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Medical Careers: 20 Different Certificate & Degree Programs

Learn about your medical career optionsYou don’t have to spend a lifetime in school to get an excellent career in the medical field. You can choose a career suitable for your situation and be ready for it in just 6 weeks for accredited CMA training to a couple of years. Professions such as medical assistant and phlebotomy technician only require a certificate of completion. Registered nurses, x-ray technicians, and sonographers need associate degrees. And then, of course, there is the in-depth medical school path, which needs a bachelor’s degree and beyond. If you see yourself working in the medical field, then read on to learn all the different options waiting for you.

If you’re interested in nursing, you can read about the different nursing careers here.

Or, maybe something in healthcare administration is more your speed?

Medical Careers Requiring Certification

With a certificate of completion in one of these many medical positions, you can quickly go from classroom to patient care. Getting a certificate can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.


Emergency Medical Technician

Main article: EMT Career

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) play an important role under the broader title of emergency medical services (EMS). EMTs are entry level patient care workers, followed by advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs), and then the highest level responders are paramedics. EMTs happen to be the most common provider of emergency medical care in the entire EMS community, and they are highly skilled at aiding in life-threatening instances.

What EMTs Do

EMTs are qualified to perform life-saving efforts such as CPR, oxygen administration, vital sign documentation, spinal immobilization, and basic airway management. You’ll respond to most emergencies—from car accidents, heart attacks, and violence to childbirth and more. Usually called in by an emergency dispatch like 911, EMTs show up on the scene, ready to work alongside other emergency responders to take care of what needs to be done.

Read: What an EMT Does

How to Become an EMT

One of the great things about going into EMS is that the field has a lot of room for upward job growth. After you’ve gotten your EMT license, you can keep going on through the offered programs.

The primary “ladder” when it comes to EMS careers looks like this:

  • EMT: 1-3 months of training from an accredited school
  • AEMT: 400 hours of additional training to be qualified for certification
  • Paramedic: 6 months to 2 years of education, often through an associate degree program
  • Firefighter: 3-6 months of academy training with several hundred hours of field work involved

When it comes to emergency medical careers, they are often used as a stepping stone to jump into higher-level medical careers. Many EMTs eventually go into the medical field; it’s not uncommon for EMTs to further their education and become registered nurses or even doctors. So if going into the medical field is a dream you’re looking to make real, then EMT is great place to start!

Steps to Becoming an EMT:

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Complete EMT training.
  3. Pass your state exam for certification.
  4. Consider advanced EMT training or an associate degree as the next career step.

Salary and Job Outlook

There will be close to 37,000 new jobs through 2026, which is a job growth rate of 15 percent. This is much faster than the 5 percent average most other occupations will experience. The median annual salary for an emergency medical technician is more than $32K.


Home Health Aide

A home health aide (HHA) cares for physically, mentally, and emotionally ill individuals within the comfort of the patient's home. Some HHAs work with patients for several months or even years. Others care for multiple patients in a single day’s schedule. Often, caring for someone at home can make all the difference in their quality of life.

What Home Health Aides Do

Under the supervision of a medical team, you will be taking care of patients who may need short term care as well as those who require full time, long term watching over. Your responsibilities as a home health aide will vary case by case. You may have to administer oral medications, check stats, help patients mobilize, dress, and bathe, and assist them with their braces or artificial limbs. Your work hours may far exceed 40 hours per week, depending on the patient you’re helping. Home health care can be a very hard career choice. However, even with its challenges, it can be an incredibly rewarding position—every day you will go to work knowing you’re helping those in need.

Read: What a Home Health Aide Does

How to Become a Home Health Aide

To become a home health aide, take these steps.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Your educational requirements will depend on your employer. Medicaid and Medicare funded organizations will have you complete formal training. Many private companies will give you training right on the job.
  3. If your employer wants you to have a certificate, many community colleges and trade schools offer these programs. They last about one semester.
  4. Consider getting your certification from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). Seventy-five hours of training and passing a written exam are the requirements.

