If you want to embark on a career in healthcare, then there is a huge range of avenues you can take. Whether you want to become a nurse or doctor, treat patients daily, be a physical therapist treating sporting injuries, or even work in one of the many healthcare administration roles available, there are a dizzying array of choices.
This is hardly surprising, as healthcare is a sprawling global industry with countless medical establishments requiring vast teams to function. However, healthcare is unique in the fact that it has so many variants of the same umbrella roles – such as nursing.
To take nursing as an example, you can train yourself to be anything from a registered nurse, a family nurse practitioner to a critical care nurse, among many other roles.
This can leave you feeling confused about which specific role is right for you – especially if you are young and your experience in the workplace is limited. It is only when you start a healthcare job that you ever truly know if it is right for you, which provides an element of risk in choosing the right occupation.
However, you can make your choice more informed by learning more about the various career paths you can take. This will help you to make sense of them and help you to break down the positives and negatives of each so that you can make an informed decision about the job you take.
Of course, no decision is permanent, and you can always change your mind further along the road. This is particularly straightforward if you are in an administrative or managerial role, but if you are a nurse then you can also retrain in a different specialty.
Bear in mind, however, that many healthcare roles require years of training, and should not be embarked on lightly. You can’t simply retain as a doctor in a matter of months, so once you are locked into a specialist medical role, you may have to stick it out for longer.
To help you decide which healthcare career is right for you, here are many of the different healthcare careers you can take:
This is the perfect jumping in point to a career in healthcare because working as a nurse practitioner appeals to a wide variety of people.
Many people want to help others by training as a medical professional but are put off by the stringent training that can take up to a decade to complete. What’s more, if you decide to enter healthcare at a later stage of your life, you may not have chosen the right qualifications at school and college to make you eligible for certain specialist medical courses.
In contrast, becoming a nurse practitioner is far more straightforward. Thanks to the faster training methods, you can become a trained nurse without needing to dedicate years to it.
What’s more, thanks to the online second degree accelerated BSN program, you can complete a nursing degree in your spare time. This is ideal if you are coming to healthcare later in life, when other restraints (like a young family, an existing job, or a mortgage) can restrict how much time you spend completing your training.
Within the umbrella of nursing, there are several different specialties you can choose from. This includes a Family Nurse Practitioner, who help diagnose and treat illnesses in people of all ages. The reason why they are called family nurse practitioners is that they are typically assigned to individual families, which can make your job incredibly rewarding.
Being able to build relationships with your patients and watch them grow and develop can be a privilege, which is why becoming an FNP is so popular.
Alternatively, you could become a Registered Nurse, who helps organize and provide patient care, educate both patients and the public at large about healthcare, and support both patients and their families in their hour of need.
You can also become a nurse with a high level of specialties, such as a cardiac nurse, critical care nurse, ER nurse, geriatric nurse, nurse educator, nurse manager or mental health nurse, to name but a few.
Staying on the nursing theme, you could also become a nursing assistant. This is one of the core roles within a medical establishment, helping patients feel as comfortable as possible. Your daily role may include bathing, eating and dressing patients, as well as monitoring their health and passing messages from the patient to the medical team, and vice versa.
Landing a job as a nursing assistant may also be your first rung on the ladder towards becoming a fully-fledged nurse practitioner. Not only is it a great entry-level role, but it will give you the necessary on-the-job experience to prepare you for future life as a nurse.
After all, there are many skills which you simply can’t learn from a textbook. Caring for patients, dealing with distressing situations and communicating with your team are all vital skills which are necessary to develop through experience.
Another route you can take in healthcare is as a midwife. As you likely already know, a midwife offers support to mothers and their families before, during and after labor. They are the primary contact for women who are about to have a baby and need to be on hand to offer both emotional and physical support throughout the process.
However, while you might imagine midwives are restricted to the birth itself, there are a huge number of other jobs, too, including parenting classes, screenings, and other antenatal tasks.
Midwives are also on hand after the birth, helping to teach mothers how to care for their newborn babies – including how to feed and bathe them.
Although being a midwife can be intense (especially during the birthing process), it can also be one of the most rewarding healthcare occupations. Helping to deliver newborn babies and teach their mothers how to care for them gives you the satisfaction that you are assisting one of the most important processes on earth.
A medical doctor is one of the most fundamental jobs in healthcare. For many patients, it is a doctor who has the last say over their health advice, and they can specialize in many areas.
