There are well over 250 different
health care careers. Understanding
career pathways can help you in
understanding the unique
characteristics of different careers.
For Most Healthcare Careers You
Will Need a College Degree -
Types of Degrees:
Technical College - can prepare students for
immediate employment in some health careers
such as EMT and medical assistant.
Associate’s Degree- two year course study-
which is awarded from a vocational-technical
school or community college.
Bachelor’s Degree- four year course study-
which is awarded from a college or university.
Master’s Degree - usually 5 to 6 years –
awarded through a college or university
Doctorate or doctor’s degree- usually 8
or more years - awarded through a
college or university
There are five different career pathways
Each pathway offers multiple career
Therapeutic Career Pathway
The therapeutic careers are directed
towards improving the health status of a
patient. “Therapeutic” means providing
treatment, or care.
Dentist (DMD or DDS)- Doctorate
Repairs diseased and injured teeth,
gums and oral tissues.
Educates patients about oral health.
Corrects facial and dental deformities
from accidents or birth defects.
Manages and supervises staff.
Dental Assistant (CDA or DA)- degree not required, but
preferred (Associate’s); certification usually required to
Greets patient and prepares them for examinations.
Takes patients’ histories and develops x-rays.
Sterilizes instruments and passes them to dentist during
exams and treatment.
Makes teeth impressions and instructs patients on oral
Maintains patients’ records.
Dental Hygienist (LDH or DH)-
Associate’s degree minimum, Bachelor’s
preferred; may earn Master’s
Examines teeth for cavities, removes
plaque deposits, applies fluoride and
sealants and puts in temporary fillings
Does oral cancer screenings
Takes x-rays, teaches patients about
their oral health
Certified Nursing Assistant-
Certificate from training program, no degree.
Answers call lights, serves meals, measures
and records vital signs.
Helps patient with ADL (activities of daily living),
such as bathing, eating, hygiene.
Home health aids may also assist with
medications and light housekeeping for the
patient, and may help teach family members to
care for the patient, under the supervision of
Licensed Practical Nurse - LPN
Licensed Vocational Nurse -LVN
Diploma from technical college, but not degree.
Provides basic bedside care, takes vital signs,
gives injections and medications.
Changes dressings, evaluates patient’s needs,
implements care plans, supervises nursing
In an office: Makes appointments and keeps
patient records, as well as initial patient check
In-home care: Provides basic care under the
supervision of physicians/RN’s.
Registered Nurse – R.N.
Associate’s Degree or higher.
Interprets and responds to patients’ symptoms,
reactions and progress.
Teaches patient and family about proper health
care, assists in rehabilitation, and provides
emotional support to promote recovery.
Gives meds and treatments.
Works collaboratively with and under the
direction of a physician.
Supervises CNA’s & LPN’s.
Clinical Nurse Specialist-
CRNS or CNS
Master’s Degree or higher
Specialize in a particular field, such as
NICU, Operating Room, Oncology
Work as researchers, consultants, or
Teach in a variety of health settings
Provide direct care to patients
Interviews patients to gather information on
drug use, allergic reactions and family history.
Cares for the patient pre-op, during operation,
Manages the patient’s airway, controls
breathing, monitors vital signs and administers
Works under the direction of an
Nurse Midwife -
Provides care for normal, healthy women
before, during, and after childbirth
Spends time with mother to provide
emotional and physical support during
the birthing process, and assists in labor
Helps in newborn care and counsels
mothers on infant growth and future
Nurse Practitioner –
Diagnose and assess patients’ conditions and
work in collaboration with physicians
Conduct health screenings and physical exams
Prescribe tests and educate patients about their
conditions and preventive care
Can prescribe medication
Does not perform surgery
Medical Support –
Athletic Trainer (ATC)
Bachelor’s or Master’s degree; licensed
Develops conditioning and nutrition
program to help athletes prevent injuries
Supervises the treatment and
rehabilitation prescribed by physicians
when injuries occur
Skilled in First Aid & CPR.
Acquires a broad knowledge of anatomy,
physiology, nutrition and conditioning.
Medical Support Team
Emergency Medical Technicians
Technical school training, state certification,
EMT or Paramedics- respond to health care
crises by driving ambulances, giving emergency
care, and transporting patients to hospitals.
Proceed with medical care under direction of a
Perform CPR, control bleeding, place splints on
broken bones, administer First Aid.
Respond to all types of emergencies, such as
heart attacks, unexpected childbirth, car
Medical Support Team -
Medical Assistants – CMA or RMA
Certified and / or registered; no college degree
Prepare patients for exams; take vital signs;
assist with First Aid; collect and process
specimens; and perform ordered tests
Schedule appointments, prepare and maintain
patients’ records, and arrange hospital
Process insurance forms, keep financial
records, may manage personnel, ordered
supplies and equipment.
Medical Support Team -
Certified Clinical Perfusionist
Bachelor’s degree required
Operates heart-lung machine during heart
bypass and open heart surgery
Monitors blood circulation during surgery and
keeps the surgical team informed of patient’s
Has a thorough knowledge of heart-lung
equipment and must be able to make
adjustments should abnormal conditions arise
Medical Support Team -
Technical school program; certificate, diploma
or Associate’s degree
Preps the patient for surgery in O.R.
Maintains the sterility of the operating room by
helping the surgical staff scrub, dress, and put
on gloves and gowns.
During operation, operates lights, suction
machines, and diagnostic equipment.
Passes instruments, applies sterile dressings,
and prepares specimens for the lab.
