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Popular Health Professions

There are many health professional career options available and it is advised you explore and research the options that best fit your skills and interests.

TOC:

Allopathic Medicine (M.D.)

Medicine is an inclusive profession that offers varied opportunities including, but not limited to:

  • Clinical practice
  • Medical administration
  • Public health
  • Medical education
  • Biomedical research

Ideally, all physicians aspire to be:

  • Altruistic, compassionate, trustworthy, and truthful in their relationships with patients, patients’ family members, and professional colleagues.
  • Knowledgeable about the scientific basis of medicine and the normal and abnormal functioning of the body.
  • Skillful in communicating with and providing care to their patients.
  • Dutiful in working with other physicians and health care professionals to promote the health of individual patients and community members.

(source: Medical School Admissions Requirements publication)

MD-PhD Dual Degree Training

MD-PhD programs provide training in both medicine and research.  They are designed for people who want to become research physicians, also known as physician-investigators or physician-scientists.  Graduates of MD-PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities and research institutes such as the NIH.  Regardless of where people end up, MD-PhD trainees are being prepared for careers in which they will spend most of their time doing research, not only taking care of patients - "bench to bedside." 

  • The career of a physician-scientist is unique. There are few comparable careers that allow one to experience the passion of solving a patient's medical struggles while pursuing research that may define the mechanism of that patient’s disease and may ultimately translate into a clinical cure for the disease.
  • MD-PhD trainees are research scientists who solve mechanisms underlying disease, combined with their passion to treat patients in a clinical setting.
  • MD-PhD training efficiently integrates the scientific and medical education of the physician-scientist.
  • During the PhD training years MD-PhD students take the coursework and formal training in research methodology that are important for the development of the research scientist.
  • Most MD-PhD programs provide trainees a stipend and tuition scholarships. This financial support recognizes the time that a student must spend in training for the MD-PhD career. The extent of financial support varies among programs and may only support U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

(source:  AAMC MD-PhD website)

Tip: Application to MD-PhD programs is through the same application portal as MD programs.

Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

What does a D.O. do?

  • D.O.’s practice the full scope of medicine in all existing specialties of the medical field.
  • Osteopathic physicians receive the same medical training as their allopathic (M.D.) counterparts, plus an additional 200 hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) – a hands-on therapy that is used to diagnose and treat illness and injury.
  • D.O.’s are trained to focus on the whole person, working with patients to achieve high levels of wellness and disease prevention.  Osteopathic Manual Medicine Explained.
  • The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine web site provides a Brief History of Osteopathic Medicine.

Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine

  1. The body is a unit; the person is a unity of body, mind, and spirit.
  2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

(Source: Osteopathic Medical College Information Book)

Some Osteopathic Medical Schools offer D.O. / Ph.D. and other dual degree programs. Learn more about the programs here.

Dental Medicine (D.M.D., D.D.S.)

According to the ADA, “The D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. The difference is a matter of semantics. The majority of dental schools award the DDS degree; however, some award a DMD degree. The education and degrees are the same.  For further information, visit ADEA GoDental and the American Student Dental Association.

Why consider a Dental career?

  • The dental profession offers a wide range of clinical practice, research, and academic opportunities.
  • The entire dental profession is at the head of important new research substantiating the relationship between oral health and systemic.
  • Dentists are generally able to enter practice upon completion of the four years of dental school.
  • The lifestyle of a private practice dentist is generally predictable and self-determined.
  • The average net income for dentists has doubled in the last decade and is in the highest 5% of U.S. family incomes.
  • Dentistry is not generally subject to the effects of managed care and reductions in federal funding that have affected other health care professions.

(source: ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools)

Dentistry Career Options

  • Private Practice: Many dentists work either in solo private practice or in partnerships with other dentists. The majority of private practice dentists own their own practices.
  • Academic Dentistry: An academic dentistry career combines teaching, research, community service and patient care.
  • Public Health Dentistry: This career focuses on community settings rather than private practice. Promoting dental health, developing health policy and preventing disease are the major roles of a public health dentist.
  • Research: Research careers offer opportunities to generate new knowledge and be on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries that ultimately impact patient care.
  • International Health Care: Dentists provide services to populations abroad and work for such agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Many dentists volunteer to bring dentistry to aid people in third world countries.
  • Hospital dentistry: Hospital dentists treat patients with medical conditions and disabilities alongside physician colleagues, often in operating rooms and emergency departments.

Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)

“Doctors of veterinary medicine are medical professionals whose primary responsibility is protecting the health and welfare of animals and people.” (American Veterinary Medical Association)

What does a D.V.M. do?

  • Diagnose and control animal diseases;
  • Treat sick and injured animals;
  • Prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people;
  • Advise owners on proper care of pets and livestock;
  • Ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals;
  • Involved in wildlife preservation and conservation and public health of the human population.

Most veterinarian specialties break down into one of three categories:

Large Animal : focus primarily on farm animals like sheep, goats, horses, and cattle; they may offer general large animal services, or they may choose to specialize in something like large animal orthopedics.

Small Animal : care for pets like cats and dogs, although some may receive additional training in small exotics like guinea pigs, hamsters, and so forth.

Exotic : found at zoos taking care of everything from giraffes to lions, and they may also have private practices to serve people with exotic pets like snakes and lizards.

Veterinary Medicine Career Options

In addition to the many geographic choices available to the veterinary physician (D.V.M.’s are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico), there are a variety of settings or types of practices from which to choose.

  • Private Practice: The majority of veterinarians are in private practice
  • Teaching and Research: More than 3800 veterinarians teach at colleges and universities. Also, many veterinary faculty members conduct basic and clinical research, provide various services to the public, contribute to scientific publications and develop continuing education programs to help graduate veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills.
  • Regulatory Medicine: The two main responsibilities of veterinarians in this area are the control or elimination of certain diseases, and protection of the public from animal diseases that can affect people.
  • Public Health: Help to prevent and control animal and human diseases and to promote good health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employs veterinarians to determine the safety and the efficacy of medicines and food additives.
  • Uniformed Services: In the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, veterinarians are responsible for biomedical research and development. In the U.S. Air Force Biomedical Science Corps, veterinarians manage communicable disease control programs at U.S. Air Force bases around the world to halt the spread of HIV, encephalitis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
  • Private Industry: Veterinarians working in pharmaceutical and biomedical firms develop, test and supervise the production of drugs, chemicals and biological products, such as antibiotics and vaccines for human and animal use.

Public Health

What is Public Health?

  • The science and art of protecting and improving community health through health education, promotion, research and disease prevention strategies.
  • Knowledge and application of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary population-based methods of research, teaching and practice involving various academic disciplines.
  • Achieves goals through health promotion and disease prevention with the final outcome being to improve the quality of life in target populations.
Distinctions Between Public Health and Clinical Health Professions
Public Health Clinical Health
Population Individual
Health Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion Diagnosis and Treatment

(Information adapted from the American Public Health Association)

Core Areas of Public Health Study

  • Biostatistics and Informatics: Application of statistical procedures, techniques and methodology to characterize or investigate health problems and programs.
  • Environmental Health:  Concerned with the identification and control of factors in the natural environment (air, water, land) which affect health.
  • Epidemiology: Study of the distribution and determinants of disease or disability in population groups; essential for evaluating the efficacy of new preventive and therapeutic modalities and of new organizational patterns of health care delivery.
  • Health Policy and Management: A multidisciplinary field of inquiry and practice concerned with the delivery, quality and costs of health care for individuals and populations.
  • Social and Behavioral Science: Using specific methods, skills, and program strategies to help people change to healthier lifestyles, to make more efficient use of health services, to adopt self-care practices and to participate actively in the design and implementation of programs that affect health.

There are a number of other fields students can specialize in such as Community Health, Maternal and Child Health, Minority Health and Health Disparities, Health Promotion and Communication, and Global Health. For more information, visit the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health.

Other Health Professions

ExploreHealthCareers.org is a good web site to review to learn more about these additional careers.  Some examples of alternative health professions careers are: