Physical Health

Healthcare degrees in physical health train students for patient-facing roles. With an enormous number of specializations available, physical health programs vary widely in their curricula and focus. Some careers only require a few years of education, while others need nearly a decade of training.

No matter which path you take to a career in physical health, you are entering into a field that needs you. The retirement of the Baby Boomer generation is increasing the demand for qualified care providers and physical health professionals are on the front line. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. fall under the scope of physical health, including medical assistants, physician associates (assistants), and physical therapy aides. Check out the programs and careers below to find the one that’s right for you.

Anesthesiologist

It can be easy to picture anesthesiologists sitting at the head of a patient during surgery monitoring their vitals. While this is commonplace for anesthesiologists, they do so much more. They also can provide pain relief for chronic pain or cancer patients or may place epidurals for laboring mothers.

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers can work for a professional sports team, in high school or collegiate athletics, at a hospital, or in physical therapy clinics. Their goal is to help identify, prevent, and rehabilitate athletic injuries. They are essential medical professionals who keep athletes of all abilities on their feet and at their peak.

Audiologist

Audiologists are trained allied health professionals who can assess, prevent, diagnose, and treat hearing and balance disorders in patients of all ages. Treatments can include hearing aids, hearing assistive technology systems (HATS), audiologic rehabilitation, and cochlear implants.

Chiropractor

Chiropractors use spinal adjustments, ultrasound, massage therapy, and more to help patients with musculoskeletal health problems. The musculoskeletal system includes nerves, ligaments, bones, muscles, and tendons.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists examine patients for oral disease, provide preventative dental care, and educate their patients about oral health. As the general population lives longer (and keeps more of their teeth), more dental hygienists will be needed.

Dentist

Routine dental care is important because not only does it help maintain healthy gums and teeth, but it can lead to early treatment to avoid losing teeth or having more invasive procedures.

Dermatologist

As with all medical careers, becoming a dermatologist requires many years of schooling, medical residencies, and licensure examinations. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a dermatologist.

Dosimetrist

Dosimetrists’ primary job duty is to design, generate, and measure radiation doses for patients. They will calculate overall dose distributions as well as provide oversight to the entire radiation therapy process.

Doula

The famous African proverb “it takes a village” rings true for many community-supported endeavors—and childbirth is no exception. The care provided by birth doulas to laboring mothers and their families has lasting positive impacts on the physical and emotional health of mothers and babies, as well as improved societal and financial outcomes.

EMT & Paramedic

EMTs and paramedics have received extensive training on how to provide emergency care to individuals and transport them safely to the hospital. EMTs can provide first aid, administer auto-injectors such as epi-pens, assist with breathing treatments, stop external bleeding, and stabilize broken bones. Paramedics have received further training that allows them to open airways, provide breathing assistance through ventilation, administer medications, and even deliver babies in emergency situations.

Exercise Physiologist

Knowing how to improve or maintain fitness is a challenging proposition, especially after an injury or hospitalization. Thankfully, there are trained exercise physiologists nationwide with extensive education on how to help patients and clients meet their fitness and mobility goals.

Gerontologist

Gerontologists have received specialized training and education in the biological, sociological, and psychological aspects of aging.

Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding is the lifelong gift that keeps on giving in the form of health to mothers and babies. Both reap numerous health benefits from breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC 2019), including a lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers and a reduction in ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections for babies.

Licensed Acupuncturist

The word “balance” gets used a lot in today’s culture, but it has been an essential concept in Eastern healing practices for centuries. To help patients manage pain or to rebalance their “qi” (energy flow), acupuncturists use ancient Chinese medicinal techniques to realign energy meridians in the body.

Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)

Massage therapy is an essential act of self-care for some and a critical method of injury prevention or treatment for others. Massage therapists care for clients’ healthcare needs by manipulating muscles and soft tissues to promote healing.

Medical Assistant

Becoming a medical assistant may be an ideal career choice for organized individuals who want to begin a career in the healthcare field. Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks in their everyday roles which can make it a solid choice for those contemplating a career in healthcare but unsure as to whether they are best suited to work in an office or patient-centered setting.