Medical Doctor (M.D.),
4 years undergrad (pre-med); 4 years medical school,
including internship; followed by residency
After pre-med, must pass MCAT (Medical College
Admissions Test) to get into medical school
Assesses patient, orders diagnostic tests, makes
medical diagnoses, prescribes treatment including
May specialize in a variety of areas, including surgery
Can work in research to find new ways to diagnose,
control and cure diseases.
May own business and oversee personnel, payroll,
Doctor of Chiropractic
Doctorate degree, usually 8 years post –
secondary; NOT a medical degree (M.D.)
Consider the central nervous system the key to
maintaining good health.
Takes medical histories, performs orthopedic
and neurological examinations, and other
Uses water, light, ultrasound, or heat therapy to
Makes adjustments using their hands when a
diagnosis involves the spinal column.
Does not prescribe meds or perform surgery
Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
Osteopathic medical degree (8 years post-
secondary), followed by 2 – 6 years residency
Stresses the musculoskeletal system’s role in
disease, illness, and injury.
Performs examinations to diagnose and treat
illnesses and injuries.
Licensed to perform minor surgery and
Oversees the business- payroll, billing, human
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
Medical degree (8 years), followed by 3
Diagnose and treat disorders and
diseases of the foot and lower leg.
Prescribes drugs, orders physical
therapy, and performs surgeries.
Master’s degree is “entry level”.
Provides routine patient services traditionally
performed by a physician.
Interviews patient for medical histories,
performs physical exams, gives injections,
orders lab tests, treats wounds and refers
patients to specialists prn.
Works under the supervision of a doctor ,
usually as an employee, and presents clinical
findings to him or her.
Assists in hospital rounds, performing
Master’s degree required.
Stimulate physical and psychological
rehabilitation by teaching ADLs, such as
dressing and eating,in order to restore
independence and self worth.
Help individuals compensate for their
disabilities by teaching new job skills & adaption
of current abilities.
Designs splints, special devices, and
adaptive equipment or technology to
maintain independent living
Vocational school certificate program.
Carry out program and activities planned by OT
by helping individuals learn or relearn self-care
and daily skills such as dressing and eating.
Assist in educational, recreational, and
vocational activities to restore independence
Assist the OT by participating in evaluations
and reviews of patient progress.
Creative Arts and
Master’s degree usually required.
Plan and carry out treatment programs for
people with physical mental, or social
disabilities or individuals recovering from
substance abuse and physical abuse.
Use art, music, recreation, dance and
horticulture therapy, to help patients relieve
stress, express themselves and build self-
Use motivational and creative programs to
encourage behavior change, improve
coordination, and increase social skills
Physical Therapist (PT)
Master’s degree minimum.
Helps patient face the challenges of recovery,
such as an athlete needing to gain strength and
flexibility, or an accident victim learning to use
an artificial limb.
Uses movement exercises, electrical
stimulation, water, ultrasound, and massage to
develop endurance, coordination, and muscle
Helps patient to overcome emotional and
physical barriers that hinder recovery.
Physical Therapist Assistant-
Associate’s degree required.
Teaches patient recovery exercises and
implements treatment programs
designed by a PT.
Observe a patient’s progress and reports
treatment responses to the PT.
Diagnostic Career Pathway
Diagnosis is a statement of the current problem
The diagnostic career involves determining the
nature of the person’s diseases or disorders.
Diagnosticians are involved in creating a
picture of the health status of the client at a
single point in time.
Diagnostic Career Pathway Examples are:
Radiological Technologist; Sonographer;
Audiologist; Nuclear Medicine Technologist;
Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree required.
Performs tests to determine the range and
degree of hearing loss in a patient.
Develops treatment programs so that patients
can adapt to problems or have them corrected.
Prescribe hearing aids.
May teach a person to read lips.
May make physician referrals prn.
May require either a 2-year certificate program,
a diploma program, an Associate’s degree, or
Uses knowledge of radiation, equipment, and
anatomy to produce an x-ray image with the
correct detail and contrast.
Gives patients chemical mixtures so that body
organs will be visualized.
Processes and evaluates film and educates
patients on procedures while maintaining
Three types of programs available: one year
certificate; Associate’s degree; Bachelor’s
Explains procedures, positions patients,
operates the ultrasound machine, and obtains
medical images used for diagnosis.
Keeps accurate records, including patient
information, sonographic data, and visualized
Responsible for preliminary image
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Three programs available: 1 – 2 year certificate program
AFTER obtaining Bachelor’s of Science degree;
Associate’s degree; Bachelor’s degree
Uses radioactive materials to see organ images and
internal body functions as they occur.
Assists in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
Calculates dosages and administers appropriate
radioactive drugs under the direction of a physician.
Documents the use and disposal of radioactive materials.
Two year certicate program, or
Performs examinations, such as heart
catheterizations, to determine how well
the heart and blood vessels function.
Reports findings to cardiologist.
Takes medical histories, draws blood
samples and explains procedures.
Health Informatics Career
Involved with documentation of patient records and
Vocational program lasting 1 or more years.
Careers in this pathway include: Medical Records
Technicians; Medical Transcriptionists; Unit Secretaries;
Medical Billing; Hospital Operators; Computer Systems
Analysts and Techs
Primary tasks are documentation of patient care and
Duties will include working with computers, answering
phones, coding patients’ charts, and general secretarial
Services Career Pathway
Involved with creating a therapeutic
environment to provide direct or indirect patient
Hospital Administrator: 5 year business degree;
runs the business of the hospital.
Central Supply: manager may have business
degree; primary function is ordering and
maintaining supplies in hospitals.
Biotechnology Research and
Involved with using living cells and their
molecules to make useful products such as
medications, vaccines, and diagnostic tests.
Forensic Science Technician
Places of employment include: pharmaceutical
or chemical companies, research laboratories,
colleges or universities, forensic laboratories