You know that you are interested in pursuing a career in health care, but which one? As you may see from this website or the Pre-Health Handbook, there are a variety of healthcare fields, many of which seem very similar to one another. Though there is no substitute for meeting with your advisor in discussing your options, there are some things to consider in making a decision about which healthcare field you wish to pursue. For example, most of the healthcare programs, such as medicine and dentistry, require students to have demonstrated strong performances in their science classes. Therefore, if you know that you have limited interest in one of the natural sciences or tend to make below average grades in science courses, then you need to carefully consider whether these professions are the best ones for you. This does not mean if you are interested in a medically oriented field that your grades have to be perfect; they don't, however it does mean that entrance into these fields is going to require long and regular hours in the laboratory in order for you to develop a strong command for the material you are learning. Let's be honest, medicine is a hierarchical field, and students interested in the top healthcare professions are competing against applicants from colleges and universities across the country. As such, successful applicants are almost always the ones who are making the best grades in their classes and score the highest on standardized tests. Fair or not, this is the reality that students who are interested in these healthcare professions face.
However, there are important medical professions in which entrance into their training programs do not require the absolute best grades or standardized test scores. For example, if you are interested in a medical profession, but know that, in spite of your interest in the sciences, your grades are more in the average to above average range, you may want to consider one of the physician extender or allied health professions, in which the typical grades of accepted applicants are lower than those applicants accepted into medical or dental schools. Professionals in these healthcare fields are achieving greater autonomy as well as receiving better compensation for the care of patients as health care becomes more decentralized.
Many of the healthcare fields described on this website and in the Pre-Health Handbook are less natural science-oriented, thus they do not require as many of the traditional science courses. For example, clinical or counseling psychologists, social workers, and professional counselors typically work with disturbed and emotionally intense individuals, requiring these practitioners to have exceptional interpersonal and emotional resources in addition to their knowledge of human behavior.
Preparation for entering any of the healthcare professions requires a great deal of personal sacrifice and hard work – and they should! Caring for the lives of individuals (and animals in the case of veterinarians) is critical work that must be performed by smart, caring, and conscientious individuals. Therefore, proper training for entering these fields, both at the undergraduate level and beyond, has to be arduous in order to protect the lives of those who will be patients of these professionals.