Sept. 18, 2018
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18 percent growth in health care occupations by 2026, which makes the field highly desirable. If you love health care but are not excited about medical school, don't despair! The field encompasses a variety of positions and depending on your preferences, you can find a path that fits you best. Longer lives, an aging population, rapid developments in technology and leaps in the field of biology all contribute to the expected growth of the career options below.
In April 2003, the human genome was successfully sequenced, ushering a breakthrough in medicine and promising customized health care based on an individual's genetic makeup. Genetic counselors conduct comprehensive tests, evaluate a family's genetic history and recommend a course of action if the risk of hereditary disorders exists. They can be found in hospitals, university medical centers or diagnostic laboratories. Seventy-five percent work in the traditional areas of prenatal, cancer and pediatric, but an increasing number specialize in cardiovascular health, psychiatry, neurogenetics or genomic medicine. To become a genetic counselor, you typically need a master's degree in genetic counseling from an accredited institution and a certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Once certified, you may want to keep abreast of new developments by reading relevant journals and attending conferences.
Helpful resource: National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).
Also called health care managers, health care administrators oversee the operations of an entire facility, a department or a group of physicians. For top administrator roles, an MBA makes a candidate competitive. “I studied public health and business and that combination prepared me well for a career in hospital management," says Toby Gordon, ScD, an associate professor with expertise in the areas of health care policy, management of hospitals and health systems. Also, “because population health management roles in insurance or provider organizations require knowledge of statistics, epidemiology and clinical care," Gordon says, “the study of public health is key." For success, health care administrators need to understand current health care laws, regulations and advancements in medical technology.
Helpful resource: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Health and regulatory inspectors work for local, state and federal government agencies to ensure adherence to laws that protect public health. They may be found in diverse industries including food, transportation, agriculture and immigration, and depending on the specialty, knowledge of standards in that field are a must. If the role interests you, keep in mind that frequent travel is expected. To explore potential career paths, consider seeking an internship or informational interviews with local government agencies. For success in the role, focus on subjects such as English, biology and public health but also check local health compliance laws.
Helpful resources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Marketing managers oversee the operations of a marketing department and rely on different tactics to promote a service or product. In health care, marketing managers may develop strategies to advertise a hospital's services, or they could focus on a specialty, for instance they might advertise having the best neonatal intensive care unit in the US. They also play a role in attracting, engaging and retaining new patients and may be involved in damage control and public relations. Because health care regulations and policy are in constant flux, marketing managers need to stay informed and ensure compliance. Education in business, marketing, journalism or communications along with experience in advertising and sales are great backgrounds for a career as a health care marketing manager.
Helpful resource: American Marketing Association (AMA).
Nuclear medicine technologists work under the supervision of physicians to prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes. Safety is an important aspect of this role and precautions, such as badges detecting radiation exposure, are essential. The work of a nuclear medicine technologist is detail-oriented, requiring documentation of drugs administered and procedures performed. They also check the devices used for imaging to ensure proper functioning. To enter the field, complete a two- or four-year degree in nuclear medicine technology. As you evaluate programs to attend, make sure they are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT). Some nuclear medicine technologists may be called to assist in the event of a nuclear disaster.
Helpful resource: Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
Child life specialists help children and their families process an illness or injury. They develop strategies to ease anxiety and stress associated with hospitalization or medical procedures. As such, they need to be able to communicate effectively with families and medical professionals. The role is a perfect fit for creative individuals who enjoy integrating play and activities in their work. Child life specialists also act as educators, helping children and families develop coping skills to assist with post-procedure adjustment. The best way to explore this career is volunteering. Babysitting and mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America can help you gain necessary skills for working with children. Complement practical experience with a degree in psychology, childhood development or social work.
Helpful resource: The Child Life Council (CLC).
Speech-language pathologists evaluate, diagnose, treat and help prevent problems with communication and swallowing in children and adults. Most work in hospitals but some can be found in schools. Empathy is an important quality for success in the role. To become a speech-language pathologist, seek a master's degree from a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Though no specific majors ensure admission into master's programs, each institution requires specific courses so be sure to check the one you are interested in. Many states require that you are certified, and some certifications may require you to complete a fellowship.
Helpful resource: National Student Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (NSSLHA).
Do you love working with your hands and tinkering with devices? Consider becoming a biomedical engineer. Biomedical engineers thrive at the intersection of engineering principles, anatomy and physiology and bring new devices and technologies to advance health care delivery. Biomedical engineers may design and develop artificial organs, ultrasonic imagery devices, cardiac pacemakers and surgical lasers. While opportunities are available throughout the country, the largest biotech companies reside in California and Massachusetts. You typically have a choice of concentrations: Biomechanics, biomaterials, systems physiology, orthopedic engineering and rehabilitation engineering. A background in chemistry, biology or mathematics is required for entrance in the field.
Helpful resource: Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).
Also called ethical consultants, medical ethicists tackle tough questions of life and death and address moral issues involved in medical care, treatment and research. Medical advancements contribute to extending and enhancing human lives, but the breakthroughs have created dilemmas. Medical ethicists often split their time between teaching and research, often in educational settings, and may be found serving on institutional review boards (IRB) or publishing in journals. A growing number are becoming consultants in health care facilities and private practice. Ways to explore this career path include shadowing a medical ethicist or volunteering at a hospital. A degree in psychology, sociology, philosophy or religious studies offers an understanding of both the human experience and ethical considerations.
Helpful resource: American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH).
If an indoor work environment doesn't appeal to you, a role as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or a paramedic may be a fit. EMTs and paramedics care for the injured in emergency situations. In this active, high stress role, you will respond to emergencies, provide onsite first-aid, carefully transport the injured to hospitals and inform physicians of actions taken. Although the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers national certification at four levels: EMR, EMT, Advanced EMT and Paramedic -- you may want to check with your state for any additional certifications required. Education in emergency medical technology is a plus.
Helpful resource: National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT).
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