Salary and Job Outlook

In your position as a home health aide, you can expect an average median salary of $22K. When you’re just starting out, the average salary will be around $18K, but the further along into your career you go, you can earn more than $30K. These numbers are an average—your actual salary will be dependent on your location, employer, and experience. The career is expected to grow 47 percent through 2026 with an expected 1.3 million jobs opening up.The baby boomer generation is aging, which means the elderly population is growing. With that comes a tremendous need for in-home care.


Lab Technician

Read the main article: Medical Lab Technician

As a lab technician, you’ll collect, examine, and test a variety of different fluids, cells, and other bodily substances. You’ll work under the supervision of a lab technologist or lab manager. And don’t worry: You may think you’d be at high risk for infections, but the opposite is the reality. You’ll work in a sterile environment and take precautions.

What Lab Technicians Do

Your responsibilities as a lab technician are plentiful. There will be body fluids to analyze and samples to study. Laboratory equipment will need to be operated; some machines will be highly sophisticated, helping you perform some of the analyzing and studying. Once you’ve completed your research, you’ll log that data into the patient’s medical record. From there, you and the team of physicians in charge of the patient will have a conversation based on your findings.

How to Become a Lab Technician

To become a lab technician, you first must complete a series of steps.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. You’ll need to get a laboratory technician associate degree, which you can complete at a community college. Make sure that whatever program you enroll in is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science. There will be clinical rotations included in your program.
  3. Meet the health requirements: Pass a physical exam and show proof of immunizations.
  4. Your state may want you to have a license. Requirements vary by state and speciality. Certification may also be necessary, depending on your state. However, even if your state doesn’t have this as a rule, employers do prefer certification, so it’s a good idea not to skip this step.
  5. To keep your license and certification current, you need to participate in a program for continuing education credits.
  6. As you grow and develop in your field, you can take more classes and gain more licenses and certifications that will help you to advance.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual wage for lab technicians is $39K. Your entry level salary will be roughly $26K, and with a few years of work behind you, you can earn $62K. The employment outlook for lab technicians is a growth rate of 14 percent, or 42,700 available jobs, through 2026. Genetic conditions and diseases such cancer and diabetes are on the rise. This increases the demand for lab techs.


Medical Assistant

Main article: Medical Assistant Career

Medical assistants perform routine administrative tasks that keep physicians and their offices on track. From greeting patients upon arrival to checking blood pressure or drawing blood, these duties belong to a medical assistant and must be provided under the direction of a licensed physician.

What Medical Assistants Do

Medical assistants have different responsibilities, both administrative and clinical, based on the office where they are employed. Administrative duties include answering phones, greeting patients, scheduling appointments, and arranging for hospital admission. Medical assistants are also responsible for keeping the waiting room and exam rooms clean and sterile and are usually in charge of ordering supplies and tools. Maintaining the office’s working conditions makes the environment more inviting for both employees and patients.

Clinical duties require more attention and can only be performed by the medical assistant if the state law permits. Clinical tasks include taking medical histories and recording vital signs, preparing patients, and assisting the physician with exams. Medical assistants must also collect and prepare laboratory specimens, perform basic lab tests, give injections, and remove stitches.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

To become a medical assistant, there are certain steps you must take so that you’re qualified.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. You can choose the certificate or associate degree route. Certificates can take up to a year to earn; associate degrees take up to two years. Keep in mind, many employers will prefer you to have an associate degree. There are also employers who will train you on the job, and many online training programs to choose from, as well.
  3. Become certified. This is not a requirement, but it is highly recommended.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median average salary for medical assistants is $31K. Entry level medical assistants will earn an average of $22K, while those who are more advanced in the field will make $45K. The employment growth for medical assisting is projected to grow 29 percent, or 186K jobs, through 2026. This massive growth is due to the aging baby boomer population increasing the demand for medical services, which, in turn, increases the need for medical assistants in healthcare facilities.



