This section covers some of the most in-demand medical professions.
If you want to become a physician, a surgeon, a nurse, or a medical professional in a different field, we invite you to read further to find out more about your career path.
An anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring patient comfort before, during, and after surgical or medical procedures.
Audiologists work with clients to help them to preserve, manage and improve their hearing.
Autopsy Technician is to assist with forensic autopsies.
A cancer researcher conducts studies designed to answer specific questions about cancer.
Cardiologists focus on the management of cardiac and vascular ailments.
Cardiovascular surgeons work to repair damage done to the heart and blood vessels.
Cardiology technologists work with other health care professionals who test, monitor and evaluate heart function.
Chemotherapy technicians, they are trained to dispense drugs that kill cancer cells in cancer patients.
Child psychiatrists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of mental and behavioral health issues.
Clinical geneticists typically work in clinical settings when consulting with patients and in laboratory settings when testing takes place.
Clinical laboratory technologists perform simple lab tests and procedures, such as examining and analyzing body fluids and tissue samples.
Clinical researchers plan and monitor trials to test how effective and safe new medical inventions are.
Dental hygienists handle regular cleanings and do thorough exams on new and existing patients to help the dentist decide on how to treat those patients.
Dental technicians work with dentists to make crowns, dentures and bridges.
Dentists are health professionals who take care of the teeth, gums, and supporting bones of the mouth.
A sensitive and careful Dermatologist specializing in providing preventive skin care to both children and adults.
A Dialysis Technician works with people who have kidney disease or other kidney issues.
Doctors examine, diagnose and treat patients.
EKG Technicians assist physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments by performing diagnostic tests.
Embalmers respectfully prepare and preserve human bodies for public viewing in caskets and delayed burial.
Emergency Room Doctor focuses on the immediate decision making and action necessary to prevent death or any further disability.
An Emergency Nurse takes care of patients in a wide range of situations, from fevers, to minor injuries and major trauma.
As an EMT, you may operate as a single responder to an incident or support a paramedic on a double-crewed ambulance.
Endocrinologists help patients manage glandular disorders and hormonal issues, as well as a variety of other aspects of metabolism.
Forensic assistants work in labs and at crime scenes under the direction of medical examiners, coroners or forensic pathologists.
A forensic pathologist is called upon by a coroner to investigate the cause of sudden and unexplained deaths.
A gastroenterologist is an expert in digestive health and issues related to the stomach, intestines, and bowels.
Genetic counselors conduct DNA testing to inform parents on whether their baby is likely to inherit medical complications.
Geneticists study how different life forms vary and how these variations are passed on to succeeding generations.
A gynecologist performs a variety of tests and exams focused on women's health.
Health technicians help nurses and doctors deliver quality health care services to patients with various conditions.
Health administrators are accountable for ensuring the smooth administration of a healthcare company, hospital system, or hospital.
Hematologists also deal with blood diseases that are not cancerous.
Hospice nursing responsibility is much more than just providing medical ailment to the patient.
Immunologists study how the immune system functions and they treat patients with immune system disorders.
Kinesiologists see the body as a fascinating machine, and they are experts in analyzing, fixing, and fine-tuning its movement.
Labor and delivery nurses help guide mothers through the different stages of labor and coach them through their contractions.
As a Lab Assistant you will follow instructions and safety protocols in handling blood borne pathogens.
Medical Assistant is responsible for a variety of patient care, technical, and clerical related functions.
Medical Biller is in charge of calculating and collecting payments for medical procedures and services.
Medical Coder review clinical documentation to ensure accurate diagnostic and procedural coding.
Medical Examiners conduct autopsies, collect evidence, bodily fluids and tissues for toxicology testing and microscopic study.
Medical lab technician analyzes bodily fluids and tissues for proper diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.
Medical Records Clerk is in charge of managing patient health files in a facility.
A medical researcher focuses on the science behind medicine.
Medical technicians, work closely with nurses to provide quality care for patients.
Medical transcriptionists help create permanent medical records from recorded reports.
Midwife provides support and guidance throughout the birthing process.
Morgue assistants prepare bodies for autopsy, and mortuary assistants help prepare bodies for burial.
Morgue assistants, play an important role in the postmortem examination process.
Mortician works at a funeral agency, providing funeral-related services.
Morticians guide family and friends through the logistics of mourning their deceased loved ones.
An MRI technician administers magnetic resonance imaging for overall diagnosis.
Neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the nervous system.
A neurosurgeon performs all the same tasks as a standard surgeon.
Nurse Practitioners often hold a similar role to those of primary physicians, independently treating and assessing patients within the bounds.
Obstetrician-gynecologists develop treatment plans to maintain a woman's healthy lifestyle by monitoring early symptoms of possible health issues.
For the obstetrician, patient care is largely directed by the stage of the pregnancy, known as trimesters.
An oncologist studies cancer and provides medical treatment for people diagnosed with cancer.
An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in eye and vision care.
An optometrist is a primary health care provider that specializes in eye care and visual health.
