Pre-Health Career Options
Many students with limited exposure to health-related careers equate health professions with the traditional image portrayed by a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Dental Medicine. Although pre-medical and pre-dental students make up a significant portion of the pre-health students at NEIU, they by no means represent the totality of pre-professional students at the university. There are numerous career options that are available to students. What option is appropriate for a given student should be determined through their ongoing studies at NEIU and in consultation with their pre-professional advisor.
The following list of career options is restricted to post-baccalaureate programs. Again, it should be mentioned that all of these programs are highly competitive. If you are interested in a health profession that offers the baccalaureate degree, it is recommended that you consult directly with the appropriate school to determine the proper course of action.
ALLOPATHIC MEDICINE: The individual who is trained as an allopathic physician is the standard bearer of what is generally thought of as a doctor in our society. Completion of medical school results in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Medical school is followed by an internship and then a residency of variable length depending on the chosen specialty of the individual. Continuing education is integral to the successful practice of medicine.
OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE: Completion of four years of study in an osteopathic college results in a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. In many ways, osteopathic physicians function like an allopathic physician. However, the dimension of manipulative therapy plays a significant role in the repertoire of treatments. The training includes an internship and residency training of variable length. Many D.O.s focus on general family practice.
CHIROPRACTIC MEDICINE: The chiropractic professional programs lead to the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. D.C.s focus treatment on the integration of the nervous system with the skeletal-muscular system. They employ a number of techniques including manipulation and spinal adjustments. The practice of chiropractic medicine has become a significant component of the rehabilitative aspects of sports medicine.
PODIATRY: The practice of podiatric medicine is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the human foot, ankle, and other parts of the lower extremity below the knee. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) completes a four-year curriculum, which is often followed by a two to three year surgical residency. There are a variety of specialized career areas that a D.P.M. can pursue, including podiatric sports medicine, orthopedics, and podiatric surgery.
PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT: The physician assistant provides basic medical care that includes performing examinations, treating patients, prescribing medication and many other duties under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants are often part of the healthcare team that works in hospitals or group practices with physicians; however, in medically underserved areas, they can serve as the primary healthcare provider in the community. A Physician Assistant (P.A.) generally completes an 18 to 24-month program, usually earning a master?s degree in a medical related science.
DENTISTRY: Dental programs offer two equivalent degrees: Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). Most dentists enter general practice and are involved in maintaining the health of the teeth, gums and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity. The dentist completes a four-year dental program and can then begin practicing dentistry. Many in the field of dentistry also pursue post-graduate study.
OPTOMETRY: The Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) provides primary vision care. Optometrists examine people?s eyes to diagnose and treat eye diseases and vision problems. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. The Doctor of Optometry degree requires completing a four-year program at an accredited optometry school.
PHARMACY: Pharmacists are an integral part of the healthcare system. They educate patients about medications and dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners. They advise practitioners on the dosages, interactions and side effects of medications. A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) completes a four-year program. Many pharmacists work in community settings such as drugstores, or in healthcare facilities such as hospitals.
PHYSICAL THERAPY: Physical therapists (PTs) provide services to help restore function, relieve pain and limit physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Many physical therapists work in hospitals, health practitioner offices and home healthcare services. Physical therapist programs offer degrees at the master?s degree (M.P.T.) or doctoral (D.P.T.) level and usually require two or three years to complete the respective programs.
VETERINARY MEDICINE: Veterinarians diagnose, treat and help prevent disease and disabilities in animals. Veterinarians predominantly work in private practice. Many practices exclusively treat small animals, while other practices are limited to large animals, farm and ranch animals, or care for zoo, aquarium and laboratory animals. A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) completes a four-year medical education.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics is a useful source for further information concerning these and other career options. The associated website provides extensive information on many health-related careers. It includes current information about the educational requirements, job outlook, salary ranges and working conditions of most career positions.