Choosing a career in the health field is a noble yet challenging pursuit. How do you narrow down all the options? This page will help you learn more about different possibilities for health careers.
We highly recommend shadowing or volunteering in various health careers before deciding on one.
Careers in Medicine
Allopathic Physician (MD)
Quick Facts: Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Along with nurses, physicians are on the front line of medicine. As practitioners, they work in solo or group practices, examining patients and obtaining medical histories; ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests; and prescribing and administering treatment for patients suffering from injury or disease. They also counsel patients about illness, injuries, health conditions and preventive healthcare (diet/fitness, smoking cessation, etc.). Median salary for physicians in 2019 in the U.S. was $208,000 per year. Physicians need a bachelor’s degree, a degree from a medical school, which takes four years to complete, and, depending on their specialty, three to seven years in internship and residency programs. After four years of medical school, you receive your medical degree (MD). More schools are offering combined degree programs such as a MD/MPH, MD/JD, MD/MBA, and MD/PhD. While students pursuing both allopathic and osteopathic degrees take the same state board exams, MD students take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE).
- Association of American Medical Colleges
- American Medical Student Association
- American Medical Association
- Careers in Medicine
- More about allopathic physicians on ExploreHealthCareers
Osteopathic Physician (DO)
Quick Facts: DOs are trained to focus on the whole person, working in partnership with patients to help them achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention. 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 offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Median pay in 2019 was $208,000 per year. DOs need a bachelor’s degree, a degree from a medical school, which takes four years to complete, and, depending on their specialty, three to seven years in internship and residency programs. After earning their MD, DOs also must pass state licensing exams and national boards. More schools are offering a combined DO/PhD degree. While students pursuing both allopathic and osteopathic degrees take the same state board exams, DO students also take the Comprehensive Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX).
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- American Osteopathic Association
- Student Osteopathic Medical Association
- More about osteopathic physicians on ExploreHealthCareers
Dental Medicine (DDS, DMD)
Quick Facts: Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums and related parts of the mouth. Median pay in 2019 was $159,200 per year. Dentists need a bachelor’s degree and a degree from a dental school, which takes four years to complete. Dentists must be licensed in the state in which they work. No internship or residency is required. Dental school graduates can opt for additional training, either in general practice dentistry or in one of the 10 recognized advanced dental education specialties.
- ADEA GoDental
- American Dental Association
- American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
- American Student Dental Association
- More about dentists on ExploreHealthCareers
Podiatric Medicine (DPM)
Quick Facts: Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries and perform surgery involving the lower extremities. Median salary in 2019 was $126,240 per year. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree, which takes four years, plus a three-year podiatric medicine and surgery residency (PMSR) is required.
Careers in Allied Health
Quick Facts: Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions. Median pay in 2019 was $81,880 per year. Master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics is typically required.
- American Board of Genetic Counseling
- American Society of Human Genetics
- National Society of Genetic Counselors
- More about genetic counselors on ExploreHealthCareers
Nursing (BSN, MSN, DNP)
Quick Facts: 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 families. Median pay in 2019 was $73,300 per year. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is required.
Quick Facts: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state. Median pay in 2019 was $115,800 per year. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is required. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree may be required.
- So You Want to be a Nurse - But What Type?
- Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist Comparison
- Physician Assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner vs. Medical Doctor
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX)
- More about RN’s on ExploreHealthCareers
- More about Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners on ExploreHealthCareers
Occupational Therapy (MSOT, OTD)
Quick facts: Occupational therapists treat patients of all ages who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Median pay in 2019 was $84,950 per year. A Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) or Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree is required.
- Considering an OT Career?
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- American Occupational Therapy Foundation
- National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
- More about occupational therapists on ExploreHealthCareers
Quick facts: Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries and other disorders of the eyes. Median pay in 2019 was $115,250 per year. A Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree, as well as a state license, is required. Some optometrists complete a one-year residency program to get advanced clinical training.
- American Optometry Association
- Shadowing? Try the Informational Interview
- American Optometric Student Assn. Membership for Pre-Optometry Students
- National Board of Examiners in Optometry
- More about optometrists on ExploreHealthCareers
Quick facts: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. Median salary in 2019 was $128,090. A Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree is required. Pharmacists seeking an advanced position, such as a clinical pharmacy or research job, may need to complete a one- to two-year residency. Pharmacists who choose to complete the two-year residency receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
- AACP Student Membership
- Prospective pharmacists must pass two exams to get a license: The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge plus the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a state-specific test.
- More about pharmacists on ExploreHealthCareers
Physical Therapy (DPT)
Quick facts: Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve specific body movements and manage pain. Median salary in 2019 was $89,440. A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is required. Physical therapists may apply to a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about a year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care.
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- National Physical Therapy Examination
- American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education
- More about physical therapists on ExploreHealthCareers
Quick facts: Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose and treat patients. Their specific duties and the extent to which they must be supervised by physicians or surgeons differ from state to state. Median salary in 2019 was $112,260 per year. A master’s degree, as well as a state license, is required.
- What is a PA? (infographic)
- Physician Assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner vs. Medical Doctor
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- PA Focus
- Physician Assistant Education Association
- Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination
- Choosing a career in PA
- More about physician assistants on ExploreHealthCareers
Quick facts: Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Speech, language and swallowing disorders result from a variety of causes, such as a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, Parkinson’s disease, a cleft palate, or autism. Median pay in 2019 was $79,120 per year. Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree, and most states require a license. Requirements vary by state.
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- Those individuals who have a graduate degree with major emphasis in speech-language pathology may become certified by the Council for Clinical Certification.
- More about speech-language pathologists on ExploreHealthCareers
Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Quick facts: Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock and other animals. Median salary in 2019 was $95,460 per year. A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, as well as a state license, is required.
Careers in Biotech
With a mission to heal the world, fuel the world and feed the world, biotechnology produces breakthrough products driven by cutting-edge science and technology. The healthcare field, in particular, benefits from novel drug discoveries and manufacturing. According to Biocom’s 2020 Economic Impact Report Databook, in 2019 alone, the life science industry in California provided over 1.4 million jobs, generating $372 billion annually.
Los Angeles is a surging biotech hub that offers an exciting job outlook, bringing together capital, physicians and scientists to progress innovative research from bench to bedside. With their science training and desire to make an impact on the health of others, pre-health students are strong candidates for both graduate programs and the biotech industry.