Medical Esthetician (Aesthetician)

Licensed skincare specialists who work in a clinical setting are called medical estheticians. They are employed in dermatology offices, plastic surgeon clinics, hospitals, and medical spas. The title can be misleading, however, as there are no requirements for any medical training.

Medicolegal Death Investigator

When someone dies from unknown causes, law enforcement is required to perform an investigation. Determining the cause of death is the responsibility of the coroner or medical examiner. However, a medicolegal death investigator is often called to the death scene to perform an onsite investigation and help determine if a criminal case should be opened or not.

Neurologist

Neurologists are either doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO) who have completed a neurological residency. They have the education and skills to address general neurological disorders in patients.

Nutritionist (Dietician)

Nutritionists teach people how to care for their health by empowering them with diagnostic health assessments, individualized meal plans, and dietary counseling.

Obstetrician or Gynecologist (OB-GYN)

It can take over 12 years of postsecondary education and training to become a generalist OB-GYN, and even longer to subspecialize. But this is also a rewarding career, in both a monetary and personal sense: OB-GYNs are very well paid, and they make a difference in their patients’ lives on a daily basis.

Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist’s goal is to help patients gain physical strength and pursue the rehabilitation of key musculoskeletal systems that are crucial for a self-sufficient lifestyle at home and work.

Ophthalmologist

Medical eye experts, called ophthalmologists, have completed the necessary medical education and training to handle everything from surgery to emergency cases, eyeglasses prescriptions, and disease diagnosis.

Pediatrician

Doctors who specialize in the care of babies, children, and teens are called pediatricians. These licensed doctors have completed medical school and a pediatric residency and have the skills to care for growing kids. With their specialized training and education, they can ensure a child is developing correctly, diagnose childhood diseases, and treat common childhood illnesses such as ear infections or colds.

Phlebotomist

In order to properly diagnose and treat a patient, doctors often order lab tests. When a patient visits a lab they are attended to by a phlebotomist, whose job it is to draw their blood in the correct amount and into the right containers, label it, and make sure it gets transported appropriately for testing.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are on their feet for most of their day and use exercises, hands-on therapy, and assistive equipment to provide care. They also work with patients to develop recovery plans, which may be short- or long-term depending on the required care.

Physical Therapist Assistant and PT Aide

Physical therapist assistants and PT aides typically work in offices, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, or home healthcare settings that provide one-on-one care. Some of the patients they work with may include those who have neurological disorders that impact movement, such as a stroke; work- or sport-related injuries; and more.

Physician Associate / Assistant (PA)

Physician associates (PAs) perform many of the same tasks that doctors do: examining patients, diagnosing illnesses, ordering tests, and prescribing medicine. But compared to medical doctors, physician associates finish school faster, get to work sooner, and often have more personal interactions with their patients.

Podiatrist

Podiatrist can diagnose and treat infections, injuries, deformities, and disorders. They practice as either physicians or surgeons in a number of specialties. These can include orthopedics, sports medicine, wound care, and pediatrics.

Prosthetist (Orthotist)

Orthotics, supportive devices, and braces are essential to many people’s day-to-day lives. Injuries, birth defects, or sprains all may require a prosthetist to measure, select, and fit people with a brace or device to maintain or improve mobility.

Prosthodontist

Prosthodontics is one of the ten specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. In order to earn board certification from the American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP), candidates must complete three or more years of prosthodontics residency.

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapy specialists are responsible for guiding radiology treatment for individuals affected by cancer. Their main tasks include operating radiation machines (e.g., linear accelerators) and guiding concentrated radiation therapy to the specific physical regions of a patient’s tumor. Radiation treatment is used on patients with cancer because it has the potential to shrink or remove cancerous tumors.

Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

A respiratory therapy specialist is responsible for helping those who suffer from respiratory and pulmonary conditions and disorders. Their daily tasks include examining patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders, performing diagnostic tests like lung capacity and nasal capabilities, and treating patients for chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications.

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

The need for speech-language pathologists has been rising for years. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts openings in the profession will grow 25 percent between 2019 and 2029, a rate that’s nearly six times the national average.

Surgeon

Surgeons are physicians who have completed a five-year surgical residency. They have practiced hundreds, if not thousands, of procedures under the careful supervision of more senior doctors to ensure they know how to perform procedures and keep patients safe.