A Student Resource Guide to Medical Careers
The medical field is a thriving industry with ample opportunities in various specialties. Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries, and the demand is expected to continually increase. Medical careers offer a high degree of stability because the need for doctors, nurses, surgical technicians, dieticians, medical assistants, EMT’s and other medical professionals is high. Hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics and other facilities rely on all sorts of professionals, rather than just doctors and nurses. The staff includes people with a wide range of skills, talent and education. Surgeons need surgical technicians to assist during surgery and sterilize equipment and nurses need assistants as well.
Qualities of the Medical Profession
People driven to work in the medical field often have caring, outgoing personalities. These people are patient and have good qualities, values and the desire to help others. They take pride in their jobs and pay attention to detail along with having a strong interest in science. Students who work towards a degree in healthcare are also highly driven because it takes a lot of perseverance and dedication to finish college and obtain a certificate or go on to medical school.
There are several advantages to obtaining a career within the healthcare field. One of the main advantages is job security because the medical field is continually expanding. The need for qualified medical professionals is high, so layoffs are rare, especially throughout the United States. In some cases, the hours are flexible, depending on which area of medicine you choose. People who work in a doctor’s office generally work day shift, Monday through Friday.
The wages are also fairly high, depending on which specialty you decide to go into. A standard physician, obstetrician or pediatrician can expect to make more than six figures per year after they become established doctors. Salaries vary across the county, but most nurses can expect to make at least $20 per hour after graduation. As nurses gain experience they can earn wages that exceed $40 per hour. Physician’s assistants also make $20 or more per hour to start and medical secretaries, medical coding specialists and receptionists make $12 to $20 per hour, depending on where they live. Emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) make an average of $10 per hour to start.
The medical field also has many disadvantages which is why medical professions are not for everyone. Certain jobs require a person to work around blood and other body fluids, which is scary for some people. Following proper safety procedures is vital, but there is always a risk of contracting viruses or other serious illnesses when working around sick people, regardless of how careful you are. Medical professionals can contract viral infections, pink eye and other serious conditions at work. The risk is lower in some areas and people often build up immunities to many common viruses after working in the medical field for a few years. Exposure also depends on where you work. The risk of contracting an illness is more common in heavily populated areas with a high incidence of disease.
Doctors, especially obstetricians are required to pay a hefty price for malpractice insurance to protect their license and private practice if they are ever sued by patients. Many healthcare jobs also require people to work long hours, graveyard shifts, double shifts and 24-hour shifts. Some medical careers are fast paced with a high degree of stress involved. Emergency medical technicians often work 24 hour shifts with few breaks and then they get a few days off. EMT’s and emergency room nurses are also likely to become injured or experience abuse from patients. Patients may hit, kick, bite or hurl abusive language at medical personnel when they are upset or intoxicated.
The level of education needed varies greatly in the healthcare field. Medical assistants and EMT’s are only required to obtain a certificate, rather than a degree. The amount of schooling varies in each state for EMT’s. It can take an average of 156 hours of training and externship to obtain an EMT certificate. Once an emergency medical technician is nationally registered she can work anywhere across the country. Nurses go through 2-4 years of schooling at local community colleges or universities. After graduation, students take a test to become registered and obtain their license.
Doctors and surgeons are required to go through extensive schooling before they can work in the medical field. They must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, which takes an average of four years. After a person has a bachelor’s degree, they can then apply to medical school. The application process requires additional interviews, and testing before a person is accepted. After entering medical school, a student continues going through four more years of advanced education. All students are required to go through a residency program where they get hands-on experience in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals.
The healthcare industry offers plenty of opportunities in all areas of medicine, rehabilitation and dentistry. Students can choose from hundreds of medical careers with varying requirements. Some basic jobs only require a few months of schooling, but the higher paying medical careers require students to go through two or more years of college. Some of the other top career choices are lab technicians, massage therapists, optometrists, occupational therapists, ultrasound technicians, radiology technicians, and dental hygienists. Students can also work as medical counselors, forensic specialists, dental assistants, medical billing specialists, medical transcriptionists, phlebotomists, surgical technologists and veterinary technicians.
AAMC: Careers in Medicine –About choosing careers in medicine along with the advantages of certain specialties.
US News: Best Careers 2011: Healthcare Jobs –Information about the best health care jobs and why these jobs are in demand.
National Institutes of Health – Alphabetical list of various medical and science careers.
Alec: UK Medical Career List - A detailed list of the hottest medical careers across the US, UK and Canada.
Education Portal – Details about various medical and health professions.
University of Wisconsin –Information about what is needed to prepare for a career in Human biology.
United States Department of Labor – Guidelines for preventing workplace violence for healthcare and social service workers.
Medscape Today –Article about nurses and workplace violence along with common statistics.
Ohio Nurses Association –Statistics about violence in the emergency room and how to keep departments safe.
Emergency Nurses Association: Workplace Violence against Emergency Nurses –An article about workplace violence against emergency room nurses. Workplace violence is one of the disadvantages associated with some medical careers.
BLS: What is the Job Like? –Information about what doctors do and what the future holds for this profession.
Nurse Practitioner FAQ –Information about job conditions, schooling and other pros and cons about becoming a nurse practitioner.
American Nurses Association-Nursing FAQ –Frequently asked questions about nursing as a career, accreditation, student nurses and other general information.
Choose Nursing –Information about how long it takes to become a nurse along with other general information.
University of Wisconsin FAQ –Information about how to become a nurse and what the University of Wisconsin requires.
NYSNA: Career Planning for Nurses: FAQ – Frequently asked questions about what which type of nursing degree to obtain along with common questions about courses and work experience.
Board of Registered Nursing FAQ –Commonly asked questions about how to become a registered nurse in California.
Texas Woman’s University FAQ –Frequently asked questions about financial aid, nursing school and other school policies.
NHS Careers: Nursing –Education requirements and career opportunities for nurses.
Nursing Programs – Information about nursing programs and where to start.
Forbes Magazine- Article about Americas best and worst paying jobs.
Sciweb –Detailed list of medical careers and professional organizations and colleges associated with various careers.
Medical and Nursing Training –Searchable database with information about various medical schools and nursing training across the country.
Wisconsin AHEC: Health Careers –Detailed listing of healthcare occupations.
The New York Times –A list of the 10 top jobs and information about specific medical careers.