Oral surgeons treat diseases, defects and injuries through surgery on the maxillofacial and oral areas.
Orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the alignment of the teeth and jaws.
Orthopedic surgeons treat injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, which includes your muscles, bones, and joints.
Orthopedics, or orthopedic services, aim at the treatment of the musculoskeletal system.
As an osteopath, you'll use your expert knowledge of the musculoskeletal system to treat various health issues.
Paramedics are trained to administer on-site emergency care.
As a pathologist you'll diagnose, treat and prevent a range of diseases.
Pathology Assistant assists professionals in pathology laboratories by undertaking routine tasks and performing tests on specimens.
Pediatric nurse practitioners serve as vital links between medical professionals and young patients and their families.
Pediatricians investigate, diagnose and treat internal diseases and disorders in children from birth up to, and including, adolescence.
Pharmacists provide patients with the appropriate medication and dosage their doctor has prescribed.
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for a variety of tasks including maintaining prescription inventory.
As a phlebotomist, you draw blood from patients for medical analysis, research, donation or transfusion.
Physicians diagnose and treat the diseases, physiological disorders and injuries of patients.
Physician assistants carry out many of the same functions as traditional medical doctors.
Plastic surgeons shape and mould regions of the body like the ears, face, trunk, hands and other extremities.
As a podiatrist, you'll help people relieve pain and treat infections of the feet and lower legs.
Primary care physicians are known to be the healthcare providers that manage and coordinate primary care for their patients.
Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders.
A Radiation Therapist uses advanced technology and imaging equipment to create a treatment plan.
Radiologists examine and diagnose disorders and diseases using x-rays and radioactive materials.
Radiologist assistants are expected to play a prominent role in performing advanced imaging procedures and techniques.
Radiology techs assist physicians or radiologists in using medical imaging equipment.
Reflexologist treats the entire body through applying pressure to reflexes in the feet.
Registered nurses observe, assess, monitor, and document patient symptoms, reactions, and progress.
Residency Coordinator provides administrative support to the residency program managers and program director of the residency.
A respiratory therapist helps patients who are having trouble breathing.
Sonographers assist doctors to diagnose different body conditions through the process of Sonography.
As a surgeon, you'll perform operations by cutting open a patient's body to repair, remove or replace damaged part.
The Certified Surgical Technician is responsible and accountable for the quality of care she/he provides to the patient in the operating room.
Ultrasound technician's job normally involves operating ultrasound equipment in a medical facility or clinic.
As a X-ray technicians, you'll responsible for obtaining x-ray images of patients via radiographic imaging procedures.
Medical professionals may work in hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities, physician offices, and other healthcare providers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians and surgeons held around 727,000 jobs in the United States in 2020, while registered nurses held 3.1 million jobs.
There were 335,000 medical dosimetrists, medical records specialists, and health technologists and technicians in the United States, most of them working in hospitals, outpatient care centers, or offices of physicians.
Health information technologists, medical registrars, surgical assistants, and healthcare practitioners and technical workers held 81,400 jobs, most of them working for general medical and surgical hospitals, in offices of physicians, or the field of educational services.
The career path for a medical career varies depending on the position.
If you want a career in the medical field, taking classes in anatomy, biology, or chemistry in high school is a good idea.
There are professions, such as a dental assistant or medical assistant, that can be practiced with a diploma or certificate that can usually be obtained in 1-2 years.
The curriculum varies depending on the type of credential one is seeking.
Accredited programs usually include classroom and laboratory work and a portion of supervised practical experience.
Registered nurses need around four years of post-secondary training consisting of a bachelor’s of science degree program or an associate’s degree in nursing.
Diploma programs in nursing are also available at hospitals or medical centers and are usually 2 to 3 years long.
Master’s degree programs and accelerated programs are also available for those who want to become registered nurses and already have a bachelor’s degree in another field.
Registered nurses need a nursing license issued by the state where they want to practice.
To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing program, and they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
Some registered nurses advance to a nurse anesthetist, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner position (also known as advanced practice registered nurses – APRN) if they continue their training and earn a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.
APRNs are allowed to prescribe medications in many states and are typically paid more than registered nurses.
First, they have to earn a bachelor’s degree that can be obtained in four years.
Although there are no specific undergraduate degree requirements, medical school applicants usually take classes in biology, physical science, and other healthcare-related subjects.
The next step is to finish medical school, which takes four more years.
The admission process to a medical school is highly competitive, and applicants need to submit their college transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test, and letters of recommendation.
Some schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last between 6 and 8 years.
The first years of medical school focus on classroom classes, laboratories, and small groups where students learn about anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, medical ethics, and medicine-related laws, among other topics.
The last years of medical school are spent working with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians.
Then, depending on the specialty, physicians need between 3 and 9 years spent in an internship and residency program.
Physicians who want to subspecialize in areas such as infections diseases need to complete a fellowship that lasts between 1 to 3 years.
All physicians need a license before being allowed to practice, but requirements vary by state.
Licensure requirements include completing the required educational programs and passing a standardized national exam.