Phlebotomy Technician

Main article: Phlebotomy Technician

It is very common that during a visit to the doctor's office, the patient has to have his or her blood drawn. Regardless of the reason for the blood sample, phlebotomy technicians are responsible for collecting and delivering it to the laboratory for testing. Although most patients don’t enjoy having their blood taken and won’t look forward to seeing you, you are a crucial member of the clinical team, getting results for both the patient and doctor.

What a Phlebotomy Technician Does

When you start your certified phlebotomy technician (CPT) career, you will collect, label, and transport blood specimens as directed by prescribing physicians or supervising medical professionals. You will work in hospitals, labs, medical offices, or blood donation organizations, typically working directly with patients. Your other responsibilities will include performing basic phlebotomy procedures, evaluating patients for the ability to withstand a venipuncture procedure, explaining such procedures, performing basic point of care testing such as blood glucose tests, and preparing blood, urine, and other body fluid specimens for testing according to established government standards.

How to Become a Phlebotomy Technician

Before you can become a phlebotomy tech, there are a few steps you must first take.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Complete a phlebotomy training program through a community college or trade school. Both take under one year to finish. You must go through an accredited program to be eligible for any of the following certification exams.
  3. Get your certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Medical Technologists, or the American Association of Medical Personnel. Each organization has its own set of requirements. Employers prefer candidates who have at least one of the certifications.
  4. Some states will require you to have a license to work.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual wage for phlebotomy technicians is almost $33K. Entry level earn over the $23K mark, and phlebotomy technicians with a few years of experience will earn closer to $47K. Employment is projected to grow 24 percent, which translates to over 30K jobs, through 2026. You’ll have a better chance of getting a job if you’ve gotten certifications.


Medical Careers Requiring Associate Degree

If you attend school full time, you can complete an associate degree in two years. That’s all it takes to step into one of the following rewarding careers in the medical field.


Anesthesia Technician

As an anesthesia technician, you’ll be administering medications to patients who are in pain or are about to go into surgery. You’ll be part of the medical team who preps the patient and the instruments needed for the anesthesia procedure.

What Anesthesia Technicians Do

You will clean and sterilize the equipment, as well as order the necessary supplies for your medical team or department. Not only will you prep patients for procedures, you also will be staying with them throughout the duration—as well as afterward. You may have to provide the patient with comfort and support.

How to Become an Anesthesia Technician

To find a job as an anesthesia technician, fulfill these requirements first so you’ll be qualified.

  1. Graduate high school or get your GED.
  2. Get an associate degree in anesthesia technology.
  3. Complete your clinical segment. Not all programs will require this, but the experience will help you get a job after you graduate.
  4. Become a certified anesthesia tech through the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians. You need either two years of experience through an internship or the completion of an associate degree.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for anesthesia technicians is the same as surgical technologists, which is more than $45K. Entry level, you’ll earn an average of $31K, but once you have some years of experience then you’ll make greater than $64K per year. Employment outlook is projected to grow 12 percent, or 12,600 available jobs, through 2026, which is a bit faster than most other occupations. To get ahead of the competition, you should complete a program that’s been accredited, and you need to have your certification.


Radiation Therapist

As a radiation therapist, you will treat patients with cancer and other diseases that require radiation as part of their treatments.

What Radiation Therapists Do

As a radiation therapist, you will know how to operate the machines used to administer radiation. You’ll be part of the patient’s oncology team trying to eradicate the cancer. You will be explaining the treatment and answering the patient’s questions while monitoring their progress and keeping records. You’ll also be in charge of maintaining the equipment to make sure it’s working properly.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Before you can get hired as a radiation therapist, you must first follow these steps:

  1. You need a high school diploma or GED. You must have two years of math and science.
  2. Get a CPR certification.
  3. You can get a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Employers prefer an associate or a bachelor’s, but you still may be able to get hired with a certificate. Certificates take one year, associate degrees take two years, and bachelor’s degrees take four years if you attend full time.
  4. Most states will require you to have a license. You will have to pass the certification exam given through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Certifications may be required for you to get a job.
  5. Pass a background test, and have up to date immunizations.
  6. Continuing education is necessary in order to renew your license and certifications.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for radiation therapists is more than $80K. When you’re first starting out in your career, you’ll earn around $53K per year. But once you’ve gained more experience and some years are behind you, you’ll make more $123K. The employment is expected to grow 12 percent, or 2,300 jobs, through 2026, which is much faster than most other occupations. Expect quite a bit of competition for each available position. If you have some experience, plus more advanced degrees than a certificate, then you’ll have a better chance of being hired.


