Other Health Professions
Important: Even if you have already decided upon a career path, it is important that you become familiar with the roles different healthcare professionals fulfill, their training and educational backgrounds, and the services they provide, since you will likely encounter them during whatever health career you choose to pursue.
The Health Professions and Prelaw Center invites you to use the resources on this page to learn about the many ways you could build a fulfilling career in the health professions, and make a difference through your work in healthcare.
People tend to be most familiar with the roles of doctors and nurses, because these two professions are ingrained in our popular culture, and because people often interact with these particular healthcare professionals more frequently than others. Fewer people are familiar with the work of the cytotechnologist, the respiratory therapist, the health information administrator, and the dozens, if not hundreds, of other types of professionals who provide vital services, and are essential members of the healthcare team. Health career areas include a wide range of diagnostic, therapeutic, and administrative services, some of which emphasize laboratory science, others of which emphasize direct patient care, and still others of which involve entirely different skill sets and career interests. For instance, many - though not all - health fields require very strong science abilities, just as those fields which involve direct patient care require highly developed interpersonal skills. We strongly encourage you to complete the self-assesment questionnaire, linked from the next section, and to carefully consider your own personality, interests, abilities, and aptitudes as you make your career decisions.
As you explore your options, you may encounter the term "allied health professions," which is sometimes used as a subcategory of health professions in general. Allied health professionals perform diagnostic procedures, provide therapeutic services, and other patient care as part of a team of caregivers. Click HERE for a more thorough description of the term "allied health."
The Health Professions and Prelaw Center has developed a self-assessment questionnaire to help you more clearly identify and evaluate your aptitudes, your areas of interest, and what has drawn your attention to these areas. If you are a prehealth professions student, or still in the process of exploring different health fields, we strongly suggest you complete the questionnaire and bring it to a session with your academic advisor. Click HERE to open the survey in your word processing program.
The kind and length of training required for professional practice in a given health field varies dramatically from one field to another:
- Non-Degree Certificates: length of training typically varies from several weeks to several months, depending on the program. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) are probably the most well known types of certificate training programs.
- Associate of Science degree (AS)*: typically, a 2-year degree, usually including admission prerequisites.
- Bachelor of Science degree (BS)*: typically, a 4-year degree, including admission prerequisites. For example, a 4-year nursing degree commonly includes 1 year of admission prerequisites and general education courses and 3 years of professional training and clinicals; whereas a BS in Respiratory Therapy might include 2 years of prerequisites and 2 years of professional courses and clinicals.
- Master's degree (abbreviation depends on the area; for example, MSOT for Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, or MSW for Master of Social Work): generally, a 2-year graduate degree following a bachelor's degree. Some master's degrees require summer coursework, and others do not. Other such programs take longer; for example, the typical physician assistant program is 27 months, including work during each summer.
- Doctoral degree (abbreviation depends on the area; for example, DPT for Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DO for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine): length of training varies. For example, the DPT degree requires 3 years of training, while medical school is 4 years, plus an additional 3 - 6 years to complete residency and fellowship.
IUB students may complete the requirements for admission to most such programs on the Bloomington campus, and then apply for admission to the professional program itself. Be aware that admission to most health professions programs is competitive, sometimes extremely so; therefore, you will need to be diligent and systematic throughout your preprofessional process as you strive to gain admission.
In addition to completing coursework, clinical observation ("shadowing") and other professional development activities are crucial to the process of selecting and pursuing any career path. To learn what kinds of experiences are most important for admission to your programs of interest, consult the HPPLC page for your area.
* Training for some fields - for example, nursing, respiratory therapy, radiation therapy, health information administration, and others - can be garnered through either an AS or a BS degree. In most cases, someone who has earned the AS will take the exact same certification exam as someone with the BS degree. How much of a difference in pay or job opportunity there is between the AS and BS depends on many factors, including the particular health field, and the job market within a given geographical region.
Having clear, realistic GPA information is especially important for preprofessional students, who are usually pursuing admission to programs with moderately or highly competitive admissions. For examples of some useful GPA calculators, click HERE.
If you are thinking of pursuing a graduate-level health professions program, note that most require you to complete a bachelor's degree - either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) - prior to beginning your professional coursework. The resources on the HPPLC Exploring Majors, Minors, and Certificates page can help you with the following:
- quickly and efficiently narrow your areas of interest with regard to your undergraduate degree / major
- serve as a starting point for identifying non-health-related undergraduate majors of interest, if you feel you'd like or need a back-up plan
- identify undergraduate minors and certificates which could add breadth to your degree
There are literally hundreds of healthcare or healthcare-related professions. We encourage you to use the resources below to research your interests as you undertake the process of making decisions about your career, and your choice of health professions programs.
- Assess your health field interests, aptitudes, and preferences by completing the HPPLC self-assessment questionnaire.
- The Health Professions Descriptions handout Includes descriptions of dozens of professional health programs, as well as other health-related degrees and majors (PDF contains hyperlinks - if you receive a security caution, select OK or Allow).
- ExploreHealthCareers.org is another good place to begin researching health fields.
- Our page devoted to Other Health-Related Majors And Programs available at IU includes a list of many more health-related majors, minors, certificates, and programs available on the IU Bloomington campus. (Note: HPPLC does NOT provide advising for these areas, but we have included links to the given departments.)
- In the US Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), we suggest you scan the A-Z Index, linked from the bottom of that page. There, you will encounter dozens of health-related careers, many of which you have probably never thought about before. (Note: we do not recommend simply referring to the "Healthcare" link in the "Occupation Groups" on the OOH page, because the health profession listings therein are extremely incomplete.)
- You can learn a lot from exploring the sites of professional organizations associated with your fields of interest; for example, the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Association for Respiratory Care, and the like. No matter what the professional area, a web search for National Association of [your area], American Association of ___, American Society of ___, etc., will likely yield useful results.
- Try reading around in the professional publications and journals associated with your fields of interest, which can likewise teach you a lot about the given career.
- IUB's Career Development Center provides a useful health professions Web Link Library.
- Other IUB Career Services
Career research TIP
Visit the websites of professional organizations associated with the fields you are researching. There, you will find many different kinds of career information. You will also find public relations information, but you can learn a lot by reading how those already in the profession describe their ideal sense of what the profession has to offer.
To locate the sites of professional organizations, try searching for "association of [name of field]", "national association of," or "american academy of."
Related Programs and Majors
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, financial aid resources, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; third-party policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.
High School Students and Parents
Important information for high school students and their parents. Also, an invitation to visit the Health Professions and Prelaw Center! Read more »
Exploring Health Professions?
Make sure to attend the annual Health Programs Fair, where you can meet directly with representatives of health professions programs from across the country!