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Beyond Becoming a Doctor: Alternative Ways to Study and Work in Healthcare

By Ryan Hickey updated on Monday, September 30, 2013

Although the word ‘healthcare’ often brings to mind images of doctors and nurses, there are numerous people with a passion for healthcare who are not directly involved in patient care. They are the individuals who conduct the basic research that eventually gets translated into best practices. Evidence-based care is the cornerstone of modern medicine, and breakthroughs in research are what physicians use to treat an ever-increasing numbers of illnesses and injuries. Also, individuals who have both a knowledge of medicine as well as business are needed to run hospitals and clinics. Those who combine medicine and public policy might apply their knowledge of medicine to assist lawmakers in shaping sound healthcare policies

Becoming a doctor is a very specific career path, and it is not the right one for every person who is interested in healthcare. Exploring alternatives to being a doctor can provide a different career path that might allow you to work as you progress in your career, potentially lowering the overall costs of your education and incurring education costs only as needed to take your next career step. For example, someone who wants to work in healthcare policy may only need to have a master’s degree. Someone who is interested in a career in neuroscience might be able to begin work immediately after completing their bachelor’s degree and advance their career through both academic and work experience.

As the field of healthcare becomes more technologically sophisticated, the field has expanded greatly. Many universities and hospitals have health science centers that train a wide spectrum of healthcare professionals. Most of them also engage in research and collaborate with policy institutions. The University of Connecticut Health Center trains both doctors and dentists, but they also offer PhD degrees in biomedical sciences, neuroscience, immunology, and cell biology (among others). Additionally, they offer a combination PhD/MBA program as well as multiple combination degrees with a Master’s in Public Health. This type of school can be an ideal environment, providing students with a global view of healthcare and access to state-of-the-art facilities as well as experienced and dedicated faculty.

If you love the idea of having a career in healthcare but know that direct patient care is not right for you, there are as many options as you can imagine. You might join a research team that is unlocking the secrets of how the brain becomes ‘mind’ or providing insight into how cells die and how that can be delayed or reversed. You may participate in a group that is looking at how to best provide healthcare for the growing elderly population, including the explosion in the population of individuals living past the age of 85. You might integrate your solid business acumen and compassion for others by becoming part of the administration of a clinic or hospital. There are just as many schooling options as there are career paths, including programs that allow you to continue in your career as you progress in your education. 

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About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson's and an expert in college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in admissions for nearly a decade writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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