Other Health Fields
Throughout your undergraduate education, you should consider alternatives to your primary field of interest; the array of career paths is so broad that it includes options that would suit people with very different skills, interests, and personalities. The Career Center offers career guidance, interest inventories, and an excellent resource library to help you discover the career that would best suit you. Below are just a few options; to learn about these and other fields, visit Explore Health Careers. As application deadlines vary widely even within professions, you should check for the schools and programs that interest you.
Nurses provide direct care to patients who are injured, ill, or convalescing. Their responsibilities may involve such tasks as monitoring vital signs, administering medications, changing dressings, using equipment, carrying out doctors' orders, and maintaining medical records.
Accelerated nursing programs allow graduates of non-nursing bachelor's programs to complete a second degree in nursing (BSN), generally in 12 -18 months, by applying prior coursework to the BSN. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing provides an overview of the field and a current list of accelerated nursing programs by state.
Both health psychologists and medical social workers bring counseling and interpersonal skills to assist in the treatment of a variety of health-related issues such as stress reduction in heart patients, coping with terminal illness, and pain management. Some health psychologists also focus on behavioral approaches to preventing and minimizing illness, such as smoking cessation, while medical social workers help patients connect to community resources.
Health psychologists typically have a doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology with a specialty in health and medically related issues, earning their degrees in programs that typically take 5-6 years post-undergraduate to complete. To learn more about this growing field, visit the APA. Medical social workers usually have a masters degree in social work (M.S.W.), requiring 2-3 years of graduate work.
Occupational Therapists (OT) assist people who struggle with activities of daily living to live life to its fullest, guiding, coaching and encouraging them through strength- or skill-building tasks and providing them with strategies and tools to live life with as much independence as possible.
OT schools require GRE as their standardized admissions test, which is offered year-round at Prometric Test Centers and at many universities. To learn more about careers in the OT profession and to find a list of OT schools visit AOTA.
Optometrists (OD) examine eyes for the presence of disease or other abnormalities, and for vision abilities. They prescribe corrective lenses or treatments, and refer medical problems relating to the eye to other health-care providers. (Optometry should not be confused with Ophthalmology, a branch of medicine practiced by MDs with extensive post-graduate training who provide medical and surgical care of the eye).
All schools require that applicants take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), offered year round at Prometric Test Centers. The test format is as follows: Survey of Natural Science (90 minutes), Physics Test (50 minutes), rest (15 minutes), unscored pretest (25 minutes), Reading Comprehension Test (50 minutes), and Quantitative Reasoning Test (45 minutes).
Pharmacists (PharmD) dispense drugs prescribed by physicians, provide information to patients about proper use of medications, and may advise health practitioners on the selection, dosage, interactions, and side effects of medications. They may practice in hospital settings or in pharmacies or other retail stores.
Many PharmD programs require 6 years (2 years of undergraduate studies + 4 years in PharmD coursework and experiential education). Liberal arts graduates with necessary prerequisites are eligible to enter the program for the final 4 years. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy provides information about applying through the PharmCAS application service, an overview of the PCAT entrance exam, and a list of Pharmacy schools.
Physician Assistants are licensed, medical professionals who work collaboratively with a physician supervisor. They may conduct complete physicals, order and interpret diagnostic tests, perform procedures, and prescibe medication with a physician's approval.
A typical PA training program will last 2-3 years, and requires the GRE or MCAT for admission. The centralized application service for this field is CASPA. To learn more about graduate Physician Assistant programs, and to see a list of them, visit the Physician Assistant Education Association.
Podiatrists (DPM) specialize in the care and treatment of the human foot, working in clinics, hospitals, or private practice. Specialties within the field include orthopedics, primary care, surgery and sports medicine. To learn more about the field, and to find a list of the nine accredited schools of podiatric medicine in the US, visit AACPM.
Most programs require that applicants take the MCAT though a few will consider GRE or DAT scores in lieu of the MCAT. Typical undergraduate course requirements include biology, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry, but vary slightly between schools. To apply to Podiatric Medical School, you will need to register with the AACPM's application service, AACPMAS.
Public health is described as "the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases." Public health professionals are employed in such settings as hospitals and clinics, governmental agencies, academia, and private industry.
The GRE is required for most or all Master's of Public Health programs. For a listing of member schools, fellowships and internships visit The Association of Schools of Public Health. The application service for this field is SOPHAS.