Medicine Career and Salary Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in medicine. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Can You Work in Medicine?

There are a number of career paths you could take if you have an interest in medicine. The level of education required in the medical field varies greatly, from one year for a licensed practical nurse to 11 or more years to become an advanced practice nurse or physician. If you are considering becoming a doctor, be aware that gaining entrance to a medical school is very competitive. Almost every medical job requires certification and/or licensure, as well as continuing education to stay abreast of medical advances and best practices.

Beyond being a medical doctor, you could pursue a career as a registered nurse, which involves working in hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices and providing care to patients. As a medical and clinical laboratory technologist, you will analyze various body fluids and blood samples on orders from doctors and other medical professionals.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career in medicine is right for you.

Medical Doctor Registered Nurse Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist
Degree Required Bachelor's degree followed by 4 years of medical school Bachelor's degree common Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics Anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology Chemistry, biology, mathematics, statistics
Training Required Residency lasting 3-8 years Not applicable Not applicable
Licensure Required Required by all states Nursing license required in all states and the District of Columbia Varies state to state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for all physicians and surgeons* 16% for all registered nurses* 16% for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $184,390 for all family and general practitioners* $67,490 for all registered nurses* $60,520 for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Find in the Medical Field?

You can choose from many different professions and from a wide array of specialties in the medical field. For instance, as a medical doctor you many choose to become a general practitioner or family medical doctor who provides care for the overall health of their patients but refers them to specialists as needed. Obstetricians and gynecologists are concerned with women's health, particularly with the well-being of pregnant women throughout the term of pregnancy. Pediatricians specialize in the care of children from birth into young adulthood.

Physician specialties include internal medicine, which is concerned with the health of the internal organs. Urology is concerned specifically with the kidneys and cardiology with heart health. Surgeons treat medical problems by operating on the affected area of the body. For instance, an orthopedic surgeon treats the musculoskeletal structure and performs operations on knees, hips and other joints. A neurological surgeon is concerned with problems of the brain and nervous system.

What are the Options for Becoming a Nurse?

The field of nursing is very broad, from the nursing assistant who assists patients with general physical comfort, to the advanced practice nurse who can prescribe medicine and treatment. As a licensed practical nurse you would treat wounds, dispense medicine, and monitor vital signs and symptoms. Registered nurses have greater responsibilities, such as assisting doctors during examinations, administering tests and treatment and supervising staff nurses. In any nursing position, you would conduct yourself in a sympathetic manner with patients and their loved ones.

In the nursing profession you could choose to specialize in specific areas of medical care. You could choose perioperative nursing, to assist surgeons in the operating room, or critical care nursing, to help patients with serious medical conditions that require close oversight. Other options include geriatric nursing, for care of the elderly, and pediatric oncology nursing, care for children with cancer. Some specialties involve certain medical conditions, such as the dermatology nurse, who assists with skin disorders, and the diabetes management nurse, who teaches patients how to manage their diabetes symptoms.

What Kinds of Diagnostic Jobs are Available?

As a clinical laboratory technologist, you would be concerned with handling a variety of diagnostics, testing for abnormalities in blood and other bodily fluids. For instance, you would use a variety of laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters, to examine specimens for bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms. You may operate advanced computerized equipment that performs several tests concurrently. Specialties in this profession include phlebotomy, which involves drawing blood samples and assisting in lab tests, and cytotechnology, examining cells for cancer or other diseases.

Another field of medical diagnosis is radiographic technology, which uses radiation or radio waves to create pictures of internal organs or parts of the musculoskeletal system. In this profession you would be responsible for operating sophisticated equipment, such as an x-ray machine, to obtain these radiographic images. You may wish to specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan, which create three-dimensional images, or mammography, specific for producing images of the breast. An alternative diagnostic imaging profession is sonography, in which high frequency sound waves reverberate off the internal organs to create pictures or video.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in pursuing a career as an advanced practice nurse, which will require a master's degree. Some options are becoming a nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients who are about to undergo surgical procedures. Nurse midwives assist women who are pregnant, providing care throughout their pregnancy and delivery. Nurse practitioners treat patients who have a variety of illnesses and medical conditioners; they are able to write prescriptions. Physician's assistants are another type of medical professional who act very much like a medical doctor. They examine, diagnose and treat patients. This career also requires a master's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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