Choosing the right health career for you

Choosing the right health career for you

Healthcare is the largest employer in the U.S. meaning the options are endless. With more than 200 health career options available, making a decision on which field is best for you will require a lot of research. We’ve come up with guiding questions that will help you narrow down your options by considering your goals, values, interests, and personal preferences.

Why do you want to be in healthcare?

What’s your motivation behind getting into healthcare? Are you looking for something exciting, unpredictable, and in a fast-paced environment? Maybe working in the ER would be right for you. Do you prefer helping people long term and following them on their health journey? Consider working as a general practitioner or pediatrician. Many people have personal stories about why they want to get into healthcare. Think about what your motivator is and what how you’d like to make an impact in the healthcare field.

What’s your ideal work setting?

Do you want to be a physician but can’t bear the thought of working in a hospital? Thankfully you have the option of working in a clinic, office setting, or even as a traveling MD. Do you want something fast-paced like the hospital, clinic, or ER environment or something more structured like scheduled appointments, office settings, and no walk-ins? Are you an introvert and don’t want to work directly with people altogether? Consider roles that would allow you to work behind the scenes. Check out my colleague’s article on 5 Healthcare Jobs for Introverts. Have you ever considered healthcare administration? Healthcare admin roles cover a wide range of settings from individual hospital and clinic departments to office settings and even freelance or remote positions. Also keep in mind the unconventional places where healthcare professionals can be found like in the military, at universities, and even abroad.

What lifestyle do you prefer?

Thankfully when it comes to healthcare you have a lot of options. Do you prefer a 9-5? Morning shift vs. night shift? Free weekends or a flexible schedule? Or even a schedule you make on your own? These are all important factors when considering which career path is right for you. Physicians and nurses who work in hospitals, for example, are often on-call, work long shifts, have to be available on the weekends, and get limited holidays off. Prefer to work remote and make your own schedule? Consider being a consultant and build up your clientele. Understanding what you’re okay with and what are deal breakers for you will help you narrow down your options.

What education or training do you need?

It’s no secret that pursuing a medical career means a huge educational and financial investment. It takes an average of 10 years for a student to complete all necessary schooling and residency to become a physician. And don’t forget the rising tuition costs that come with every new degree. This shouldn’t discourage you but rather prepare you for what the expectations will be in this career field long term.

What does your return on investment look like? Yes, it may take 14 years to become an orthopedic surgeon and tons in student debt but the salary and benefits may be worth it in the long run. Maybe you already completed your bachelor’s in nursing and are now considering a Master of Nursing (MSN) and/or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). Understanding the educational, training, time, and cost requirements will be crucial to helping you decide which career track aligns with your personal goals and timeline.

What do you not want?

Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do. You don’t want to find yourself in a career that would require you to manage what you’d consider to be deal-breakers. Being honest with yourself and understanding what would absolutely be a no-go for you will help you figure out which career track is best for you. Deal breakers are not the same as preferences.

I may not prefer to draw blood but could probably get used to it if it aligns with a career that is perfect for me. However, if the sight of blood makes you queasy then phlebotomy is more than likely out of the question for you. Want to start a family but don’t want to be in school while doing it? Maybe the 14-year track to be an orthopedic surgeon is one you’d have to reconsider. Review your deal breakers and make sure they’re just that, deal-breakers, and not preferences at the end of the day. Maybe you’ll realize there are far fewer than you think. 

Don’t get overwhelmed with all the possibilities, having lots of variety and tons of options actually works in your favor. You’re already on the right track of doing your research by reading this article in the first place. Use these guiding questions to help you align your values with your interests and you’ll be well on your way to figuring out the perfect healthcare career for you.

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About the author

Hajar Ahmed

Hajar Ahmed is a healthcare professional with a background in public health policy and management. She’s passionate about reducing health disparities and helping to implement wellness practices in everyday life. When she’s not off on a new travel adventure or cooking up a storm, she’s reading, writing, and talking healthcare.

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