Careers in Healthcare

Health is the largest industry in America. Health Reform will greatly expand access to care and prevention services and the need for health leaders and professionals. The aging of our population combined with continued medical advances will significantly increase healthcare demand and career opportunities. At the same time, the severe workforce and leadership shortages that already exist in many health professions are projected to worsen. As a result, tremendous career opportunities exist and will continue to grow for students interested in healthcare delivery, policy, public health, leadership, medicine, nursing and other vital health professions. It is the best time to be pursing health careers!

Health careers offer numerous rewards including making a difference in the lives of patients and populations, intellectual challenge and continuous learning, attractive compensation and benefits, security and the ability to work anywhere in the world! Unlike most other industries, the Health Industry has grown and thrived despite the down economy and is not dependent on the stock market.

Although the health industry offers considerable opportunity, there are still significant challenges in the way that healthcare is financed and delivered. The growing number of un-insured, insufficient access to care, rising costs and concerns about quality and medical errors are critical, complex issues. We need talented, capable leaders and professionals to develop and implement innovative solutions to these and other critical public health issues.

Ethnically diverse and underserved populations face the most difficult health challenges. Most communities continue to become more ethnically diverse. Studies show growing health disparities among ethnic groups. There is a significant and growing need for more leaders and professionals from ethnic groups currently under-represented in healthcare leadership, public health and medicine. Healthcare leaders and workforce that are representative of our diverse population will be more effective at addressing our most critical issues and providing culturally competent care.

Most students interested in healthcare are unaware of the incredible breadth of rewarding career opportunities. There are so many possibilities! Whether you have passion and talent for policy, management, science, patient care, research, education or a combination of them, there are numerous healthcare career options for you. The key as an undergraduate is to gain as much practical exposure, experience and support as possible to the range of health career options so that you can discover a direction that best suits you and position yourself to successfully pursue it. Health Career Connection's goal is to assist you in this process and help you make a well informed choice for a rewarding lifetime healthcare career.

HCC is in the process of developing a comprehensive clearinghouse of information on health careers and links to numerous other sources. In the meantime, listed below is some basic information on administrative, public health and clinical career options:

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Healthcare Administrative Careers

Healthcare administrators are responsible for development and implementation of policies that effect the populations they serve and/or the financing and delivery of services provided by healthcare and public health organizations. Health administrators lead healthcare "provider" organizations such as hospitals, health systems, clinics, medical groups, academic medical centers, hospices, home health agencies and nursing homes. There are also roles for administrators in "payer" organizations including health plans (e.g. HMOs, PPOs) and governmental payers (e.g. Medicare or Medicaid). Administrators also lead policy and/or regulatory organizations, advocacy organizations, public health departments and numerous types of health related community based organizations. There administrative roles in are many prominent organizations that provide products or services to healthcare including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, medical equipment and supplies. Healthcare Consultants provide support to many of these organizations. There are countless other types of other important healthcare organizations where administrators play key roles.

Within these types of organizations administrators may be responsible for one or more of the following functions: operations, patient care, finance, human resources, information technology, public relations, policy analysis, marketing, provider relations, clinical services, business development, contracting and facilities and support services.

There are typically several levels of administrators in an organization from the President on down to Chief Operating Officers, Vice Presidents, Directors, Department Managers, Supervisors and numerous key staff positions. Most positions require a masters degree in public health, healthcare administration, business, public policy or nursing combined with healthcare work experience. Physicians also hold many key healthcare leadership positions and often obtain training or an advanced degree in management. There are an increasing number of entry level positions for students with an undergraduate degree to obtain experience prior to entering graduate school. Often the best way to gain entry into administration is though an internship.

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Public Health Careers

In addition to healthcare administrative careers, there are several other important public health career options that fall within the following disciplines:

  • Health Education
  • Health and Social Behavior / Social & Behavioral Health
  • Health Services / Health Policy
  • Community Health
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious Disease
  • Environmental Health
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Biostatistics

Public Health involves the coordination of knowledge and practice among all these disciplines to promote and protect the health of individuals and our population. Public Health professionals typically specialize and pursue career opportunities in one or more of these disciplines. They often obtain a masters in public health (MPH) degree, a joint degree with another field (public policy, social work, business) or a doctorate degree. Many physicians also obtain an MPH either before, during or after medical school because they want to have a broader impact on the health of the population.

Public Health Professionals work in a wide variety of settings including public health departments, community clinics, academic or research institutions, community based organizations, bio-technology firms or Center for Disease Control. They try to make a difference in critical public health issues such as HIV/AIDS, disease prevention, reduction in the incidence of major diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, infant mortality, obesity, immunizations, community health status, health disparities and bio-terrorism preparedness. The may work on these and other critical issues both domestically and internationally.

The types of positions that Public Health Professionals work in varies by discipline. However, all offer professionals the opportunity and rewards of making a difference in public health issues that they are passionate about and that are needed by our population. For more information about the exciting field of public health and public health careers contact ASPH.org and APHA.org.

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Clinical Careers

There are numerous important clinical positions in healthcare. Clinical professionals provide vital patient care services and play other key roles in healthcare organizations. Physicians work closely with other key clinical professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, radiology technologists, speech therapists, lab technicians, psychologists and respiratory therapists to meet the needs of patients. Clinical professionals may work in some or all of the following settings: hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation hospitals, physician offices, mental health facilities, home health agencies, public health departments, nursing homes, outpatient centers and hospices.

In addition to providing patient care some clinical professionals may get involved in research and teaching. There are exciting career opportunities in Clinical Investigation.

Clinical careers offer numerous rewards such as the satisfaction of providing service and support to patients and their families, strong compensation and benefits, intellectual challenge, schedule flexibility and job security. Despite these benefits, there are severe shortages in vital health professions such as nursing, radiology technologists, lab technicians and in some areas physical therapists. Tremendous career opportunities exist in these areas along with high starting salaries and opportunities for advancement. Numerous Scholarship Programs exist to support interested students to obtain their education and in some cases "guaranteed" employment.

People of color are under-represented in many clinical professions. Given our increasingly diverse population we desperately need more people of color to pursue careers in these areas and make a difference in the care provided. There are many resources available for people of color interested in these professions.

One of the beauties of healthcare is that you can develop a career that includes administrative, public health and clinical careers or any one or combination. The key is to discover which fits best for your talents, passions, life circumstances and goals.

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Helpful Links

HCC hopes that the following links help you explore and navigate the exciting opportunities available in the fields of health care and public health.

Public Health Employment Connection

Health Jobs Start Here

Pathways to Public Health Careers and Internships

Health Careers Training Program

California Health Professions Consortium

Mentoring in Medicine, Inc.

HCC will be continuing to add more information and linked on healthcare careers to this section so please continue to visit. We would also appreciate knowing other key sources that you find. Good luck pursuing your healthcare career dreams. Healthcare needs you!! HCC is willing to assist you in any way that we can!

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