Careers in the Medical Field

by Barbara Foster

When choosing a career it is important to do so wisely and select one that offers many opportunities. A strong career choice is one that will provide jobs both in the present and the foreseeable future. The medical industry fulfills this requirement. Because people will always need to take care of their health, the medical field will never lack for jobs. In fact some areas of this industry, such as nursing, are experiencing shortages that are only expected to get worse. Both students entering college and adults who are considering career changes should turn to the medical field for opportunities that will allow them to grow and develop fulfilling careers.

Physical Therapists

A physical therapist is a therapist who focuses on the physical rehabilitation of people who have suffered from injuries or illnesses. These injuries or illnesses are ones that hinder a person's ability to move or make it difficult to move without pain. Physical therapists also aid in the prevention and diagnosis of certain conditions. In order to become a physical therapist a person must obtain a postgraduate degree from a physical therapy program. The most common degree is the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree; however some may obtain a Master of Physical Therapy degree. Depending on the degree the physical therapy program could take two to three years. Following graduation from the program, residency programs must also be completed, which can last from nine months to three years. He or she will also need to be licensed in the state of employment. Ideally, people who are detail oriented, compassionate, have good interpersonal skills and who are detail oriented tend to do best as physical therapists. They may work in hospitals, with health practitioners in private offices, or in residential care facilities. A person may specialize in certain areas of treatment including, sports physical therapy, podiatry, obstetrics/gynecology, geriatrics, cardiopulmonary, or hand rehabilitation, to name a few.


Nursing is a medical profession in which a person is tasked with helping patients to alleviate suffering and pain and aid in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions. They work closely with physicians and other medical professionals and perform a number of responsibilities such as performing physical exams, taking health histories, administering medications, providing care to wounds, coordinating patient care and other duties as instructed by the physician. Nursing has many career choices that include becoming a LPN, RN, and also advanced nursing careers such as clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, or nurse-midwives. There are also numerous sub-specialties that a person may enter when working in the nursing field.

Nurses work in a variety of settings. The most common settings include hospitals, physician offices, nursing care facilities, schools, and home health care services. Nurses may also work with local or state government agencies as well. In terms of education, students will need to obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). Obtaining an ADN is a faster way of entering nursing as it can be completed in two years; however, a BSN degree is completed in four years at a college or university. A BSN provides more training and better prepares the student for entering the field. Upon completion of the BSN or the ADN the student may enter entry-level nursing positions. Licensing is also necessary after graduation. One step that is universal regardless of what state a person lives in the need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). People who are interested in advanced careers in nursing may pursue a master's degree. The ideal qualities for someone who is interested in pursuing a career in nursing include critical thinking skills, being detail oriented, compassionate, organized, patient, emotional stability, and also excellent communication and speaking skills.


In the medical field it is sometimes necessary to perform invasive procedures in the treatment of disorders, injuries, deformities and more. These procedures are known as surgeries and they are performed by a surgeon. A surgeon is a health care professional who is trained to perform these surgeries. He or she may become a specialist in a specific category of medicine, such as cardiology, dentistry, podiatry, pediatrics, etc. In order to become a surgeon a person must first become a physician. This involves attending medical school after which he or she must complete another four years of medical school. In addition, a person will also need to apply to and attend a residency program. Qualities of a surgeon include excellent communication skills, problem skills, good physical stamina, patience, leadership skills, and empathy. Surgeons most often work in hospitals for long hours.


Pediatricians are also physicians. They specialize in the treatment and care of children that range in age from newborns to their late teens. Pediatricians may work in a hospital, private practice, or in clinics. To become a pediatrician a person will need to complete the educational requirements that are associated with it. This means the individual will need to complete four years at a college or university to obtain a Bachelor's degree. This is followed by four years in medical school and a residency program. While the usual traits for becoming a physician apply, a person who is interested in being a pediatrician must have patience and the ability to interact with children of all ages.

General Practitioner

A general practitioner is a physician who is able to treat a wide variety of common health conditions, such as colds and sprained ankles, for example. Complex issues are typically referred out to specialists. This type of doctor is also known as a family physician. They typically work in an office and see regular patients, many of whom become long-term. People who wish to become a family physician will need to obtain a four-year degree before attending medical school for another four years. Following medical school he or she will need to complete a residency program that could take as long as eight years to complete.


When doctors give their patients a prescription for medication the patient takes it to a pharmacy. Once there it is the pharmacist who fills and dispenses the medication. Pharmacists also explain side-effects, instructions, and answer any questions that the patient may have about the medication. Pharmacists can be found inside of hospitals, in independent pharmacies, or working at pharmacies located inside grocery or drug stores. It can take as long as six years to complete one's education to become a pharmacist. Students will need to obtain their Bachelor's degree from a university or college followed by pharmacy school.