Health care is booming. As the country’s population gets older, health professions are adding millions of jobs. And while physicians are in demand, much of that growth comes from specialists and other support staff.
Overall, health care jobs are expected to grow by 15% through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When you graduate from a pre-med program, you’ll be prepared to enter this field, either after completing more training or even starting a job right out of college. These are some of the fastest growing or most popular options you might consider:
Nurse practitioner. Every year, Americans make more than 1 billion visits to nurse practitioners — and that number is only growing. In places where it’s hard to find a primary care physician, such as rural areas, nurse practitioners can fill the void. Like physicians, nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases. While they share many responsibilities, in general, nurse practitioners focus more on disease prevention and overall wellness than physicians.
- Median pay: $115,800/year
- Job outlook: + 45%
Physician assistant. You’ll find physician assistants pretty much everywhere you find physicians. In fact, as a PA, you’ll handle many of the same tasks: Examining patients, diagnosing illnesses, writing prescriptions and developing treatment plans. (Quick note: it’s physician assistant, not physician’s assistant. While you’ll work under the supervision of a physician, as a PA, you’re a primary care provider, not an aide.) While physicians have deeper knowledge of their specialty than a PA, PAs need less training. You’ll also have fewer on-call duties, and perhaps more regular hours. To become a PA, you’ll need a graduate degree and a state license.
- Median pay: $112,260/year
- Job outlook: + 31%
Physical/occupational therapist. When you’re hurt, or if you have an illness or disability, it can be hard to live the life you want. Physical and occupational therapists help patients recover abilities they may have lost through illness or injury, or build skills to live independently. While physical therapists help individuals relieve pain and improve movement, using exercises and training, occupational therapists help people develop plans to perform everyday tasks and activities. While you’ll need a master’s or even a doctorate degree for these jobs, you could become a PT or OT assistant with less training—and those careers are growing even more rapidly.
- Median pay: $89,440/year (physical therapist), $84,950/year (occupational therapist)
- Job outlook: + 16-18%
Public health. In the era of COVID-19, it’s clearer than ever that public health experts are vital to community wellbeing. In this field, you’ll find that public health covers a broad spectrum of careers: You may study how diseases affect communities (epidemiology), do hard-core data analysis on health patterns (biostatistics), help establish government policies that promote wellness, or work at the community level to educate people about healthy habits.
Some of these jobs are available with a bachelor’s degree, and let you make a real difference in the lives of the people you work with. Community health workers, for instance, often work in underserved communities to promote wellness; demand for these health professionals is expected to increase 13% through 2029.
- Median pay: $100,980/year (medical & health services manager), $70,990/year (epidemiologist), $46,910/year (health educators & community health workers)
- Job outlook: + 5-32%
Pharmacist. Pharmacists play a critical role ensuring patients use medications safely and effectively. After all, pharmacists aren’t just dispensing pills; they’re a critical link between physician and patient, helping them understand the medications they’re taking, how to manage chronic diseases and even how to cover the costs of the medication they take. This is one of the best-paying jobs in the health care industry.
- Median pay: $128,090/year
- Job outlook: – 3%
Eye care. Optometrists provide routine eye care, such as prescribing glasses and caring for conditions such as glaucoma. Ophthalmologists go farther: They can perform surgery and tend to a wide array of other diseases. Both require education beyond college — 4 years for optometrists, and medical school for ophthalmologists. But as people get older, they tend to need more eye care, and our nation’s aging population means we’ll need more eye care professionals in the years to come.
- Median pay: $115,250/year (optometrist), $203,450 (ophthalmologist)
- Job outlook: + 4%
Pursue a health sciences career at The University of Tulsa
The pre-med program at TU is ideal for students interested in careers in medicine and veterinary medicine, dentistry, optometry, nursing and other fields. Small class sizes, the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate and hands-on faculty guidance as you select courses are highlights of our program that help to set you up as an undergraduate for careers in the health sciences.