Health Careers

There are a wide variety of career options in health care. If you are pursuing a career in health care, it is your job to explore the careers that best align with your strengths, goals, and interests.    The following list names just a few health professional pathways to help you begin your research. HPAU is here to help guide you through your process, and we will help you prepare to enter the health professional pathway of your choice. HPAU assists students in pursuing the health professional pathways included but not limited to the list below. To find out more about the diverse careers within the health professions, go to  explorehealthcareers.org.

Medicine (MD/DO/DPM)

Who they are: Physicians work with patients to maintain or restore their health. They promote disease prevention, diagnose illness or injury, and prescribe treatments including medication, surgery, physical therapy, and others.

What they do: Physicians do many things in their day-to-day practice, including: examining patients, obtaining medical histories, and ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Some physicians are clinical researchers and spend time in patient-oriented research.

Where they work: Many physicians work in hospitals and clinics. Others work in private practices, academia, or for the government. Some physicians also choose to do research and can work in the public or private sector.

Allopathic Medicine (M.D.)
Allopathic physicians receive a medical degree, or M.D.  Allopathic physicians treat patients in a wide variety of specialties using prescription drugs, surgery, and preventative measures.
See the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website for additional information.

Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Osteopathic physicians receive a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, or D.O. Osteopathic physicians receive the same medical training as allopathic physicians, as well as 200 hours of "osteopathic manipulative medicine" (OMM) training. Learn more about OMM from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) website.

Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.)
"A podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), known also as a podiatric physician or surgeon, qualified by their education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg." Podiatrists can work in a variety of health care settings including private practice, hospitals, and clinics. Podiatrists can specialize in orthopedics, sports medicine, surgery, pediatrics, diabetic wound care, and more.  To learn more about Podiatric Medicine visit the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) website.

Dentistry D.M.D./D.D.S
Who they are: The dental profession consists of health care providers whose primary mission is oral health wellness. The profession is made up of dentists, dental hygienists and support personnel such as dental chairside assistants, receptionists, practice managers, business managers, insurance and other office staff. Dentists are part of the total health care team and consider the complete health of the patients, understand his/her medication and medical condition-especially when the disease or medication affects the dental condition or treatment. A dentist's treatment is often in concert with medical treatment for a patient, such as the health of the cardiovascular system, treatment of communicable diseases or systemic diseases, as well as treatment of developmental, psychological, or behavioral problems. 

What they do: Dentists are primarily concerned with the preservation and maintenance of the health of the teeth, periodontium (gums and supportive bone), muscles of mastication and temporomandibular joints (TMJs). Their skills focus on prevention and restoration of the common dental diseases, treating associated infections and developmental abnormalities. They are involved with prevention of oral diseases, esthetics, form and function, and comfort and wellness. Dentists are not only providers of clinical care and health but are most often the managers of a small business. They can be personnel managers, business managers and planners, financial planners for themselves and their team. They are expert at people skills; at establishing relations and communication with their team (staff), their patients and the community.

Where they work: Most dentists work in private practice. They can practice alone or in partnership with one or more other dentists. Dental businesses, clinics and hospitals also employ dentists. Dentists have the option of practicing in the military, the Public Health Service, the Indian Health Service and the National Health Service Corps.

Dentists can obtain a Doctor of Medical Dentistry (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.).  For more information see the American Dental Educational Association (ADEA) website.

Pharmacy (PharmD)
Who they are: Pharmacists assist patients in achieving the best results from their medications. They assist people with anything medication-related in order to achieve the best health possible.

What they do: The responsibilities of pharmacists have expanded substantially from their traditional role of dispensing medicine prescribed by authorized health care professionals. Pharmacists today consult physicians, work in direct patient care and educate patients about their medications. Some pharmacists work in research, exploring the development of new pharmaceuticals.

Where they work: There is a wide range of flexible options for the working conditions or pharmacists. Pharmacists can work in pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, the military, in research, or for the government.

For more information visit the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website.

Veterinary Medicine D.V.M.
Who they are: Veterinarians are healthcare professionals that care for both companion and food animals. They also work closely with the owners of the animals they care for, discussing treatment plans, budgeting, and handling times of difficult emotion. Some veterinarians own their own businesses.

What they do:  Veterinarians attend to the health of pets, livestock, zoo, sporting, and laboratory animals. Additional opportunities include careers in research, education, industry and government. Veterinarians may also be employed in public health positions.

Where they work: Most graduates enter private veterinary practice at the conclusion of their program. Other opportunities include careers in research, education, industry and government. Veterinarians are also employed in lab animal medicine, zoo and wildlife medicine and in public health and regulatory medicine.

For additional information visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AAVMA) website.

Physicians Assistant:
Who are they: Physicians Assistants (PA) are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.

What they do: PAs’ specific duties depend on the setting in which they work, their level of experience, their specialty, and state laws.

Generally, PAs can:

  • Take medical histories
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illness
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication
  • Counsel on preventive care
  • Perform procedures
  • Assist in surgery
  • Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Do clinical research

Where they work: There are more than 140,000 PAs who practice in every medical setting in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They work in hospitals, medical offices, community health centers, nursing homes, retail clinics, educational facilities, workplace clinics, and correctional institutions. PAs also serve in the nation’s uniformed services and work for other federal government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For additional information visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) website.

Public Health
Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research and promotion of healthy lifestyles. In public health, the focus is on health promotion and disease/injury prevention, in contrast to the medical model of care, which focuses more heavily upon diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur.

What they do: Public health professionals analyze and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad. The United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation's public health workforce.

Where they work: A career in public health opens the door to diverse opportunities in a variety of sectors such as federal, private and non-governmental organizations. Because of their "big picture" perspective, public health experts play a key role in emergency preparedness and response. This may be why public health has become such a growing field in recent years.

To learn more about public health, please visit the American Public Health Association (APHA) website