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Career Info for a Degree in Medical & Health Professions

Medical and health professionals generally require an an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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There are many career paths for individuals interested in the medical and health fields. For example, one may choose to become a registered nurse, medical and clinical laboratory technologist, or physician assistant. Depending on the desired career, a medical professional may need an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree.

Essential Information

Degrees or certificates for aspiring medical professionals can provide the opportunity to work in medical facilities, such as a hospital, nursing facility or physician's office, where they spend most of their time caring for their patients' health and well-being. Medical degree and certificate programs vary dramatically. Graduates might work in positions as diverse as registered nurse, physician assistant or clinical laboratory technologist.

Career Registered Nurse Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist Physician Assistant
Education Requirements Associate's or bachelor's degree, or diploma from a nursing program Bachelor's degree Master's degree preferred
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% 16% 30%
Median Salary (2015)* $67,490 $60,520 $98,180

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Medical and health professions range widely in education and skills necessary. Registered nurses, clinical laboratory technologists and physician assistants are just a few of the many careers medical and health professionals may take on.

Registered Nurse

Nurses work in a support capacity in virtually all health care settings. They are responsible for much of the routine patient care carried out in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. Nursing activity may include reading and recording a patient's vital signs, explaining medicines and procedures to patients and families and administering emergency care. Registered nurses (RNs) can train for their occupation by pursuing an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. In order to practice as nurses, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Many nurses specialize in such areas as geriatric care, cardiac care or anesthetics and may go back to school for Master of Science degrees in nursing in order to advance in their careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, and RNs' median salary as of May 2015 was $67,490.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist

Clinical laboratory technologists, or medical technologists, work in medical laboratories testing, analyzing and interpreting fluid and tissue samples given to them by physicians in order to assist in making diagnoses. They use a variety of equipment, including cell counters, centrifuges and computer programs, to analyze samples for disease, bacteria, cancer, chemical imbalances and other irregularities that may signal illness. Many important diagnostic and treatment decisions made by doctors are informed by the laboratory work of medical technologists. Like nurses, clinical laboratory technologists, generally hold bachelor's degrees. The BLS predicts roughly average job growth between 2014 and 2024 for clinical and medical lab technologists, at a rate of 16%. The median annual salary was $60,520, as of 2015.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants are trained medical personnel who are certified to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. They perform diagnostic services, meet with patients, interpret lab results and make some treatment decisions. Although some physician assistants may only hold bachelor's or associate's degrees, many institutions require physician assistants to hold a master's degree. Many physician assistants specialize in certain areas, such as primary care, surgery or neonatal care. Fast job growth is expected for this profession, with the BLS projecting a 30% increase in jobs from 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $98,180.

Degree and Certification Overview

Degree or certificate programs in the medical and health professions prepare people to work in the health care community in a wide variety of capacities. Some programs lead to associate degrees in such disciplines as ultrasound technology or other technical fields, while other programs lead to bachelor's or master's degrees. The subjects vary by concentration and program, but most students will be expected to acquire a basic knowledge of physiology, pathology, patient care, medical ethics, medical terminology and other core subjects. Specialized education might include the use of complex medical instruments or advanced medical training.

Registered nurses usually prepare for their careers by earning associate's or bachelor's degrees, while physician assistants typically need master's degrees. These professionals provide direct care to patients and may be involved in tasks ranging from updating charts to administering medications or assisting with surgeries. Clinical laboratory technologists, meanwhile, who process fluid and tissue samples to help doctors diagnose patients, usually must hold bachelor's degrees.

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