Health Professions and Medical Services

Read about careers in health and medical services, including how much postsecondary education you'll need to work as a doctor, medical records technician or nurse. Find out what types of hours are required of healthcare workers, as well as how much you can earn in this fast-growing field.

Is a Career in Health Professions and Medical Services for Me?

Career Overview

The healthcare industry is composed of a number of different professionals, including those who provide direct medical care and office support. For example, doctors diagnose illnesses and determine the best treatments to cure or prevent them. Registered nurses perform administrative tasks, operate medical equipment and help treat patients. Medical records technicians maintain and organize patient information and other medical reports.

Since the healthcare industry is associated with a high rate of illness and injury, the ability to follow safety procedures is key to working in this area. An interest in helping others and good communication skills are also important.

Work Schedules

Daily work schedules in healthcare and medical services vary among occupations. For instance, doctors sometimes work over 50 hours each week, which can include emergency visits conducted on short notice. Nurses often work in shifts at hospitals, sometimes during weekends or on holidays. Unless they're employed in a 24-hour facility, most medical information technicians enjoy a 40-hour week.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the demand for medical records technicians, physicians, registered nurses (RNs) and surgeons was expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate nationwide from 2012-2022. By comparison, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) will enjoy a much-faster-than-average growth in job openings through 2022.

While earnings for physicians and surgeons can vary, as reported by the BLS in May 2013, the median annual income of a family or general practitioner was $176,530, while RNs earned $65,950. In the same month, the median annual wage for an LPN or LVN was $41,920, while medical records and health information technicians earned $34,970 ('www.bls.gov).

How Can I Begin a Career in Health Professions and Medical Services?

Educational Requirements

The education and training you'll need to work in the healthcare industry can depend upon which career you wish to pursue. Medical records technicians normally have an associate degree in medical administration. Many employers prefer technicians who also have the Registered Health Information Technician designation, which includes a degree from an accredited school and a satisfactory score on an exam.

You can become a nurse with an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree or a diploma. Each education program can lead to different career opportunities, so it is a good idea to explore each option before enrolling in a nursing program. Licensed doctors usually need at least eight years of education, including completion of an undergraduate program and four years of medical school, as well as a minimum of three years in a residency or internship program.

Course Topics

In an associate degree program in medical administration, you'll study healthcare code systems, human anatomy and healthcare reimbursement. A bachelor's degree program in nursing can include specialized topics in pediatrics, pharmacology and mental illnesses. As an undergraduate who's interested in becoming a doctor, you could major in biology or organic chemistry. Once enrolled in medical school, you'll begin with foundational coursework in biology before advancing to the study of biomedical sciences, developing clinical skills and choosing which medical specialty you'd like to pursue.

Licensing

You must have a state license to practice as a physician or surgeon. Although each state has its own requirements, they generally include completion of an accredited medical program, a residency and both practical and written exams. RNs who have graduated from an approved program are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, which is also a licensing requirement for LPNs and LVNs.

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