Radiologic Technology (X-Ray Tech)

A career in radiography involves taking photos. These aren’t the kind of pictures that you hang on the wall or ones you flip through in a coffee table photo album (unless, of course, you want to). A radiography technician (RT) is responsible for taking radiologic images, such as X-rays, which assist physicians in diagnosing patients.

What Radiologic Technicians Do

As a radiologic technician, you will work directly under a radiologist. You will use a variety of different imaging methods depending on what the attending physician requests. The imaging techniques you’ll learn in school and use on a daily basis include basic x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, mammography, fluoroscopy, and computed tomography.

Your responsibilities will be instructing and positioning patients for accurate imagery, keeping radiographic equipment in good working order, obtaining images for areas requested by the physician or radiologist, using radiation on the patient when necessary, managing work schedules, keeping patient records organized, assisting physicians and radiologists when needed, and preventing radiation exposure from particular areas of the patient's body.

Steps to Becoming a Radiologic Technician

Most students who decide to become a radiologic technician complete an associate degree, which typically takes up to two years to complete. Some positions may require a bachelor’s degree, which is a four-year program if you attend full time. A certification program can take between six months to a few years to complete. Programs usually consist of online, classroom, and clinical training.

  1. Enroll in a certificate or associate degree program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.
  2. Once you’ve completed the program, become certified through ARRT. This is an optional step, yet one preferred by most employers.
  3. Most states will require you to get your license, so you will need to do this before you can get a job working as a radiography (x-ray) technician.
  4. Get a job as an x-ray technician.
  5. Consider getting more certifications, which will increase your employment opportunities.
  6. Keep up with your continuing education requirements and renew your certification or license. Validity ranges 1-4 years depending on the state.

Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary of a radiologic technician is more than $57K. Of course, your salary will depend more on where you work and which state you live in. Once you’ve worked as an x-ray technician for a few years, your salary will move up into the low $80Ks. Employment outlook is expected to grow 12 percent (230,400 jobs) through 2026, which is much faster than most other careers. This is because the population is aging, and more medical related issues are arising.


Respiratory Therapist

Breathing functions can be restricted through conditions like respiratory disease, heart attacks, drowning, shock, and other issues constricting airflow to and from the lungs. A radiation therapist uses his or her training to help patients regain their breathing functions.

What Respiratory Therapists Do

Using tests, you evaluate a patient’s breathing ability. Through ventilation devices, you will help patients—from premature babies to geriatric—expand their respiratory function. There is a lot of standing and lifting involved in the career, so a certain amount of physical stamina and strength is recommended. Head to work every day at a hospital, nursing home, or medical office, and stay sometimes longer than eight hours. Plus, you may have to work weekends, especially if you are employed in a hospital.

Steps to Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

Before you can start working as a respiratory therapist, there are some steps you need to take:

  1. Get an associate degree in respiratory therapy or choose a bachelor degree program in the same field. Keep in mind that these days most employers prefer their hires to have a bachelor’s degree. Choose a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
  2. Every state (except Alaska) requires licensing for respiratory therapists, so you’ll need to fulfill this requirement to be state certified.
  3. Take and pass the voluntary National Board for Respiratory Care exam to earn a certification employers like to see.
  4. There are additional certifications you can think about getting to advance your career. Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Basic Life Support, and Advanced Cardiac Life Support are just a few to seriously consider.
  5. Continuing education and maintaining your license are two things you’ll need to remember to do.

Salary and Job Outlook

Respiratory therapists are making a median salary of more than $58K. If you’re just starting out in the field, you’ll earn more along the lines of $42K, but if you’ve been on the job for a few years, you’ll see a number more in the $80Ks. The job outlook through 2026 is 23 percent employment growth (or 30,400 job openings), which is much faster than the average career. The reason for this is because the population of middle-aged adults and older is increasing, and they seem more susceptible to lung-damaging disorders and conditions.


