Planning a future career can be daunting, but luckily there is a lot of good news about careers in the health industry. In the last 20 years, the sector has grown faster than any other, and it even continued to grow through the 2007 to 2009 recession. The increasing demand for health care is partly because of an aging population and partly because of wider access to health insurance. Health care is now one of the biggest and highest-paid industries, and this trend is predicted to continue. Whatever your level of education, experience, and skill sets, there is a rich choice of career paths available in clinical, educational, and administrative settings. If you are motivated by the drive to change people’s lives for the better through empathy, good communication, and a lot of hard work, you are sure to find your place in this professional world.
Nursing is one of the best examples of the sheer versatility of education programs and career paths open in the health industry. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) need to take a one-year training course combining theory and practical work, which then leads on to a National Council Licensure Examination. At the next level up, Registered Nurses (RNs) have to take a diploma, Associate’s Degree (ADN), or Bachelor’s Degree (BSN) in nursing before they take the certification exam. These training programs last from two to four years. Building on their achievements, Registered Nurses can go on to study a two-year Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which enables them to qualify as Advanced Practical Registered Nurses (APRN). At this level, it is possible to choose a specialty such as anesthetics or pediatrics, and better salaries reflect the increased qualifications. In many states, Advanced Practice Nurses now have the right to full independent practice. As more possibilities open up, Advanced Practice Nurses may choose to take their skills a step higher by studying for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP). At this advanced stage, continuing education can begin to compete with both professional and family commitments. Maryville’s DNP degree online is an example of an alternative, more flexible option to traditional campus attendance-based programs. All in all, nursing careers offer a huge range of opportunities for variety and progression.
The training required to be a doctor can depend on the specialty, but you will typically spend the best part of 15 years before you can apply for a state license to practice medicine. The first step is to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree, usually in biology, chemistry, or physics. In some schools, you can opt for a specially designed pre-med program. The bachelor degree is followed by four years at medical school, where you divide your time between classroom learning and clinical work in general medicine. Licensing tests by the National Board of Medical Examiners take place in the second and fourth years of training. The third and final phase of training is the doctor’s residency (i.e. internship or clerkship), where you can begin in-depth work on your specialty. It can take anything from three to seven years to complete this phase, but the first year of residency is primarily geared towards practical work because it ends with the final licensing exam.
Beyond the roles of nurses and doctors, there is a plentiful and varied choice of career paths, with a range of educational entry levels. Dental, medical, and veterinary assistants as well as a whole range of jobs for technicians and technologists require two-year programs and sometimes less. If your interests lie beyond the strictly clinical and pharmaceutical settings, you can find a career in health education, administration, or management; such jobs are often referred to as allied health professions. For example, a medical billing and coding technician works with insurance claims and invoices for medical organizations. The more you research the subject, the more fascinating options you will find. You may discover vital jobs that you never knew existed – for example, a medical transcriptionist, who converts the voice-recorded reports of doctors and other health care professionals into text format. The possibilities are endless.
Choosing a career in the health industry has many benefits. Job stability and salaries are high, and there is a lot of potential for progression and growth. You are likely to find yourself in a lively environment where no two days are the same, and you will have to think on your feet. A sense of vocation is important because you may be required to work long, unsociable hours and have to deal with very ill people and the distress of their loved ones. However, the knowledge that you are doing something meaningful in a personal and immediate environment engenders pride and tremendous job satisfaction.