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Explore Careers

There are many paths to a career in healthcare.

By the Numbers

Health professionals are in high demand.

In the U.S. from 2018 to 2028, healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups.

14% growth
in employment predicted in healthcare occupations
1.9 million
new jobs predicted to be added in health professions

Discover Tracks

Which health profession is right for you?

doctor talking to patient

What does a doctor do? Along with nurses, physicians are on the front line of medicine. As practitioners, they work in solo or group practices examining patients and obtaining medical histories; ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests; and prescribing and administering treatment for patients suffering from injury or disease. They also counsel patients about illness, injuries, health conditions and preventive healthcare (diet/fitness, smoking cessation, etc.).

Skills needed: Integrity and ethics, service orientation, social and interpersonal skills, teamwork, resilience and adaptability, cultural competence, oral communication, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, and written communication

Number of years in school: Eight years in higher education

Degrees offered: Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

Licensure required: All states require a license

dentist with young patient

What does a dentist do? Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Skills needed: Communication skills, detail oriented, dexterity, leadership skills, organizational skills, patience, physical stamina, and problem-solving skills

Number of years in school: Four years for General Dentistry; additional training/licensing for nine specialty areas

Degrees offered: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)

Licensure required: All states require a license


What does a registered nurse nurse do? Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Skills needed: Critical-thinking skills, compassion, detail oriented, emotional stability, organizational skills, physical stamina, and speaking skills

Number of years in school: Programs range from 11 to 18 months for an accelerated bachelor’s

Degrees offered: There are a wide range of degrees offered within nursing

nurse midwife with pregnant patient

What does an advanced practice registered nurse do? Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, coordinate patient care and they may provide primary and specialty health care. Sometimes they are called clinical nurse specialists.

Skills needed: Communication skills, critical-thinking skills, compassion, detail oriented, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, resourcefulness

Number of years in school: Programs range from 11 to 18 months for an accelerated bachelor’s to typically three years for a graduate masters entry level program

Degrees offered: There are a wide range of degrees offered within nursing

looking at x-rays

What does a physician assistant do? Physician assistants (PA) work under the supervision of a physician or surgeon; however, their specific duties and the extent to which they must be supervised differ from state to state.

Skills neededCommunication skills, compassion, detail oriented, emotional stability, and problem-solving skills

Number of years in school: At least two years of full-time study for PA Masters programs

Degrees offered: Baccalaureate (B.S./B.A.) degree is required for Masters programs. Typically, a Master’s degree is required from a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA).


What does a pharmacists do? Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may provide advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, and oversee the medications given to patients.

Skills neededAnalytical skills, communication skills, computer skills, detail oriented, and managerial skills

Number of years in school: Six to eight years (two to four years undergraduate education plus four years professional education at a college of pharmacy)

Degrees offered: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)

physical therapist with older patient

What does a physical therapists do? Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Skills neededCompassion, detail oriented, dexterity, interpersonal skills, physical stamina, and resourcefulness

Number of years in school: Most programs are typically three years. A BS/BA degree is required for admission

Degrees offered: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

public health professional speaking to group in meeting

What does a public health professionals do? Public health professionals focus on preventing disease and injury by promoting healthy lifestyles. They implement educational programs, develop policies, administer services, conduct research, and regulate health systems to achieve these goals.

Skills neededAnalytical/assessment skills, policy development/program planning skills, communication skills, cultural competency skills, community dimensions of practice skills, public health sciences skills, financial planning and management skills, and leadership and systems thinking skills

Number of years in school: Varies by degree

Degrees offered: Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), Doctor of Science (ScD)


What does a veterinarian do? Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Skills neededCompassion, decision-making skills, interpersonal skills, management skills, manual dexterity, and problem-solving skills

Number of years in school: Four years. A BS/BA degree is recommended but not required for admission to the majority of programs

Degrees offered: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

chiropractor with patient

Some other professions include:

  • Alternative Medicine
  • Audiology
  • Chiropractic Medicine
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Naturopathic Medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Podiatry
  • Social Work

Before committing to any one of these careers, you may want to consider additional factors like your desired work environment and lifestyle. We urge you to keep an open mind. For more information on the vast array of health professions, visit

Student Paths

Hear what students have to say.

Maya Jonas

I have always been interested in applied sciences, but it wasn’t until I first needed surgery that I discovered my interest in medicine. My path to veterinary school was a bit unorthodox as I essentially explored most, if not all career paths within medicine before discovering veterinary medicine. ”

Maya Jonas ’18
Major: Biology, Minor: Psychology
Graduate Program: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine

I started working as a pharmacy technician and over time I realized there were several reasons it may not be the correct career choice for me…I began shadowing different types of healthcare professionals, as well as seeking guidance from the HPA office, and decided a career as a physician was right for me.”

David Stepney ’19
Major: Neuroscience
Graduate Program: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

David Stepney