While COVID-19 may change the healthcare career landscape - especially in the short-term - most people with a desire to work in medicine will continue to pursue healthcare careers. Indeed, while working in healthcare has been stressful during this pandemic, it has also proven satisfying for workers who can provide critical services in a time of unprecedented need.
It is not uncommon for people to know that they want to work in healthcare but to be unsure of the specific role that will fit them best. Becoming a physician, for instance, is a significant investment from both time and financial standpoints. In addition, gaining entry into medical school is competitive, and simply put, not everyone interested in becoming a doctor will have the opportunity to do so. Even for those with perfect grades and MCAT scores, becoming a physician is not necessarily the most attractive option.
Here are some other healthcare careers that are easier to break into than physician careers:
Phlebotomist. For people looking to enter the healthcare space immediately, phlebotomy may be an excellent option, as training can be completed in under a year. As a phlebotomist, much of your work would involve drawing patients’ blood - an activity that is critical for evaluating patient health and diagnosing certain conditions.
Home Health Aide. If you are interested in having longer-term relationships with your patients, then serving as a home health aide may be a good option. In this role, you will care for patients in their homes. These patients are often people who are elderly or disabled. Another huge advantage of a career as a home health aide is that it requires no specific training, and a GED or high school diploma is the extent of education that is needed to secure a home health aide job.
Coder. More formally known as medical records technicians, coders can support healthcare efforts behind the scenes by documenting critical information related to codes for diagnoses and procedures. This type of work is good for people who are meticulous and detail-oriented, and the training for this type of career can be completed within 2 years.
Some other careers that are a little harder to break into but may be good alternatives to careers as physicians are:
Physician’s Assistant. Physician’s assistants have much of the same knowledge and practice medicine in much of the same way as physicians. However, given that they do not carry a Medical Degree (MD), they are restricted from performing certain activities. Some advantages of being a physician’s assistant are that training duration is much shorter (usually just 3 years), you circumvent costly medical insurance challenges, and you often have more desirable work hours.
Scientist. Many people who are interested in medicine are more intrigued by the science underlying medical practice than in spending their days in hospitals diagnosing and treating patients. Careers in science can be particularly rewarding because as a scientist, your scientific discoveries can impact more people than you can affect through one-on-one clinical practice. For people who like experimentation and lab work, pursuing a Master’s or PhD could be a good alternative to clinical medicine.
Nurse. Many people view nursing as a career with a more holistic approach to medicine than physician careers. For people who are particularly nurturing and attracted to medicine more out of an interest in caring for people than in understanding and treating disease, nursing may be a good option. Within nursing, there are several options that allow you to gain additional training and become more specialized if you are interested in, for instance, becoming a nurse practitioner.
Takeaway: If you are interested in a career in medicine, there are several options for you to explore. Here, we have provided a brief overview on some of these alternative careers. By considering which aspects of medicine are most attractive to you, you may be able to whittle down your options to the roles that will be the best fit for your interests. For instance, are you more interested in caring for people or in solving scientific problems? Luckily, many of these careers can also serve as a jumping off point to pursue another healthcare career, so if you aren’t sure which career is best for you, it won’t hurt to start gaining medical experience and learn for yourself which role is right for you.