Medical Doctors take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, while Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine are required to take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination.
M.D.s and D.O.s who choose to seek board certification in a specialty need to spend up to 9 years in residency training.
After completing the residency period, candidates for board certification have to pass a specialty examination from a medical certifying board.
Certification is also sometimes required for other medical workers.
For example, dental assistants who want to perform coronal polishing or other special duties need a certificate from the Dental Assisting National Board- a credential that can be earned after passing an exam.
This section also includes medical billers and coders.
Health information technologists and other technical workers usually need a postsecondary certification before entering an occupation in this field.
Some positions may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Postsecondary programs in health information technology usually include classes in medical terminology, classification and coding systems specific to the medical field, health data requirements and standards, and more.
Employers may prefer candidates who have a certification as Certified Professional Coder, Certified Coding Associate, or Registered Health Information Technician.
Besides the formal training, good workers in the medical field need some personal skills:
- Compassion is important for any medical career, especially for those who work directly with patients or interact with patient families.
- Dexterity is important, especially for those who perform procedures on patients.
- Patience is also required when working with patients because sometimes patients are scared or uncooperative, and those who perform medical procedures have to remain calm in any circumstance.
- Physical stamina is also needed because most medical workers have to spend many hours on their feet, and some have to help patients who cannot move.
- Physicians and surgeons, in particular, have to be detail-oriented to ensure that the patients receive the appropriate treatment.
- Communication skills are also needed when talking to patients and their families.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage across all healthcare professions in the United States is $69,870, as of May 2020, higher than the median wage for all industries- which was $41,950.
However, salaries in this field vary widely, and some medical professionals earn much less than the national average.
For example, the median annual wage for healthcare support occupations, such as home health aides or medical transcriptionists, was $29,960.
Dental assistants reported a median annual wage of $41,180 in 2020, close to the national median across all industries.
As a dental assistant, you can make anywhere between less than $29,000 and more than $58,000 depending on experience level, education, region, and employer.
The median annual wage for physicians and surgeons was calculated at $208,000, but salaries vary based on the medical specialty.
The highest-paying medical profession in 2020 was the anesthesiologist occupation- with a median annual wage calculated at $271,440.
Surgeons were remunerated $251,650 per year, while obstetricians and gynecologists made $239,120 per year, on average.
Pediatricians, on the other hand, were remunerated with $184,570 per year, on average, which is lower than the median for all physicians and surgeons.
Genetic counselors earned $85,700, on average, with salaries ranging between less than $67,000 and more than $126,000 as of May 2020.
The median annual wage for health information specialists was $51,840, with salaries ranging between less than $30,000 and more than $105,000.
The federal government is one of the highest-paying fields for health information technologists, with the median salary estimated at $99,750.
Technologists who worked in offices of physicians, on the other hand, made $46,590 per year, on average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the healthcare field, in general, will grow 16 percent by 2030, resulting in 2.3 million new jobs.
The most spectacular growth rate is estimated for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners- professions that will grow 45 percent by 2030.
A higher-than-average growth rate is also estimated for genetic counselors, a profession that will grow 26 percent over the decade.
Overall employment for physicians and surgeons will grow 3 percent from 2020 to 2030, with approximately 22,700 openings expected to occur each year, on average.
The demand for physicians overall is projected to grow mainly due to the growing and aging population- a phenomenon that will lead to an increased rate of chronic diseases.
However, employment prospects vary depending on the physician’s specialty.
The demand for psychiatrists will grow 13 percent over the decade, while the demand for surgeons will decrease by 3 percent.
Employment will increase for dental assistants, a profession that will grow 11 percent by 2030.
Dentists will see job growth of 8 percent, over the decade, with 5,000 new jobs expected to appear each year.
Employment prospects will also grow for medical records and health information specialists with an expected growth rate of 9 percent.
This growth is explained, in part, by the widespread use of electronic health records and the increase in the older population.
Much of the employment for some medical professions will also result as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 recession.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to start a career in the medical field?
The answer to this question varies depending on the profession you are targeting.
Some medical professions require less than two years of training beyond high school.
However, if you want to become a physician or a surgeon, you will need between 11 and 17 years of training, consisting of a bachelor’s degree program, medical school, and an internship or residency.
What prospects do medical professions have?
Most medical professions will grow in the next decade, but rates vary depending on the specialty and the occupation.
The demand for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will grow 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, while the demand for physicians and surgeons, in general, will grow only 3 percent.
How do I know if a career in the medical field is right for me?
If you’re passionate about science and you’re willing to spend several years in post-secondary training, a career in the medical field can be a right fit for you.
Besides specialized training, medical professionals also need some personal assets.
Those who work directly with patients need compassion, communication skills, as well as patience, and attention to detail, among other skills.
What is the highest-paying medical profession?
Although salaries in the medical field vary depending on the specialty and the occupation, physicians and surgeons reported some of the highest median salaries in the field.
Anesthesiology is the medical specialty with the highest median salary.
Anesthesiologists earned $271,440 per year, on average, as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.