Medical Field Education Information, Training and Requirements

Degrees in medicine typically cover courses in science, mathematics and English. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary information for graduates in medicine.

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There are a number of different options for those who wish to seek a career in the field of medicine. Three such occupations are that of a physician, a registered nurse and a radiographer. Education and experience requirements for these positions range from the completion of a certificate program to a medical school degree.

Essential Information

Educational qualifications for a job in medicine vary. Some occupations only require on-the-job training or the completion of a two-year program. For other medical careers, you'll need a four-year or doctoral degree. A license is needed for most medical jobs, and each state may have different licensing and certification requirements.

Careers Physician Registered Nurse Radiographer
Required Education Bachelor's and medical school degree Bachelor's of science degree in nursing, associate's degree in nursing, or completion of approved nursing program Certificate program, associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Internship and residency program, license Clinical work, license License varies by state
Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)* 10% for all family and general practitioners 16% 9% for all radiologic technologists
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $184,390 for all family and general practitioners $67,490 $56,670 for all radiologic technologists

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

The medical field has a range of career opportunities such as physicians, nurses and radiographers. If you can cope well in stressful situations and have compassion, patience, and physical stamina, a career in medicine is a good fit for you. You must also demonstrate excellent communication, math and technical skills.

Physician or Medical Doctor

Physicians use their medical expertise to monitor the health of their patients and diagnose illnesses. They train for at least ten years, including obtaining a bachelor's degree, attending medical school and then working as a resident physician.

Future physicians must first earn a bachelor's degree, studying courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and English. Additionally, they generally take courses in the humanities and social sciences and may opt to volunteer at a hospital or clinic.

After earning a bachelor's degree, prospective physicians must attend medical school. In the first two years of med school, students spend their time in the classroom studying a wide array of subjects. The last two years are spent working in clinics under direct supervision of practicing doctors, learning to diagnose patients in a variety of medical areas. After completion of medical school, they hold either a degree as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), depending on which path they chose.

After finishing medical school, physicians may opt to intern for a year before beginning a required residency at a hospital. Resident physicians specialize in a particular medical field, receiving paid on-the-job training. Residencies may last anywhere from 2-6 years, depending on the nature of the training area.

In order to practice, physicians must obtain a license from the licensing board in the state in which they wish to work. Physicians can also seek certification in their specialty through board examinations approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Both a license and certification requires continuing medical education in order to maintain these credentials.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists all types of physicians separately. For the purpose of this article, the information given is based on family and general practitioners. As reported by the BLS, the job outlook for family and general practitioners will increase by 10% from 2014 to 2024 with a median annual salary of $184,390 in May 2015.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) cares for patients in hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities and other health care settings. Becoming a nurse requires at least the completion of a diploma program from an approved nursing program.

Those seeking to become registered nurses can choose from three educational options: a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), an associate's degree in nursing (ASN) or a diploma program. While all three programs allow graduates to be employed as a nurse, salaries and job advancement opportunities vary with each. The curriculum for nursing students includes courses in health and nutrition, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and medical terminology.

Nursing programs include clinical experiences for students, performed under the supervision of a registered nurse. Generally, working as a certified nurse's aide (CNA) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) is not required for entry into a RN program; however, some students might find the experience beneficial.

After obtaining a degree or diploma, nurses must pass the National Counsel Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required in every state. Some states may have additional prerequisites for employment.

According to the BLS, there will be an a 16% increase in jobs for registered nurses between 2014 to 2024, and their median annual salary as of May 2015 was $67,490.


Physicians require radiographers to take and produce X-ray films called radiographs. When a doctor needs to examine a patient through radiologic means, a radiographer is called upon to explain the procedure to the patient and walk them through it. They are also responsible for ensuring that all machines and devices are working properly before starting a procedure.

Several educational routes are available to radiographers. Some choose to enter into certificate programs that last 21-24 months. Others enter into an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program in radiologic technology. Schools offering these programs need to be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Classes in these programs cover subjects like pathology, radiation protection, medical terminology, medical ethics, radiobiology, physiology and radiation physics.

A radiographer may acquire the necessary work training through an entry-level position or an internship. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists also offers job training in specific radiographic specializations. New radiographers work under an experienced radiologic technologist, familiarizing themselves with the hospital and the equipment involved.

Radiographers have to be licensed with the state due to the hazards of working with radiation and radiologic equipment. Federal legislation requires that radiographers be properly trained to handle this equipment safely. The exact requirements vary in each state, so contacting a state's health board is ideal for license information.

The BLS categorizes radiographers as radiologic technologists. The job growth for radiologic technologists will increase by 9% for the years 2014 to 2024, and their pay as of May 2015 was $56,670, according to the BLS.

To summarize, those who want to become a physician need to obtain a bachelor's degree, a medical school degree and licensure to work in their desired state. Registered nurses have a number of degree and diploma options but ultimately need to obtain state certification in order to work. Finally, radiographers may complete a certificate program or a traditional degree program and also need to obtain state licensure.

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