjoy business law and science classes. You want to be a vital member of a health care team, and also enjoy the business aspect. A career as a medical and health services manager (also called hospital administrator, health care executive or health care administrator) might be right for you because you could:
“There are many people who hear the call to save lives, but not all of them like cutting into people. The hospital administrator (also called a medical and health services manager) plays a vital role in saving lives, without having to take scalpel in hand.” — Princeton Review
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. However, master’s degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration or business administration are also common.
Prospective medical and health services managers should obtain a bachelor’s degree in health administration. Courses for a degree in health administration often include:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers might manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers must be able to adapt to changes in health care laws, regulations and technology. In addition, medical and health services managers may do the following:
You are goal-oriented and always have a detailed, organized plan of attack to reach your goals. You care about maintaining your own health, striving to eat right and exercise and encouraging others to do so as well. As an important member of the patient’s health care team, a health coach fulfills a vital mission: educating patients, staff and the community on living healthier lives.
A career as a health coach (also called a health educator, community health worker or wellness coach) might be right for you, if:
There are many different educational paths to becoming a health coach (educator), including:
Regardless of your educational path, coursework will include:
As a member of the health care team, you are extremely important to each patient and to other members of your team. You are proud of the many things you do, including: