As the Baby Boomer generation gets older, the need for professional medical care will increase. In order to meet the demand, all areas of medical care are recruiting a dearth of qualified candidates. Learning more about some of the professions possible in the medical field is your first step toward a career in medicine.
There are many types of medical professionals in the medical field, but are basically broken down into three categories: doctors, nurses and support staff.
Doctors can be "MDs" or medical doctors, but dentists, optometrists, psychiatrists, radiologists and endocrinologists are also "doctors" in that they are highly-trained specialists who are able to prescribe medications and carry the majority of the burden of medical decisions and diagnoses.
Nurses are the front line in dealing with patients and perform a wide range of medical services that are indispensable to the medical community. In fact, the majority of nurses are guaranteed jobs upon graduation and many are even offered bonuses upon signing a work contract.
Support personnel are those people who do not work with sick people directly but nonetheless provide support and logistics for the medical community; medical or dental office workers, medical transcriptionists and medical office technicians are a few of the types of support personnel needed to make a hospital, doctor's office or clinic run properly.
Doctors need the most intensive education. Usually an undergraduate degree (Bachelor's degree) in biology, chemistry or related field is necessary to gain acceptance to medical school. Then, prospective doctors spend several years in medical school as well as working in a hands-on environment, usually at a hospital or office of an established medical professional. As well, they must pass a state-regulated medical examination to become a doctor.
Nurses are also required to attend an intensive training course that varies in length from 2 to 4 years, depending on their ultimate nursing goals. During that time, nurses will also receive some of the training that doctors do at medical school but in a scaled down and less intensive set of course requirements. Typically, nurses work during their schooling in a hands-on environment, usually at a hospital. In some states, nurses must also pass a state-required test in order to work.
Support personnel receive technical training on specific aspects of their jobs, usually for about 2 years, though 1-year certificate programs are also common. For example, a medical transcriptionist will learn how to operate the machinery as well as the technical and medical jargon that will facilitate the job.
Doctors usually work for a hospital or practice group when they first enter the professional field, though some eventually do open their own offices. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 15 percent of all physicians and 33 percent of dentists were self-employed.
Nurses, on the other hand, are rarely self-employed and instead work for hospitals or doctors' offices. Almost 60 percent of nurses worked in hospitals, with a little less than 10 percent working in doctors' offices and slightly less working for nursing homes, residential care facilities or other clinics.
Medical support personnel are completely dependent upon hospitals and physicians' offices for their livelihood. Some, like a medical transcriptionist, can work "freelance" and part time, but the vast majority are employed by other medical professionals or institutions.
Depending on their specialties and years of experience, physicians in 2006 earned between $137,000 and $322,000 a year. Dentists averaged almost $137,000 and psychiatrists earned around $150,000 in 2006.
Nurses' pay is also dependent upon their specialties, schooling level and demand, but in 2006, the average registered nurse earned between $52,000 and $83,000 a year. Nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and other specialized nurses earned even more, sometimes reaching as high as $130,000 a year for some specialties.
Medical support personnel vary widely in their earnings, with part-time employees earning about $10 an hour, medical assistants earning between $21,000 and $31,000 and medical and health service managers earning between $57,240 and $94,780. Pay scale is greatly determined by education; the higher the level of education (and thus specialization), the higher the medical support personnel is paid.
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