In the Preprofessional Advising Office, we provide guidance to students interested in pursuing careers in a broad range of health professions. The list below reflects the professions about which we most often speak to students. It includes information about each profession, central application services, and standardized tests that are required for admission. We have also included links to further explore each profession and to begin considering schools to which to apply.
In addition to the professions listed below, career options in the health professions are limitless. Some professions require many years of additional education after obtaining your baccalaureate degree, while others only require a short training program. A strong science background is necessary for certain professions, but may not be as important for others. Some careers will allow you to work independently and be your own boss, while others require considerable collaboration and teamwork. To help students learn about the spectrum of options available, the prehealth advisors coordinate a year-long series of programs which introduce students to specific professions. We also encourage students to visit ExploreHealthCareers, an online resource that provides an excellent introduction to many professions.
Exploring the Health Professions
Allopathic Medicine (MD)
The Association of American Medical Colleges states: “Physicians diagnose and care for people of all ages who are ill or have been injured. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend and provide treatment, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. While there are several different types of physicians, they can usually be divided into three broad categories:
“Primary care physicians are the doctors patients usually visit most frequently. They treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care, and they also enjoy long-term relationships with their patients. Pediatricians, family practitioners, and general internists are primary care physicians.
“Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries.
“Specialists have expertise related to specific diseases, age groups, and bodily organs. Cardiologists, psychiatrists, geriatricians, and ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.”
Application service: American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
Standardized test: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
For further information about allopathic medicine, visit the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). In addition, the AAMC maintains a list of allopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada.
Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine states: “Osteopathic medicine is a distinct form of medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention…Osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to break down barriers to good health. DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states. They practice in all types of environments, including the military, and in all types of specialties, from family medicine to obstetrics, surgery, and aerospace medicine.”
Application service: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service
Standardized test: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
For further information about osteopathic medicine, visit the American Osteopathic Association and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). In addition, AACOM maintains a list of osteopathic medical schools in the United States.
The American Dental Education Association states: “Dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. A dentist is a scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions…dentists are highly sophisticated health professionals who provide a wide range of care that contributes enormously to the quality of their patients’ day-to-day lives by preventing tooth decay, periodontal disease, malocclusion, and oral-facial anomalies. These and other oral disorders can cause significant pain, improper chewing or digestion, dry mouth, abnormal speech, and altered facial appearance. Dentists are also instrumental in early detection of oral cancer and systemic conditions of the body that manifest themselves in the mouth, and they are at the forefront of a range of new developments in cosmetic and aesthetic practices.”
Application service: Associated American Dental School Application Service
Standardized test: Dental Admission Test
For further information about dental medicine, visit the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Dental Education Association. In addition, the ADA maintains a list of dental schools in the United States.
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges states: “Whether they’re pets, livestock or working animals, animals matter to individuals and society. Every community needs veterinary professionals to provide animal health care, but veterinarians also do many other kinds of jobs. They make sure the nation’s food supply is safe. They work to control the spread of diseases. They conduct research that helps both animals and humans. Veterinarians are at the forefront of protecting the public’s health and welfare.
“Besides medical skills, veterinarians often take a holistic approach to human well-being and animal welfare that, combined with communications and problem-solving skills, makes veterinarians uniquely qualified to fulfill a variety of roles. Many veterinarians, of course, provide care for companion animals through private medical practices, but veterinarians are also involved in promoting the health and welfare of farm animals, exotic animals, working animals (like those in the equine industry), and those that need a healthy environment in which to thrive, whether that environment is a rain forest, a desert or even the ocean. Outside of companion animal practice, the largest employer of veterinarians in the United States is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, but veterinarians are found throughout government in roles where they contribute to public health, the environment, even homeland security, as well as working in research and public policy.”
Application service: The majority of veterinary medical schools participate in the Veterinary Medical College Application Service. However, schools that opt not to participate in the central application process require individuals to apply directly to them.
Standardized test: Graduate Record Examination
For further information about veterinary medicine, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. In addition, the AVMA maintains a list of accredited veterinary programs in the United States and abroad.
The American Optometric Association states: “As primary eye care providers, doctors of optometry examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eyes and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. Optometrists examine the internal and external structure of the eyes to diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders; systemic diseases like hypertension and diabetes; and vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. They also determine the patient’s ability to focus and coordinate the eyes, to judge depth and to see color accurately. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy and medications to treat eye diseases as well as perform certain surgical procedures. Optometrists work in private practices, multidisciplinary medical practices, hospitals, teaching institutions, research positions, community health centers and the ophthalmic industry. Optometrists can also build successful careers in the military, public health or government service.”
Application service: Optometry Central Application Service
Standardized test: Optometry Admission Test
For further information about optometry, visit the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. In addition, the AOA maintains a list of optometry schools in the United States and Canada.
The American Podiatric Medical Association states: “A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), also known as a podiatric physician or surgeon, qualified by his or her education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat the foot and ankle based on their education, training, and experience…Within the field of podiatry, practitioners can focus on many different specialty areas, including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, or primary care.”
Application service: American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Application Service
Standardized test: Medical College Admission Test
For further information about podiatry, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association and the American Association of College of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM). In addition, AACPM maintains a list of podiatric schools in the United States.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants states: “A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. A PA is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.”
Application service: Approximately two-thirds of physician assistant programs participate in the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. However, schools that opt not to participate in the central application process require individuals to apply directly to them.
Standardized Test: Not all physician assistant programs require submission of standardized test scores. Those programs that do require such scores typically require the Graduate Record Examination.
For further information about the physician assistant profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the Physician Assistant Education Association. In addition, the Accredited Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. maintains a list of physician assistant programs in the United States.