The Basics of Health and Medicine Majors
Working as a medical doctor is a well-known and well-respected career, but that’s only one option in the field of medicine. If your goal is to work in the interest of human or animal health, many different academic paths can lead you there.
Medical professionals who work with patients, such as doctors, are known as clinicians.
Advanced-Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants
Many people actually see advanced-practice nurses or physician assistants when they go for a doctor’s visit. These highly trained professionals spend most of their time working without direct supervision and can prescribe medication in most states.
Physician assistants hold bachelor's degrees as well as a degree from an accredited program that usually takes more than two years to complete. Advanced-practice nurses generally need a bachelor’s degree plus an extra two to three years of postgraduate study.
Dieticians and Nutritionists
If you'd like to focus on preventing illness, you might enjoy the study of nutrition. This can lead to a career as a dietician or nutritionist. The science-focused nutrition major includes applying what you learn. For example, you may design personalized diets for real clients.
Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
Professionals in this field help those who have difficulties using or understanding verbal or nonverbal communication — for example, stroke survivors or people who are hard of hearing. Working in one of these professions requires a master's degree.
Therapy and Rehabilitation
Therapy students learn how to help recovering patients, often beginning where medicine leaves off. At the undergraduate level, you can study these subjects:
- Music therapy
- Therapeutic recreation
At the master’s degree level, you can focus on these areas:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Dance therapy
Earning a two-year degree is enough to put you in a career in health. Medical technologists in various fields perform the following tasks, among many others:
- Cleaning teeth
- Taking x-rays
- Performing ultrasounds
- Assisting in surgery
Technologists range from medical-lab technicians to nuclear-medicine technologists and radiation technicians. Paths of study and certification requirements vary among the different types of technologists.
The Road to Medical School
If you decide you want to be a doctor, you’ll need to attend medical school after you earn a bachelor’s degree. Very few colleges offer premedical major programs. But most offer premed advising programs.
These advising programs do not lead to a degree. As a premed student, you’ll still choose a major in an area of interest. This can be in any subject that allows you to fulfill the requirements for medical school. Premed students do get to work with an advisor to guide them on how to meet medical-school requirements and prepare for the MCAT, an admission exam for prospective medical students.
Similar advising programs exist in these areas:
- Veterinary science
Learn more about these majors, medicine-related advising programs, and other health and medicine majors on this website. Here's a sampling of the majors covered:
- Athletic Training
- Clinical Laboratory Science
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Foods, Nutrition, and Wellness Studies
- Health Sciences
- Music Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Physician Assistance
- Preveterinary Studies
- Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
- Veterinary Technology