The road to becoming a healthcare professional



Every healthcare professional’s career path is different, but in the current industry climate, one thing is consistent no matter what part of the sector you have ambitions to work in – opportunity.

That’s because healthcare is facing a growing skills shortage – According to the World Health Organization, the global health workforce is likely to be short of 12.9 million health workers by 2035. So, with demand currently far outweighing supply (and the gap set to widen in future years), there’s never been a better time to become a properly qualified health professional.

On top of the job security offered by an industry in need of skilled professionals, there’s a whole host of other great reasons to consider a career in healthcare – including travel, further education opportunities, financial reward, sense of accomplishment, and the feeling of making a genuine difference. So, here’s how to start your career as a healthcare professional, some of the key benefits, and the potential directions your career path may take you in:

Growing educational opportunities

 

Education is where the journey starts for virtually every health professional. And the good news is that prospective students have access to a wide range of healthcare courses; the number of health-related bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctorates, and diplomas offered by institutions has never been higher. And those courses are also becoming highly specialized in nature – for example, USC’s MHA course focuses on the management and financial side of healthcare (click to learn more about their executive MHA program).

And ongoing educational opportunities will also ensure you can advance through the ranks of your chosen profession long after graduation.

Take nursing as an example; many students will begin their nursing education studying to be a registered nurse. However, as they gain more experience, many registered nurses then choose to pursue accreditations to become a staff nurse, operating room nurse or clinical nurse specialist. They may then move on further to work as a critical care registered nurse or nurse practitioner, eventually taking on a research position or public health role.

 

The choice of careers

 

Just as health-related courses on offer are wide and varied, so too is the choice of sector in which a healthcare graduate can work.

For example, depending on the course you choose, you may open opportunities for yourself in:

 

  • Public health administration
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Research
  • Optometry
  • Midwifery
  • Rehabilitative care – e.g. physiotherapy
  • Ambulance and EMT
  • Dietary and nutrition
  • IT and health informatics
  • Nursing
  • Psychological and psychiatric care

 

Each field has its own unique needs for different types of professional to fill key roles in technical services, professional services, management, professional services, sales, finance, and support roles.

The type of environment a graduate may work in also varies from small private medical practices to the highest government offices.

While many graduates will find themselves initially filling entry-level roles in these areas, many offer opportunity for advancement through experience and further education. It’s also not uncommon to start in one area of health and traverse through others – for example, many public health advisors are former physicians and nurses.

 

The benefits

Gaining a health qualification from a well-recognized US-based accreditor opens all kinds of opportunities for graduates to live and work around the world.

It means you can essentially “follow the money,” with many countries offering visas to health professionals whose skills are in short supply in that area. For example, if you wanted to work as a nurse, you could investigate opportunities in places like Australia and New Zealand where nurses’ salaries are among the highest in the world.

 

If you’d rather stay put, financial security is still a key benefit to entering the health industry; many professionals who reach the pinnacle of their field can command lucrative salaries. Among the best paid health professionals who can reasonably expect a six-figure salary are surgeons, radiologists, and pediatricians.

Or maybe you’d rather go in the total opposite direction – prioritizing travel to an area that needs your skills but without worrying too much about financial incentive. If that’s the case, many aid organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders can help you work in areas where war, famine, and disease have created dire medical need.

Either way, a career in healthcare offers many people a sense of achievement and wellbeing. That’s because health workers are among the most content of all professionals – with surveys naming numerous health-related jobs as some of the “happiest” available.