Human Anatomy

A degree in human anatomy may help you decide if you're ready to be a surgeon, physical therapist or perhaps even a medical illustrator. Read on to discover more about this field of study, career options, and education programs.

Is Human Anatomy for Me?

Overview

Human anatomy is the study of the intricate workings of the human body from the gross to the cellular level. The study encompasses four disciplines: cell and tissue biology, gross anatomy, neuroanatomy and human development. This field of study provides a solid foundation for any career that has its basis in the human body.

Career Options

If you have an interest in science and the human body, a degree may help you narrow your focus to the anatomy-related career that's right for you. With a master's degree in human anatomy and a further specialized degree, some sample career choices are doctor, surgeon, dentist, nurse, physical therapist, professor, massage therapist, medical illustrator or acupuncturist. Education, licensing and certification requirements will vary according to the career path you choose.

Employment

A surgeon is an example of someone who requires a thorough understanding of human anatomy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2012, general surgeons earned median annual compensation of $367,885 (www.bls.gov). Employment of physicians and surgeons is predicted to grow 18% from 2012-2022, per the BLS. Jobs for physical therapists are expected to increase 33% from 2012-2022, per the BLS; the median pay was $79,860 in 2012. If your interest lies more in the arts, according to the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI), the median salary for a medical illustrator as of 2009 was $61,000, with some earning as much as $150,000 (www.ami.org).

How Can I Work in Human Anatomy?

Education

The majority of degrees in human anatomy are offered at the master's and doctoral levels, and most are geared toward preparing you for a career in the fields of healthcare, teaching or research, such as a dual Doctor of Medicine/Master of Science in Applied Anatomy degree. To gain admission to a master's degree program, you'll typically need an undergraduate degree in one of the biological sciences, such as genetics or cell biology. In a master's degree program, expect to take classes in gross anatomy, cell and tissue biology, physiology, biochemistry and neuroanatomy. You'll also gain experience in research methods through both book study and hands-on lab study. To obtain the degree, you'll be expected to pass a comprehensive examination.

A program for medical illustrators will be designed specifically for artists. According to the AMI, you'll want to obtain your master's degree from a 2-year program in medical illustration accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program may prepare you for a career in research or teaching at the university level. In a Ph.D. program, you'll be involved in seminar classes and lab rotations. You'll be expected to pass comprehensive examinations as well as write and defend a dissertation based on original research. The Ph.D. program may take up to 5-6 years to successfully complete.

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