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Careers in Healthcare

Many Options

Healthcare careers are wide-ranging. Use the tools below to help you explore your options: Types of Healthcare, Salary and Education, Job Shadowing and Self-Reflection.
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Male and Female student with manikin

Defining Healthcare Careers

There are literally hundreds of options to work in healthcare. It is easy to get locked into the most common or to become overwhelmed when trying to choose. You may find it helpful to think about healthcare fields in terms of the following basic categories. Each field will differ in details, but fields within a category will share similar educational paths, degrees of competitiveness, amounts of direct patient care, and levels of science/mathematics required. These categories do not represent a hierarchy; they are different careers that call upon different strengths among their practitioners. It is also important to remember that there are significant exceptions in each category.

After you identify the category of health career that you are most interested in, we recommend that you use any of the resources at the bottom of this page to drill down on details of your career choices.

Taking the time to think through what is important to you in a career can be one of the most important things that you do. Reach out to our Career Services for free career advising. But before meeting with them, take the free PPCC Focus 2 Career Assessment to help you explore options. Access code: aardvarks

After you have selected your top career choices in healthcare, download the self-reflection worksheet below. It does not have to be shared with anyone, but your responses can be discussed with your Academic Advisor, Career Counselor, Coach or Faculty Advisors. 

Download Self-Reflection Worksheet

"Levels of Patient Care and Responsibility" and "Scope of Practice" are terms used by national and state/provincial licensing boards for various professions that defines the procedures, actions, and processes that are permitted for the licensed individual. The scope of practice is limited to that which the law allows for specific education and experience, and specific demonstrated competency. Each jurisdiction has laws, licensing bodies, and regulations that describe requirements for education and training, and define scope of practice.

The information below has been reprinted with permission of Dr. Ruth Bingham (University of Hawaii-Manoa) and Dr. Beverly Childress (Auburn University).

  • Diagnosing/Treating Fields entail direct patient care from exceptionally well-educated practitioners. These fields are usually highly selective/competitive, require significant levels of science/mathematics, require or prefer a completed bachelor’s degree, and require a post-baccalaureate degree. Examples: dentists, optometrists, physicians, physician assistants, podiatrists, and veterinarians.
  • Allied/Associated Fields either are allied with or carry out prescribed treatments from diagnosing/treating professionals. These fields require well-educated practitioners and entail direct patient care, usually more hands-on work than in diagnosing/treating fields, and consequently require strong interpersonal skills. These fields are moderately to highly selective/competitive, require moderate to high levels of science/mathematics, and usually begin at the undergraduate level, but can extend to the doctoral level. Examples: nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, genetic counselors.
  • Rehabilitating Fields also entail direct, hands-on patient care from well-educated practitioners. They are usually moderately selective/competitive, but can be highly selective/competitive if the number of applicants far exceeds the number of available seats. Some require a completed bachelor’s degree; others begin at the undergraduate level. Most require moderate levels of science/mathematics and strong interpersonal skills. Examples: audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, recreational therapists
  • Assisting/Adjunct Fields support other health professionals and usually entail primarily either direct patient care or hands-on applications. These fields are minimally to moderately selective/competitive and usually require minimal levels of science/mathematics. Some can be completed with just a certificate; others require an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even a bachelor’s degree plus certificate. Examples: technologists, technicians, assistants, or aides.
  • Educational Fields assist patients and people with their health and with the healthcare system. Selectivity depends upon the program and degree sought, ranging from associate’s to bachelor’s degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates, and graduate-level degrees. These fields require little to no science/mathematics, but some science/mathematics usually provides an advantage. Some require a background in education or counseling, and a strong foundation in the humanities or social sciences is helpful. Strong interpersonal skills are usually essential. Examples: dietary managers, biomedical writers, mental health workers, health educators, health science librarians.
  • Administrative Fields assist or manage health organizations, not individual patients. Selectivity depends upon the program and degree sought. Degrees are offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Courses in science are advantageous but not usually required. Some degrees require a background in business, which includes mathematics, and most require a strong foundation in the social sciences. Examples: nursing home directors, geriatric care managers, health wellness coordinators, hospital public relations officers, quality assurance directors, medical secretaries, admitting officers.
  • Affiliated Fields are independent but related to health care. These fields vary widely: some require direct patient care while others entail no patient care; some are science-based while others are based more in the social sciences; some are highly selective, others minimally selective. Most fields require a completed bachelor’s degree plus a graduate-level degree, often a Ph.D. Examples: biomedical engineers, biostatisticians, social workers, epidemiologists, athletic trainers, environmental health scientists.

Meet with your medical sciences advisor to start planning your program in Navigate.

Contact Medical Sciences Advising Team

Salary and Education

This patient contact lists below are not intended to be comprehensive. Feel free to use the resource links at the bottom of the page to look up specific careers for salary and education information.

