Medical degrees and healthcare careers
Healthcare is a massive sector encompassing entry-level support roles to specialized surgeons and physicians. Regardless of the role, healthcare workers experience the best and worst moments of people’s lives, sometimes in the same shift. Healthcare is a career choice with meaning.
The median salary for healthcare practitioners is $75,040, about $30,000 higher than the national average. Support occupations have a median wage of just under $30k, or $15,000 less than the national average. The sector is essentially recession proof, with job openings predicted to grow 16% between 2020 – 2030.
Types of medical degrees
There are medical jobs available at all education levels, from high-school diploma to doctorate degree. The education level required depends on the specific role.
Medical associate degrees
A 2-year associate degree opens the door to many lucrative, in-demand healthcare careers. Most of these fall within allied health – a term used to describe a range of occupations outside of nursing and medicine. Associate programs tend to be highly vocational and geared towards specific roles.
Pre med majors
The first step toward an advanced healthcare position is a bachelor’s degree. When it comes to medical field majors, students usually choose a STEM subject on the pre-med track. After this they apply to medical school, or the requisite postgraduate degree for their target profession.
There are also some positions where a bachelor degree is the minimum requirement. For example, to become a nutritionist or dietician you need a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics.
» Read: What is pre-med?
Medical masters degrees
While masters degrees in healthcare are available, most students skip this step and go directly to a doctorate. However, there are also some healthcare jobs where a master’s degree is the only requirement. For example, to become an occupational therapist you need a master’s in occupational therapy.
The 3 main types of medical doctorate are professional, clinical, and research:
This degree prepares students for a specific medical profession by providing advanced clinical competencies. Examples of professional degrees awarded include:
- Medicine (M.D. or D.O.)
- Dentistry (DDS or DMD)
- Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD)
- Chiropractic Medicine (D.C.)
The aim of this degree is to prepare students to enter clinical practice in a particular field. Examples of clinical degrees awarded include:
- Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
- Nursing Doctorate (N.D)
- Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
- Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
This degree prepares students for research or teaching roles. The output is mainly scholarly. Examples of research degrees awarded include:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Doctor of Education (DEd)
Medical degrees list
Healthcare professions have a clear educational path that often involves completing the relevant medical degree. Depending on the career chosen, you may need to follow up your medical degree with further training to specialize and get certified. Below we discuss the education required for some key medical careers.
Nurses usually work under the supervision of a physician, playing an important role in the provision of care. With an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing you can become a registered nurse. Postgraduate degrees in nursing can lead to roles such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist.
Pharmacists are often the first point-of-contact for patients, and so require a deep understanding of medicines and their side-effects. The minimum educational requirement to become a pharmacist is a doctorate in pharmacy. Other pharmaceutical roles include pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistant.
Dentists earn some of the highest salaries in the medical field. Most work as general practitioners, offering ongoing dental care to patients. Other roles that don’t require a doctorate in dentistry include: dental assistant, dental laboratory technician, and dental hygienist.
Public health roles involve preventing illness and promoting health at a community level. The sector comprises multiple careers, such as: epidemiologist, biostatistician, public health consultant, public health nurse, and community health workers. A degree in public health can be a route into many of these professions.
Healthcare administrators oversee the smooth-running of various types of medical facilities. Healthcare administration degrees attract people who want to work in the medical field but are better-suited to non-patient facing organizational roles.
Most graduates of veterinary medicine programs go on to work as vets in private practice, clinics, or animal hospitals. There are also opportunities to move into veterinary research, consulting, or public health and regulatory medicine.
If you are passionate about food and helping others, you might consider a degree in nutrition and dietetics. Nutritionists and dieticians work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing, homes, and private practice.
Degrees for allied health professionals
While entry-level allied health positions typically require an associate degree, other medical roles within this category require more advanced degrees. The exact educational and certification requirements may vary depending on the occupation:
- occupational therapist
- physical therapist
- physician assistant
- health informatics
Should you pursue a career in healthcare
Financial compensation may not be the deciding factor when choosing to enter the healthcare sector, but the positive career outlook is reassuring. A medical education can lead to a long, well-paid, and stable career. There are a huge range of roles to choose from and always opportunities to specialize further.