Rewarding Careers in Health Care

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Want a career that lets you help others? Check out these health care career options.

By Amanda Hearle

Are you looking for a meaningful career that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Health care could be the way to go.

The very nature of the industry makes it virtually impossible to not have an impact on people, says Andrea Santiago, the About.com Guide to Health Careers.

"Health care is a great field for meaningful careers," Santiago says, "because almost every position - whether you're working directly with patients or behind the scenes - allows you to make a direct impact on patients' well-being."

If you've been looking for a more meaningful career path, check out these rewarding health care career options - and see how you can start preparing.

Career #1 - Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Looking for a health care career that lets you help others without being so hands-on? Consider a career as a medical records and health information technician. These technicians usually work more with data; organizing and analyzing patients' medical data (i.e. office visits, exam results, treatments) in computer databases, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

How you could make a difference: "While there's no direct dealing with patients," says Santiago, "medical technicians' work helps with diagnosing patients by compiling all their information and making it accessible to medical staff." By making sure that all information is accurate and accounted for, you can help protect patients from misdiagnosis and faulty treatment plans.

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

Education options: If you want to pursue a medical records and health information technician career, an associate's degree in health information technology and a Registered Health Information Technician credential is recommended, says the Department of Labor. According to the College Board, these programs offer a combination of medical and technical knowledge with courses covering medical terminology, coding systems, and data analysis.


Career #2 - Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants generally work with physical therapists to instruct patients, help with exercises, and offer therapeutic treatments like massage and electrical stimulation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They also usually help keep meticulous records and track a patient's progress.

How you could make a difference: Physical therapy workers might consistently appear at the top of job satisfaction polls because "they are dealing with people who are in recovery, and they have the opportunity to see their patients make progress and improve the quality of their life," says Santiago.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assisting Program.

Education options: Physical therapy assistants generally have an associate's degree, as it's required by law in most states, says the Department of Labor. Look into associate's degree programs in physical therapy assisting from an accredited program. Most prepare students with a blend of academic coursework (i.e. anatomy, physiology) and hands-on clinical experience, says the College Board.


Career #3 - Medical Assistant

Medical assistants often form the bridge between doctors and patients, generally handling many of the administrative and medical tasks that help doctors' offices run more smoothly. Typical duties might include greeting patients, taking vitals, and filling out insurance forms, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

How you could make a difference: Because medical assistants are often the main contact in a doctor's office, you could play a big role in making sure that a patient's questions are answered. You might also play an active role in patient treatment, says the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Education options: A career in medical assisting generally requires an associate's degree in medical assisting, according to the Department. The College Board says that these associate's programs offer courses in subjects like anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and insurance processing to help equip students to work in a doctor's office.


Career #4 - Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are often part medical technician, part receptionist. They might prep instruments for dentists, remove sutures, apply anesthetics, and help with office work like scheduling appointments, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

How you could make a difference: Dental assistants usually play a key role in making sure that patients are comfortably situated before the dentist does an examination. They can answer a patient's questions and provide more instruction about proper dental care, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Education options: Completing an accredited dental assisting program is the standard education route to prepare for a dental assisting career, says the Department. Classes with topics like oral anatomy, radiology, and dental assisting techniques are usually combined with hands-on experience alongside dentists, according to the College Board.


Career #5 - Registered Nurse

Nurses often act as guides, leading patients through the process of treatment and recovery by performing diagnostic tests, reviewing patient histories, verifying diagnoses, and developing recommended plans for treatment, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

How you could make a difference: Nurses spend time interacting with patients, generally treating them and answering their questions, according to the Department of Labor. By offering emotional and professional support, they could help patients and their families feel less intimidated by their circumstances.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Education options: An associate's degree in nursing could help prepare you to take the national nursing certification exam, a prerequisite to a nursing career, says the Department. According to the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT, nursing programs are a mix of lecture-style classes (i.e. chemistry, nutrition, microbiology) with simulations in clinics and hospitals.


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