This makes becoming a medical doctor an enticing prospect because there are so many options you can choose from.
For example, you could become a family practitioner working in a local doctor’s surgery. This is appealing to many budding doctors because it is a deeply rewarding, and relatively stressless environment to work in. You will get to know members of your local area, help them overcome their health issues and become a pillar of the community.
Alternatively, you could specialize in specific forms of surgery, anesthesiology, oncology, cardiology, infectious disease specialists and so on. There are countless different specializations to choose from, which makes it easier to find a medical department which interests you.
Medical doctors are also rewarded financially for their work, with an average salary of around $200,000 per year. Of course, there are always sacrifices to be made for this, and the fact that doctors must spend around six years in further education means you have to be serious about your aspirations of becoming a doctor.
As the name suggests, a physical therapist helps their patients overcome physical injuries, manage pain, improve mobility, and help regain full use of their body.
Physical therapists typically help patients who have suffered an injury, rested up and need physical rehabilitation, as well as guidance on how to avoid the same injury again in the future.
In this role, you may also have to help diagnose physical injuries, which may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
However, while it is easy to view physical therapists as professionals who mostly deal with sporting-related injuries, they can also help patients who have suffered a stroke and debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis.
Unlike many other medical professions, you can train as a physical therapist relatively quickly – with the average course taking three years.
A nutritionist helps patients with their eating habits and dietary requirements, creating meal plans which can improve their health, overcome food allergies or conditions, as well as boost their energy levels.
What’s more, a nutritionist can work alongside athletes to ensure they are in the best condition possible, creating custom meal plans which ensure they can complete sporting activities to the best of their ability.
If you work as a nutritionist, you may also help people lose or gain weight, and provide guidance on how to achieve a balanced diet. Naturally, if you are interested in food and how it can affect an individual’s health, then this is the role for you.
What’s more, if you are passionate about physical health and sporting activity, then becoming a nutritionist can be deeply rewarding.
Similarly, to how a nurse assistant works alongside nurses to deliver daily care to patients and act as an extra pair of hands, a physician assistant help physicians to prescribe medication, diagnose patient health issues, and maintain full communication between the physician and the patient.
Depending on the level of training you have received as a physician assistant, you may also be eligible to help during surgical procedures or even perform some of them yourself.
To train as a physician assistant, you will need to obtain a relevant master’s degree, as well as work for thousands of hours, helping patients and building your experience level.
Mental health therapist
If you are more interested in psychology, then training as a therapist or counsellor could be a deeply rewarding career path. In this role, you will be helping your patients overcome mental distress, trauma and disorders.
While it is often an intense role, becoming a therapist can be incredibly satisfying.
You can help talk through issues with your patients, work with them to build a brighter future, and help alleviate their worries. As a result, your daily role can be cathartic, both for you and your patient.
Moreover, if you enjoy learning how the human mind works, then your training can be fascinating, and even lead to different career avenues further along the road.
For example, you could write books about mental health, share your knowledge on podcasts, become a public figure or even go into specialist mental health services which help sports people or high-profile individuals deal with the unique stresses of their jobs.
Of course, while everyone naturally thinks of the more hands-on medical roles in the healthcare industry, there are hundreds of other behind-the-scenes roles.
In the administrative department alone, you could work as a healthcare receptionist, accountant, lawyer, manager, CEO or one of the countless other roles.
Although these roles don’t necessarily put you in front of patients, you can still derive a high level of satisfaction from your job, knowing that you are helping a medical establishment to function properly.
It is also far easier to land many of these roles than by training as a doctor or nurse, so it is an intriguing route into the healthcare sector.
What to keep in mind before choosing a certain occupation
Now you have a better idea of many of the core roles within the healthcare sector, you will hopefully find it easier to pinpoint a role which suits your tastes and skillset.
However, if you are still struggling with the decision-making process, this is understandable. To help, it is important to always keep your specific career requirements in mind.
For instance, ask yourself why you want to get involved in healthcare in the first place. If you want to help patients and make an immediate impact on other people’s lives, then working as a doctor, nurse or therapist is likely the best route for you to take.
You should also consider your financial requirements. If you want to earn enough money to retire early and make life comfortable for your family, then choose your career accordingly. There are many routes that allow you to earn significant amounts of money (while still helping others), but you need to be strategic about it.