6 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Career in Healthcare
March 10, 2021
Employment in healthcare is projected to grow 14% through to 2028, which equates to about 1.9 million new jobs. Here's how to know it's the right career for you.
Read almost any article on employment in healthcare and you’ll likely find out that it’s not only one of the biggest industries in the U.S., but that it’s the most rapidly growing field today. While there are a number of factors at play in the sector’s growth, many attribute healthcare’s highly positive job outlook to an aging baby-boomer generation and their need for all-inclusive care.
The U.S. population as a whole has also taken an increased interest in health-conscious living, boosting everything from workplace fitness programs to “mindfulness" as a way of being. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare is projected to grow 14 percent through to 2028, which equates to about 1.9 million new jobs.
Due to the demand for workers, some roles in healthcare make up the most lucrative job options available, with physicians and advanced-practice clinicians like physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses topping the list of most highly compensated healthcare professionals. If advanced training through college or graduate school doesn’t appeal to you or simply isn’t an option, don’t let that be a barrier to entry. Many jobs in the field look for candidates across a range of educational levels and also offer competitive salaries to other industries.
In truth, it’s not a long shot to equate the process of finding the right healthcare career to choosing your own adventure. You may be in it for lucrative pay or job security. Or maybe you want to collaborate and be part of a team.
If you aren’t quite so sure what’s drawing you to the field, that’s okay too—for a little while, at least. Whatever your mindset, there are as many factors to inspire your future as a healthcare professional as there are ways to break into the industry. By taking the time to consider some crucial questions, you can feel confident knowing that your work will parallel everything you want to get out of it—and ensure success in the long run.
Do you have a concrete motivation for entering the field?
Whether you’re halfway through a pre-med program or a grad student who can quote every episode of House, dig deep to make sure you know exactly what your grounds for choosing a career in healthcare entail. Like the reasons mentioned above, you may be on the lookout for an exciting, ever-changing field in which even behind-the-scenes positions are presented with new challenges every day.
Most healthcare jobs involve the human body in one way or another—from taking blood as a phlebotomist to creating internal images as an ultrasound technician. While the work may not always be the most universally pleasant, jobs like these are ideal for anyone with a fascination with the human body and how it works.
Another selling point of almost any healthcare career is that it will likely be in demand across almost every region of the U.S. as long as you have the proper training and any necessary degrees or credentials. If you’re the type who tends to feel stuck in one place after working a job for more than a few years, you’ll find that the industry may suit your on-the-go spirit.
What’s more, if you want to work in an industry that allows you to nurture your desire to help others while earning a living, healthcare is the one for you. Whether your career finds you saving lives, bringing new ones into the world, or giving your all to keep a medical facility running smoothly, you'll play a crucial part in helping people in an incredibly significant way.
Which healthcare specialization interests you most?
It’s no secret that the healthcare field that encompasses countless roles, meaning that you’ll need to spend ample time considering what it is you want to do in it. Do you want hands-on work that deals directly with the patients? Consider clinician jobs—like pediatrician, nurse practitioner, and speech-language pathologists, to name a few—that are known for providing immediate diagnosis, treatment, and patient care.
If you’d rather be part of the support staff that helps doctors and nurses provide care, jobs as a maternity support worker, nursing assistant, or occupational therapy assistant are just a few of your options. Alternatively, you could take on a more technical clinical support staff role, whether as a cardiographer, phlebotomist, or radiography assistant, among a variety of other paths.
Do you prefer administrative roles? If so, there are many jobs available to those who want to work in the non-clinical area of the field. Those passionate about finance may pursue roles in medical billing, which have become essential in the industry as more healthcare facilities move to electronic health records. If you’re seeking leadership roles in administration—not to mention, executive-grade earnings—you may consider a career as a healthcare administrator or manager or even hospital CEO.
That said, this only scratches the surface of just a few of the ways that combining a career in healthcare with your interests can inform your direction in the field. You may be more of a lab rat or obsessed with IT. Or maybe you want to use your knack for science to help create more effective treatments and medical devices. In any case, connecting what you like to do and what you’re good at to potential roles in the field is crucial. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to land on a career that’s enjoyable—and is one you stay in for years to come.
Does your potential specialization suit your skills and personality?
Despite any personal quirks and habits, some specific character traits will benefit your work in healthcare, no matter which particular area of it you happen to land in. Communication skills, for example, are required by all healthcare professionals, whether shown through active listening, responding appropriately to patients’ needs and concerns, properly assessing body language, or simply presenting your team with your perspectives on particular situations, issues, or ideas. The ever-changing landscape of healthcare makes adaptability another crucial trait. From new payment models to evolving technologies, you must embrace change in healthcare and welcome new practices that can benefit your team and organization.
A penchant for teamwork is another must. From doctors and nurses to social workers, case managers, and patient supervisors, healthcare professionals are typically tasked to work with countless people every day. For this reason, you’ll need to get along well with others and be willing to work together for the good of your healthcare organization and the patients it serves.
You’ll also need to be able to handle stress, which in healthcare, tends to crop up due to the industry’s rapidly changing environment and the physical and emotional stressors stemming from day-to-day work will injury, illness, and death. In the field, you may find that self-confidence is a huge factor or stress management, not only for its ability to boost your capacity to accept criticism and work under pressure, but also to prevent work burnout.
Will you need to pursue further education and training?
Different roles in the healthcare industry require different levels of education and certification, from high school diplomas to advanced graduate degrees. Depending on the profession you pursue and the program you attend to qualify for it, your minimum training can range from a few months to up to over a decade.
Cardiac monitor technicians, for example, must hold a high school diploma or have earned a GED to complete a training program in telemetry monitoring that typically lasts anywhere from three to seven months and costs as low as $400 to around $1,000. Surgeons, on the other hand, must go through about 13 years of education and training before earning a license to practice. When factoring undergraduate and medical school tuition, it’s a process that runs from around $250,000 to over $500,000.
If you’ve decided what profession you wish to pursue and learned how much time and money potential training will require, make sure you (and your family) are prepared for the personal and financial investment. In many cases, training programs can be very energy-, time- and cost-intensive, so plan ahead by looking for financial aid options and comparing the flexibility of different programs.
What’s your ideal work setting?
Healthcare professionals can work in many different environments depending upon the position they choose to pursue. From hospitals and nursing homes to private physicians’ offices and other healthcare facilities, choosing the right work environment will be crucial to the quality of your work and life as a healthcare professional.
Do you think you’d like a fast-paced environment like a clinic or emergency room? Or would you be more productive in a workplace with scheduled appointments, non-emergency walk-ins, or an office that’s away from the action? While determining which environment is the best fit for you isn’t always the easiest decision, it’s a crucial one to deepening your understanding of the expectations, requirements, and even advancement opportunities within your future career.
How will your career in healthcare impact your life long-term?
Where do you see your career in three, five, ten, or more years? Do you see yourself leading a team or even an entire organization? Or, would you be happy finding a career that you love and work it until retirement? While no two healthcare careers look the same, wisely choosing your path in the field will not only help you move towards your future goals but keep you feeling energized and enthusiastic in your work.
Choosing a job you love matters, but sometimes, money matters too. Scratch that, a lot of the time it matters—whether to pay rent, support your family, or simply to sustain yourself. There are many legitimate reasons why going after your dreams also means going after a certain degree of pay. Prioritizing your salary during a career search doesn’t make you a superficial person—it makes you an honest one who knows what’s most important to you right now. By landing on a career that suits your salary needs, skills, interests, and personality, you can bet on many great days in the field.
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