Certified Cardiographic Technician

As a certified cardiographic technician (CCT), when a patient has a heart problem, you will work under the supervision of a medical team. You work with the machinery that monitors, measures, or explores the patient’s heart. Certificates and associate degrees are both education options.

What CCTs Do

As a certified cardiographic technician, you’ll be a part of a medical team that works directly with cardiac patients. You can specialize in non-invasive procedures such as sonography or EKGs. Opposingly, you can choose invasive procedures as your specialty: Assist with cardiac catheters and be present during open heart surgeries.

There are three routes you can go: cardiovascular invasive specialist, cardiographic or electrocardiogram, or pulmonary function technologist.

  • Cardiovascular invasive specialist: You’ll also be known as cardiac catheterization technologist or cardiovascular technologist. To help physicians to diagnose and treat heart problems, you aid in monitoring the patient’s heart rate. You may assist with cardiac catheterizations, but your main duty is to prepare patients for heart surgery.
  • Cardiographic or electrocardiogram: This career has you specializing in EKG testing. You will attach electrodes to a patient and check his or her heart’s performance.
  • Pulmonary function technologist: You will help the medical team diagnose and treat pulmonary problems. Also, you will monitor the patient’s lungs and breathing through spirometry, which measures the amount of air inhaled and exhaled.

How to Become a Certified Cardiographic Technician

Before you can begin your dream career as a cardiographic technician, there are a few necessary steps you must take.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Enroll in an associate degree program at a college, or you can get a one-year certificate though some colleges and hospitals. Make sure whatever program you choose is accredited.
  3. As an imaging worker, most employers want to make sure you have a professional credential. Certifications are available through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
  4. Most states do not have a licensing requirement. Contact your state medical boards to get the specific information.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for CCTs is more than $55K. Entry level earns an average of $29K, while those in the height of the profession bring home more than $89K per year. The baby boomer population is aging. That means there are more blood clots, heart diseases, and other complications that come with the body growing old. Because of this, there will be a 23 percent employment growth, which means over 60,000 job openings for the profession, through 2026.


Surgical Technician

Read full article: surgical technician

Dressed in scrubs from head to toe, the various surgical staff present inside the operating room look much the same—though they have different functions. One of professionals present will be a surgical tech. Surgical technicians (ST) are also called surgical technologists or operating room (OR) technicians. As a surgical technician, you will work alongside surgeons, surgical assistants, nurses, and anesthesiologists during surgical procedures. Certificate programs take a year to complete, while an associate degree will take two years if you attend full time.

What Surgical Technicians Do

Before surgery, surgical techs ensure that all equipment needed is present, properly disinfected, and assembled so that surgeons and other surgical staff have easy access to it. STs also prepare patients for surgery, often cleaning, shaving, and disinfecting incision sites.

Other job duties will include transferring patients to and from the operating and recovery rooms. You’ll make sure patients are comfortable and calm, because their nerves are probably off the charts prior to their procedures. You will also tend to the needs of the doctors and surgical team, handing them their sterile instruments, gowns, and gloves, as well as maneuvering the machines and diagnostic equipment.

Steps to Become a Surgical Tech

If you’re thinking you want to become a surgical technologist, it’s important to enroll in a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

  1. First, you need to earn your high school diploma or GED so you can enroll into a surgical tech program.
  2. Get your certificate or associate degree. An associate degree is the more common path.
  3. Take a certification exam. The Certified Surgical Technologist credential is completely voluntary. However, getting certified will improve your chances of being hired.
  4. Other certifications are available to you, as well. Operating Room Surgical Technician Certification and the Tech In Surgery Certified credentials are both voluntary, but they will greatly increase your hireability.
  5. Get a job.

Salary and Job Outlook

Once you’re a surgical tech, you’ll earn an entry level salary which is averaging over the $31K mark. The median annual salary, once you’ve worked for a couple years, runs in the mid $40Ks. Those at the top of the career are bringing home an average of $64K per year. Employment for surgical techs is projected to grow 12 percent, or 12,600 jobs, through 2026. This is much faster than most other careers.


Ultrasound Technician

The excitement is contagious when it’s time to bring new life into the world. An ultrasound technician (UT) is part of this excitement, as he or she monitors the progress of a baby’s growth throughout the pregnancy. But did you know that ultrasound technicians work to diagnose a variety of other issues as well? Ultrasound technologists can perform ultrasounds to look for illnesses, a painless procedure that may potentially save the life of their patients.

What Ultrasound Technicians Do

Also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, ultrasound technicians (UT) operate sonographic scanners that create images of internal organs. The sonography machine produces images of parts of the body using sound waves and is used to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. UTs specialize in certain areas, including obstetric, vascular, and breast sonography.

Working in a variety of settings including physicians’ offices, clinics or hospitals, ultrasound technicians can pick up day, night, or weekend shifts. Depending on the position, certain shifts may be required. Your responsibilities will also include maintaining and sterilizing ultrasound equipment, communicating ultrasound procedures, distributing ultrasound gel onto the surface of the body where the sonogram will be capturing the image, performing the actual ultrasound, ensuring that the transducer captures the images in a way that they can be assessed by a physician, and evaluating the images for clarity and quality.

Steps to Becoming an Ultrasound Technologist

Before you can start your ultrasound technology career, there are a few important steps you’ll need to take.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. You can get a one-year certificate though some colleges and hospitals. There are associate and bachelor degree programs available through community colleges and universities. Make sure whatever program you choose is accredited.
  3. As an imaging worker, most employer want to make sure you have a professional certification. Certifications are available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
  4. Most states do not have a licensing requirement. Contact your state medical boards to get the proper information.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for ultrasound technologists is more than $69K. Entry level positions are earning an average of $48K, and those with a few years in are bringing home greater than $99K. Through 2026, the projected employment growth of ultrasound technology is 23 percent, which translates to 82,900 jobs, which is much faster than most other occupations.


Medical Careers Requiring Bachelor's Degree

Most bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete if you attend school on a full time basis.

Pre-Med

This is a undergraduate type of program that takes four years to complete if you attend full time.

How to Prep for a Pre-Med Program

It’s never too early to start mapping out your path to med school, and it’s probably a good idea to take the first few steps while you’re still in high school. Definitely plan to take all those AP science classes that are offered, and since med school is heavily focused on science, it will lay a pretty solid foundation for when that time comes. Also, math—you’ll have a lot of math, so look at it the same way you will for science, and focus!

When your school day is complete, instead of going home to take a nap, you should maybe think about spending some of those precious after-school hours working or volunteering. Because medical school is so competitive and can be difficult to get into, you’ll be glad you obtained some of this experience to put on that application. Schools will be looking! This will help with applying for undergrad, too. There is a section for volunteer work on the application.

Because you’ll need to attend a great college, you'll need really high ACT or SAT scores. Your junior year of high school is when you’ll take these exams. The good news: If you don’t do well the first time, you can always retake them to bring up your score.

Going into Pre-Med

Since you already have your career goal, your college courses can be focused on pre-med. There isn’t really a program called “pre-med” in most colleges, so expect your course load to be science heavy. If you choose chemistry or biology as a major, this will help you in the long run. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, what you major in will not hold as heavy an influence as your MCAT score and med school interview.

Lastly, you’ll have to take the MCAT. This is the exam necessary to get into med school. It lasts approximately 7.5 hours, so expect to put in a couple of hundred hours worth of studying—yes, seriously. You’ll need to get over a 500 if you want to get into a good med school. Once your score is recorded, it is automatically released to the American Medical College Application Service and is accessible to all the medical schools.

The average student will apply to over 13 medical schools in hopes of getting into at least one. It’s THAT difficult to get in. Don’t knock the Caribbean medical schools; they have produced some excellent doctors. It’s an alternative if you can’t get into any of the med schools you applied to.

