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Medical Careers 101: A Complete Guide to Jobs in the Medical Field

Here is an incredible statistic. We know the population is aging but do you know at what rate? In the 40 years from 2000 to 2040, the number of people over 65 will have doubled in the U.S.

Further, in the same period, the number of people over 85 years of age will have increased fourfold! What does that have to do with a medical career? Put simply, the demand for medical personnel will follow the population trend for aging.

If you are looking to make a career choice, then choosing something in medical careers is an excellent choice. However, that’s only the beginning. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, and what is more, you don’t have to be.

Check out this really helpful guide on what options are available so that you can begin making your educational plans.

Trust Me I’m a Doctor

We can’t talk about working in the medical profession without at least mentioning something about being a doctor. So here is a brief overview. 

To be a doctor, you will need to study for a long time. It will take between 11 and 16 years, depending on the exact career path you choose. It will be an intense and challenging journey.

If you enjoy science, how the body works and you are motivated by helping people, then being a doctor will suit those attributes. Doctor careers fall into 3 very broad categories.

Primary Care

These are usually community-based locations and involve being the first point of contact for patients. Good general knowledge in medicine and across many specialties at a basic level is important in this type of role. Many doctors in this type of role cultivate long term relationships with their patients.


As implied by the name, these are doctors that have studied various disciplines to a higher degree and focus their experience in one finite area of medicine. They include doctors that are cardiologists, neurologists, and oncologists, etc.


These doctors are somewhat similar to specialists but their real expertise is in surgical procedures so as to treat patients. Often they work as part of multi-disciplinary teams. 

Medical Careers and Nursing Careers

Perhaps most doctors would say ‘why be a nurse when you can be a doctor?’ the simple answer is that it is down to choice and preference. Doctors study for a very long time and often work extremely long hours. Being a doctor is more of a lifestyle choice rather than just a career.

Nursing allows people with similar interests to doctors to be involved in the care of others while not having to commit to studying for as long. Nurses do not carry as much individual responsibility for patients as doctors do, and so in this sense could be viewed as less pressured or stressful.

There are many options for nurses as there are for doctors. Nurse often work across similar specialties to doctors as already discussed above. Another excellent aspect of nursing is that if you want to continue to study, you can do so up to masters level and beyond.

Allied Healthcare Professionals

Outside of doctors and nursing, this is one of the largest areas of work for medical-related professions. These include jobs like paramedics, physiotherapists, podiatrists, dieticians, speech therapists, clinical scientists, operating department assistants, and radiographers.

These types of roles involve direct patient contact either for diagnostic investigations or for delivering some aspect of therapeutic treatment. Many skills are held in common with doctors, such as taking a detailed medical history and interpreting complex diagnostic information.

However, formal diagnosis and medical treatments are not normally part of their role. That said, in many parts of the world, these roles are being expanded to overlap with some of the work of doctors.

Administrative Support Roles

A healthcare system is an enormous machine that requires vast administrative control. That gives rise to many other jobs in the medical field. For example, medical secretaries who type up medical notes and correspondence as well as helping to manage the diary and clinical commitments of the doctors they support.

Other roles in this category would include medical scribes and medical coders. These are people who do not work directly with patients. However, they read clinical notes and ensure the correct information is on electronic health records. That information would also include the clinical procedures undertaken and the associated cost.

Choice Driven by Patient Group

There are so many medical-related professions, you could spend months reading about them and researching them. The categories above give you an idea of how professions are grouped in some way.

However, it may also be helpful to think about career options from the perspective of who it is you want to help or work with. Here are just a few examples to get you thinking.

Young People

There are many medical related roles in working with young people. You might be interested in working as a pediatrician. This is basically a doctor that specializes in helping young people. 

Other specialties could be a school nurse or even working as a speech therapist that focuses on children. Audiologists, work with those who have hearing problems, and many specialize in working with children who are born with hearing problems.

Working With Mothers

Obstetricians are medical doctors that specialize in pregnancy and childbirth. They work closely with midwives who are advanced nurses providing care through the pregnancy and beyond. 

You may also be interested in a role like a musculoskeletal sonographer. They play a key role in identifying problems in the unborn baby by using ultrasound. It is another example of a fascinating and challenging job that is not a medical doctor. 

I’ve Chosen My Medical Career – What Next?

If you have chosen your career already, then you are the envy of many others. As you have seen from this article, there is a voluminous range of options in medical careers. The important thing is not to feel overwhelmed but keep reading.

One of the best things you can do is try and get some work experience with some of the professions you are interested in. Another advantage of medical professions is that you can always change. Many of the basics in each profession are the same and transferable. 

Check out other helpful career advice on this site. For example, you can read about 3 things you should know as a med student.