(P): PPCC Program

Estimated Income Levels: 

  • $: $20K – 39,999
  • $$: $40K – 59,999
  • $$$: $60K – 79,999     
  • $$$$: $80K – 99,999
  • $$$$$: $100K +

  • Anesthesiologist $$$$$
  • Audiologist $$$
  • Clinical Office Assistant (P) $
  • Dental Assistant (P) $
  • Dietitian and Nutritionist $$
  • Emergency Medical Technician (P) $
  • LPN (P) or LVN $$
  • Medical Assistant (P) $
  • Nursing Assistant (P) $
  • Occupational Therapist $$$$
  • Paramedic (P) $$
  • Physical Therapist $$$$
  • Physical Therapy Assistant (P) $$$
  • Physician and Surgeon $$$$$
  • Registered Nurse (P) $$$
  • Respiratory Therapist $$
  • Speech-Language Pathologist $$$
  • Surgical Technologist (P) $$

  • Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician $$
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer $$$
  • Epidemiologist $$\
  • Neurodiagnostic Technologist $$
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist $$$
  • Medical Receptionist (P) $
  • Orthotist and Prosthetist $$$
  • Pharmacy Technician (P) $
  • Phlebotomist (P) $
  • Radiation Therapist $$$$
  • Radiologic Technician (P) $$

  • Biochemist $$$$
  • Biomedical Engineer $$$$
  • Biostatistician $$$$
  • Certified Dietary Manager (P) $
  • Cytogenetic Technologist $$$
  • Cytotechnologist $$$
  • Health Educator $$
  • Histotechnologist and Histologic Technician $$$
  • Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician $
  • Medical and Health Services Manager $$$$
  • Medical Coding Specialist (P) $
  • Medical Scientist $$$$
Female student with manikin
x-ray machine

Job Shadowing

Do you dream of being an active part of the medical field, but only know about it from what you have heard from friends or seen on television or in the movies? Then perhaps it’s time to do some job shadowing. Job shadowing is a powerful way to come face-to-face with what it takes for the kind of healthcare career you have been thinking of, or perhaps it can simply help you explore a variety of healthcare career options.

Job shadowing is taking the opportunity to observe first-hand what someone in a particular career actually does on a daily basis. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, watch, learn and possibly participate in the work environment.

How is job shadowing different than an internship?

A job shadowing experience does not involve earning credit for college, getting paid for experience nor is it a lengthy time commitment.

PPCC Resources

While PPCC does not have a formal job shadowing program, we want to guide you in how you can move toward job shadowing experiences. Look for opportunities to ask about job shadowing at PPCC career fairs, information sessions and open houses.

Many healthcare sites require a document called an Attestation Form. This is a document that provides confirmation that a student has done background checks and drug testing and is current on their vaccinations/shots and insurance. PPCC students may get this form processed through the Health and Sciences Division and should contact them directly at 719-502-3400. Depending upon site availability, requests may not be approved by host site. Not all sites allow shadowing. Students may not get into the site of their choice due to availability at their requested site.

Patient Privacy

Job shadowing in the healthcare field may have some roadblocks due to Health Information Privacy laws (HIPPA). Some organizations or facilities will not permit job shadowing due to the restrictions regarding patient information or because they do not know you. If you cannot obtain a job shadowing opportunity at one place, you can certainly try to find another organization to explore. Do not be put off from further exploration because one organization or individual says no. You may have greater access by requesting job shadowing experiences from an acquaintance, friend or relative in the field who knows and trusts you.

Some healthcare organizations may require you to sign a patient confidentiality agreement.

How long can/should job shadowing be?

Typically it is a day long. But, if more time is available or offered, it could be longer. Keep in mind that they are voluntarily offering access to their work lives and environments as a service to you.

Do your research. Explore the job requirements and skills through the sources listed above. Explore job postings and their application requirements. Prepare good questions in advance so that you can demonstrate your serious interest in this career.

Start by talking with your friends and acquaintances about opportunities. If you do not have anyone connected to the healthcare field in your circle of friends or family, start by contacting the Human Resources office of the organization in which you wish to job shadow. Identify yourself as a PPCC student and that may open doors for you as well.

Otherwise, after you’ve done your good research, follow the 8 steps from “How to Ask to Job Shadow” by Irene A. Blake, Demand Media

  • Step 1: Prepare a letter on your computer starting with the date and the name and address of the person you’re hoping to shadow and then follow it with a formal salutation of “Dear,” an honorific such as “Mr.” “Mrs.” or “Ms.” and the person’s surname followed by a comma.
  • Step 2 : Write an introductory paragraph explaining who you are, how you were referred to the letter recipient, the reason you’re writing and what you hope to accomplish career-wise by shadowing.
  • Step 3: Follow with the amount of time—half-day, day or longer—you desire to shadow, as well as a request to conduct an informational interview for about 15 or 20 minutes afterward to ask questions about the experience.
  • Step 4: Acknowledge in the next paragraph that you know you’re asking a lot. Emphasize that you believe strongly that shadowing can help you discover more about yourself and your career path and that you would appreciate any assistance.
  • Step 5: Express your appreciation for the time the recipient has taken to read your letter and consider your request.
  • Step 6: Mention in the last paragraph that you plan to contact the recipient in about a week and then offer your phone number and email address so s/he can contact you if s/he has questions before s/he can reach a decision.
  • Step 7: Close the letter with another thank-you and a formal valediction such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully” and your full name.
  • Step 8: Send the letter via postal mail or email to the professional as well as to the person who referred you, if applicable. Wait for a reply to your request or follow-up in a week to determine interest and attempt to schedule a shadow date.

Taking the Opportunity

When you are successful in obtaining a job shadowing experience, prepare well. Dress professionally, make a list of career-appropriate questions, don’t ask about pay and benefits (that comes much later in the job search process), and be respectful and not intrusive. Remember you are there to learn and observe.

Enjoy the opportunity to find out what your career choice in the healthcare field really looks like through valuable job shadowing experiences!

(Sources and further reading: College Foundation of North Carolina)

FIND JOB SHADOWING OPTIONS IN YOUR career services account