Medical Careers Requiring Advanced Degree

For the following careers, you will need to go to graduate or medical school. These degrees take up to eight years to complete.


Acupuncture

Read the main acupuncture article here to find out about what it takes to become an acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that has been around for centuries. It’s far more than torturing unsuspecting victims, aka patients, by shoving needles into their delicate skin. It’s considered a form of alternative medicine, and it allegedly can help so many conditions that the World Health Organization (WHO) keeps a detailed dossier on it. It may have been invented in China, but there are forms of acupuncture specific to various parts of Asia, Japan, and Korea, to be exact. Acupuncture is the most commonly practiced form of Chinese medicine in existence.

What Acupuncturists Do

The core purpose of acupuncture is to promote blood flow to the “Qi” (pronounced chee) by using tiny needles placed in strategic positions on the patient’s body. Acupuncture can be used on its own or in conjunction with more traditional medicine to help alleviate symptoms stemming from pregnancy, chemotherapy, or chronic pain—among many other kinds.

You will be trained to use the four pillars for diagnosing your patients.

  • Listening to your patients
  • Looking at their faces and how they move
  • Feeling their pulse
  • Inspecting their tongues

All four pillars will help you to determine needle placement and whether other forms of therapy, such as herbal remedies, will be needed in tandem.

How to Become an Acupuncturist

Before becoming an acupuncturist, there are quite a few steps you need to take.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Complete a bachelor’s degree program with a focus on a science such as biology, psychology, or neurobiology.
  3. Get a master’s degree in acupuncture. There are a few programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine located throughout the U.S.
  4. Partake in a clinical internship.
  5. Get licensed by your state board. Each state has its own requirements; be sure to find out yours.
  6. Find employment. Many acupuncturists are self employed and take physician referrals.

There are a few different acupuncture master’s degrees available: Masters of Acupuncture, Master’s of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Master’s of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Master of Science in Oriental Medicine, and Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Acupuncture training takes three years, and education for Oriental medicine lasts four years, which includes acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Salary and Job Outlook

The typical median salary for an acupuncturist is more than $74K. However, salaries fall between $39K and $136K. There isn’t a job outlook statistic specific to acupuncture. The closest to this career would be chiropractors, whose industry will experience a 10 percent increase in job growth through 2026. More patients are exploring alternative medicine to help cure or alleviate their conditions, so the field of acupuncture may experience similar growth trends.


Audiologist

When patients suffer from any type of hearing troubles such as hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, or balance disorders, they are usually referred to an audiologist. These highly respected specialists focus on any type of hearing problems diagnosed in patients of all ages. A startling statistic is that one in every five people over the age of 12 suffers from some type of hearing loss. Audiologists have busy offices!

What They Do

Audiologists are trained to treat hearing problems. To make a proper diagnosis, audiologists will perform a variety of tests on the patient to identify the issue. Sometimes they will need to refer out to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) to determine if surgery is necessary. Otherwise, the audiologist will do hearing rehabilitation, and/or judge whether a hearing aid is a right move.

How to Become an Audiologist

To become an audiologist, there is a specific path you have to travel along.

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED.
  2. Earn a bachelor’s degree. Any field is fine.
  3. Earn your doctorate in audiology (Au.D.). It will take four years to complete
  4. Every state requires licensing, but the requirements are all different. Check with your state boards to find out the specifics.
  5. Certification is required in some states, but it’s also recommended for all since it’s a hiring preference.

Make sure the program you chose to attend is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation; otherwise, you won’t be able to get that license, making all those years of higher education useless.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary range for audiologists hovers under $76,000 annually. However, audiologists with some years of experience behind them are averaging $113,540 annually. Pay for those just entering the field is above average at more than $54K per year. This area is expected to grow almost 20 percent, which means 3,000 job openings through 2026—way above the mean of 5-7 percent that most other occupations are reporting.


Physician Assistant

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. Working in environments like offices, hospitals, and clinics, physician assistants diagnose patients, treat illnesses, and prescribe medication to patients. Working alongside licensed physicians, PAs assist with some medical procedures and face a variety of clinical decisions.

What Physician Assistants Do

Physician assistants are licensed medical professionals who collaborate with licensed physicians regarding medical diagnosis and treatment. PAs can be found in a variety of areas of medicine and provide care for those that are ill or injured, using many of the same clinical services as physicians. Physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, and prescribing medications will be part of your daily routine. Depending on the type of medical facility you work in, you may also have responsibilities such as ordering medical supplies and equipment, and supervising techs and assistants. You can also make house calls, visit nursing homes or hospitals, and you’ll check in with the physician on the state of the patient.

Many PAs that work in primary care specialties, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine. Other PAs work in areas such as general surgery, emergency medicine, orthopedics, and geriatrics. With each area of the physician assistant field, varying hours apply.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

To become a physician assistant, you must follow these steps:

  1. Graduate high school or get your GED.
  2. Complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program, with two to four years focused on sciences.
  3. Enroll in an accredited physician assistant program, which can generally be completed in two years if you attend full time.
  4. Serve in your clinical rotations.
  5. You should have some work-related experience, such as an EMT, registered nurse, or nursing assistant. This helps with the admission process into these competitive programs.
  6. All states require PAs to be licensed. You must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam.
  7. To remain certified, there is a 100-hour continuing education requirement that needs to be fulfilled every two years.
  8. You must have a collaboration agreement with a physician in order to practice.

Salary and Job Outlook

Physician assistants make a median annual salary of more than $101K. Their starting salary averages around $65K, while more experienced PAs earn more than $142K per year. The projected employment rate through 2026 is 37 percent (39,700 jobs). The average occupation growth is 5-7 percent, so this is exceptionally higher than most careers. The best job prospects are in the rural and medically underserved communities.


Sports Medicine

From diagnosing to preventing sports-related injuries, sports medicine doctors help keep athletes from injuring themselves, both on and off the field. You will be responsible for diagnosing, treating, and preventing athletes from receiving sports-related injuries. You encourage an active way of life and help athletes stay healthy while doing so.

What Sports Medicine Doctors Do

Sports medicine doctors typically work in rehabilitation facilities, for an athletic organization, through private practice, or as a personal sports doctor for professional athletes.

Sports medicine professionals must perform various tasks on a daily basis, some of which occur as urgent and immediate. As a sports medicine doctor, your duties include handling on-field injuries, coordinating an athlete’s rehabilitation efforts, and counseling athletes post-injury. It is your responsibility to accurately diagnose injuries such as a concussion, hip displacement, broken arm or leg, rolled ankle, torn ACL, and many other injuries.

You’ll be working with a team of other professionals, such as coaches and athletic trainers, to address specific conditions and ways to improve them. You will be licensed to prescribe medication when necessary, as well.

How to Get Into Sports Medicine

To work as a sports medicine physician, you must first complete the following steps. They take about eight years to complete.

  1. Focus on many science classes in high school and graduate.
  2. Get your bachelor’s degree following the pre-med curriculum. It should take four years attending full time.
  3. Take the MCAT, which is a requirement for getting into medical school.
  4. Choose whether you want to go into osteopathic or allopathic medicine (M.D. or D.O.)
  5. Go through medical school and clinical rotations. This takes about four years.
  6. Get your medical license.
  7. Complete your medical residency program (another three to four years).
  8. Complete a fellowship specializing in surgical sports medicine, which takes one to two years.

Each state requires physicians to earn a license before they can practice medicine. After all education requirements have been completed, sports medicine professionals must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). Each of which will provide you with the satisfaction of being a certified sports medicine professional.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for physicians and surgeons is the highest of all occupations, at more than $208K. Your earnings will vary depending on your experience, where you work, and what geographic location you’re located. Between now and 2026, the job outlook is expected to grow 15 percent (more than 106K physician and surgeon jobs, including sports medicine), which is much faster than most other occupations.

The medical field offers so many different career options for each type of degree. No matter what kind of education best suits you, you’ll find a satisfying career in the medical industry.

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