Additional Health Care Professions
You really want to work in health care, but you’re not sure you want to be a doctor. So what else could you do? LOTS! Just look around your doctor’s office or a hospital: nurses, physician assistants (PAs), pharmacists, optometrists, and social workers just to name a few. You could also work in either clinical or basic medical research in a hospital, a university, or in a biotech or pharmaceutical company.
What do they do?
Nurses and physician assistants work closely with patients, diagnosing, treating, and providing follow-up care. Pharmacists and optometrists have specialized training that allows them to function as independent professionals advising and counseling clients in addition to providing health care. Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives and also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Clinical researchers work with doctors and patients to organize studies that may evaluate such things as treatment outcomes or relationships between various physiological functions and disease. Basic medical researchers are less likely to work directly with patients, but their research on disease processes has the potential to help thousands of people.
Where do they work?
- Private offices or clinics
- Larger health care organizations
- Pharmaceutical or biotech industries
- University, private, and government research labs
What will I like or dislike?
- Working closely with people
- Go right to work with your BS as a clinical or basic researcher
- Shorter period of postgraduate training for nursing, PA, pharmacy, and optometry than is required to become a physician
- 40-hour work week
- Hospitals run around the clock, so hospital nurses may work nights or weekends
How is the job outlook?
Given the aging population, employment in all of the health care careers is predicted to grow more rapidly than average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, job growth for nursing professions, physician assistants, optometrists, and social workers is much higher than average. Job prospects for pharmacists should be excellent, with faster-than-average job growth.
What are the educational requirements?
- Nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, and optometry professions all require a graduate degree (most programs are 1–3 years)
- Clinical or basic medical research: your BS degree