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Thinking About a Career in Healthcare? Here's where to start

By Hannah Waight

No longer is healthcare confined to doctors and nurses - now, more than ever, jobs are available for people with all types of interests within this highly diverse industry.

People who are willing and able to work in the health industry will always be in demand. In fact, healthcare has long been one of the biggest industries in the nation, and now, because of the aging population of the United States and advances in medical technology, the need for qualified workers is only going to increase. Your ideal job is within your grasp as long as you have the appropriate background and inside information.

As an industry, healthcare offers a diverse range of jobs for many different types of people. You can work in the traditional health provision sector as a doctor or nurse, or in a wide variety of medical fields. Preventative medicine and recovery is getting increasing attention from insurance companies looking to keep their costs down: dietitians, counselors, and physical therapists all play key roles in keeping people healthy. Research in academic medicine and biotechnology provides opportunities for professionals interested in discovering the next generation of treatment. The people- and paperwork-oriented are needed to run the business and administrative side of the industry.

Today, pharmaceutical manufacturing is one of the fastest growing (and highest paying) fields. Despite great advances in understanding the biochemical basis of disease, there still remains much work in translating these advances into new drugs.

In all of these jobs, the most important attributes that prospective workers can have is a strong work ethic and desire to help others. Many professionals in healthcare, particularly those who work in hospitals, have long, odd hours and are almost always under a great deal of stress -- new challenges constantly arise that need to be dealt with as efficiently as possible. What goes along with the long hours and high stress, however, is the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped others.

When it comes down to it, most people who work in healthcare are not in it for the money, the successful career, or the glory - they just want to make a useful contribution to society in a very tangible way.

You need the right background to break in. Most careers in the industry require at least introductory courses in biology and organic chemistry, with pre-med and pharmaceutical tracts requiring extensive science coursework and lab experience. After college, doctors need four years of medical school and then one to seven years of residency. Administrative jobs value candidates with both academic and professional managerial skills, and interest or experience in medicine is a big plus.

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