Medicine and healthcare are lucrative career fields to get into. Salaries tend to be higher than in other industries, and because healthcare needs are never going away, there’s little risk of losing your job to low demand or automation.
The go-to career choice for people considering healthcare is becoming a physician—but being a physician comes with its own share of challenges. You’ll make a substantial income once you start your career, but it takes the better part of a decade to get the training and education necessary to become one, leaving you riddled with debt. On top of that, being a doctor is one of the most stressful professions in the world, thanks to the high stakes and long working hours.
Fortunately, there are plenty of career options in the medical field that don’t require you to face the stress and commitment of becoming a doctor.
These are just some of your most promising options:
- Medical laboratory science. If you don’t like the idea of working with patients hands-on, you could pursue a Master’s degree in medical laboratory science. In this field, you’ll work in a lab to analyze bodily fluids and tissue samples to help doctors diagnose their patients. It’s much less stressful than tending to patients directly, but still gives you the power to positively impact the health outcomes of patients.
- Pharmacists are in charge of distributing prescription medications to patients, while also educating them about how best to take those medications. It, too, can be stressful, since you’ll be responsible for ensuring patients are taking their medications responsibly (and without interference from other medications). However, less training is required, and you’ll have practically limitless job openings to choose from.
- Anesthesiologists are specialist physicians who administer anesthesia and other gases and injections before surgical procedures. If you want to become a formally trained anesthesiologist, you’ll have to invest a similar amount of time and effort as you would to become a general physician. However, you could also become an anesthesiology assistant for far less training and fewer expenses.
- Becoming a nurse is one of the most intuitive examples on this list, but it’s not one to be dismissed. There are many types of nursing specialties to consider, including becoming a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife. Depending on your background, you may even be able to change specialties halfway through your career. Most nurses coordinate and assist in patient care, though your exact responsibilities will depend on the hospital you’re attending and the type of specialty you pursue.
- Biomedical engineering. Biomedical engineers separate themselves from patients more than the other roles on this list. They’re responsible for analyzing problems related to biology and medicine, then designing solutions for those problems. For example, they may design new medications or new treatment methods designed to facilitate better patient care.
- Medical or health services management. Sometimes referred to as healthcare executives, medical and/or health service management professionals function as high-level planners or directors for healthcare services. For example, they may oversee the acquisition and installation of new technology in a hospital, or help manage talent in a healthcare organization.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy is just one of many areas of therapy you could pursue as a career field. Physical therapists, specifically, work to help injured or ill people improve their range of movement while reducing their levels of physical pain. Occupational therapists focus on helping patients accomplish the tasks necessary for daily life, like putting on clothes, eating, and grooming.
- Orthotic or prosthetic development. Orthotic and prosthetic engineers spend their careers designing and perfecting supportive devices designed to compensate for patients missing limbs, or those who have difficulty moving under ordinary conditions. This is another field that doesn’t often require you to interact with patients directly, but still allows you to have a hand in helping patients have better health outcomes.
- Other fields of specialty. Being a general practitioner or a surgeon can be daunting, but there are other areas of specialty that can be less stressful, depending on your personal preferences. Specializing in one area, like dentistry or podiatry, could better suit your career needs.
Exploring Your Options
If you’re interested in one or more of these career fields, do more than just reading about them on the internet. Talk to your counselor about which major options are best for you, and if you’re torn between multiple positions, consider taking a major that gives you the greatest number of options. It’s also a good idea to visit a hospital, or talk to people in the medical field to learn firsthand what it’s like to be in some of these professions. This is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly.