What Medical Career Is Right for You? Assessing Your Options

May 24, 2024 | Articles, Health

Deciding on what kind of medical career you want can be tough. There are so many options out there that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to figure out which one fits you best. That’s why this article is here – to help guide you through looking at different healthcare careers. We’ll consider important things like what the day-to-day work is like, how much education is needed, and how it could impact your lifestyle.


Important Factors to Think About

When you’re looking at different healthcare career options, several key factors come into play. To ensure you find the perfect fit, take time to consider the following:


Education Requirements 

Most healthcare professions require a significant investment in training and medical education in Hawaii or elsewhere, depending on your location. For instance, doctors and surgeons have to complete a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and then a residency program that can last several more years. Nurses, on the other hand, typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, while other healthcare jobs may need a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree, depending on the specific role.


Daily Job Duties and Work Settings 

Each medical career comes with its own unique responsibilities and work environments. Doctors and surgeons, for example, diagnose and treat patients in hospitals, clinics, or their own private practices, while nurses provide direct, hands-on patient care in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. Meanwhile, other healthcare workers may find themselves in rehab centers, patients’ homes, or other locations, depending on their specialty.


Lifestyle Fit

A career as a medical professional can be demanding, thanks to long hours, unpredictable schedules, and high-stress situations. So, consider your lifestyle priorities. Think about things like work-life balance, whether travel could be required, and whether the physical demands would be a good fit for you. 

If work-life balance is crucial, look into healthcare jobs with more predictable schedules or part-time options. But if you’re willing to make bigger sacrifices, a more demanding role could be a better fit.


Your Strengths and Personal Interests 

Take an honest look at your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Are you a whiz at science and math? Are you a strong communicator? Do you prefer hands-on work or more analytical roles? Knowing what you naturally excel at can guide you towards suitable career matches.


Reflecting on what really interests you also helps narrow down your options. Are you drawn to any particular medical specialty? Do fast-paced, high-energy environments energize you, or would you prefer a calmer pace?


Job Outlook and Earning Potential 

It’s smart to look into the current job market and typical pay ranges for any career you’re considering. Some medical fields may have higher demand or pay better salaries than others. To make an informed decision, research job growth projections, average pay scales, and opportunities for career advancement in your area.


Taking a Closer Look at Some Top Medical Careers

Now let’s dive a little deeper into some of the most popular medical career paths out there:


Doctor and Surgeon

As highly trained experts, doctors and surgeons play an essential role in diagnosing and treating all kinds of illnesses, injuries, and other medical issues. Their day-to-day responsibilities can vary a lot depending on their specialty but typically include things like:

  • Examining patients and ordering medical tests
  • Analyzing test results and diagnosing conditions
  • Developing treatment plans and prescribing medications
  • Performing surgical procedures (for surgeons)
  • Counseling patients on preventing disease and living healthy

As mentioned, becoming a doctor or surgeon requires a significant commitment, involving a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and residency training.



Registered Nurse (RN) 

Registered nurses are vital members of the healthcare team, providing direct, hands-on care and support for patients. Their typical duties could include:

  • Giving medications and other treatments
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs and overall condition
  • Teaching patients and families about managing illnesses or injuries
  • Working closely with doctors and other healthcare staff
  • Documenting all patient care and keeping medical records up-to-date

To become an RN, you need to earn a nursing degree—either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). After finishing your degree program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.


Medical Assistant

Medical assistants play an important supporting role by handling a variety of administrative and clinical tasks. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Recording patients’ medical histories and vital signs
  • Assisting doctors and nurses with exams and procedures
  • Scheduling appointments and managing medical records
  • Preparing exam rooms and sterilizing equipment
  • Explaining treatment instructions to patients

To become a medical assistant, you can complete either a certificate program or an associate’s degree program in medical assisting. However, certain states may also require professional certification or registration for medical assisting.


Physical Therapist

The role of physical therapists is to help patients recover from injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through exercise, stretching, and other therapeutic treatments. Their work often involves:

  • Evaluating patients’ movement abilities and physical function
  • Creating treatment plans to improve mobility and manage pain
  • Providing exercise guidance and hands-on therapies
  • Teaching patients how to properly use assistive devices
  • Documenting patient progress and updating treatment plans


In the United States, becoming a physical therapist requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. This is a doctoral-level program typically lasting three years and follows the completion of a bachelor’s degree.

These are just a few examples of the many different medical career paths out there. Other options worth looking into include occupational therapist, respiratory therapist, radiologic technologist, dietitian, and a lot more.


How to Decide What’s Right for You

Choosing the best medical career for you is quite a personal journey. But beyond considering your interests, goals, and ideal lifestyle, here are some additional tips to guide your decision-making:


Get Some Firsthand Experience 

One of the best ways to explore different medical careers is to get some firsthand experience through internships, job shadowing, or volunteer opportunities in the healthcare field. This allows you to get a realistic picture of the day-to-day work and environments for various roles.


Talk to Current Professionals 

Don’t hesitate to actually speak with healthcare professionals already working in the medical field you’re interested in. They can offer super valuable insights about their careers and answer any questions you might have.


Embrace Lifelong Learning

The medical field is constantly evolving, with new technologies, treatments, and best practices emerging all the time. So, while you’re exploring different career paths, consider researching emerging technologies and trends in the fields you’re interested in. This can give you a broader understanding of the future landscape and help you choose a path that aligns with your long-term interests.


Final Thoughts

Choosing your medical career path is a huge decision that’ll significantly shape your future. That said, take the time to thoroughly explore all your options, seek guidance, and carefully consider what aligns with your personal goals and priorities. With thoughtful planning and preparation, you can embark on a rewarding, fulfilling journey in the healthcare setting.

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Thomas B.