Health Career Exploration
Below is a list of health careers and the general prerequisites and test needed for each, followed by a list of programs offered in California.
Audiologists are licensed health-care professionals who provide patient-centered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance and other auditory disorders for people of all ages. Hearing and balance disorders are complex with medical, psychological, physical, social, educational, and employment implications. Treatment services require audiologists to have knowledge of existing and emerging technologies, as well as interpersonal skills to counsel and guide patients and their family members through the rehabilitative process.
Chiropractors, also known as doctors of chiropractic medicine or chiropractic physicians, diagnose and treat patients whose health problems are associated with the body's muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems, especially the spine. Chiropractic is a drug-free, non-surgical science; although they will refer patients for such services if medically necessary.
Dentists play a significant role in our oral health care throughout our lives. Whether it's maintenance in our early years, braces in our adolescent years, or treatment for gum disease or teeth extractions in our senior years, successful dentists are capable and compassionate practitioners.
Nurses promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. They have a unique scope of practice and can practice independently, although they also collaborate with all members of the healthcare team to provide the care needed by each patient. Nurses also serve as advocates for patients, families, and communities. They develop and manage nursing care plans; instruct patients and their families in proper care; and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health.
Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people do the day-to-day activities that are important and meaningful to their health and well-being. Occupational Therapists (OTs) make it possible for people who face physical, cognitive, or mental health changes to participate more fully in their life roles at home and at the school, at work, and at play. Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
Optometrists are trained to provide eye-care for people who have vision problems or develop them as a result of reduced ability to adjust their eyes to changing light and distance, a problem that often appears as we age. Optometrists spend much of their time assessing the vision status of each patient to provide individualized lenses, in the form of contact lenses or glasses. Recently, optometrists have also begun to perform laser surgeries on the eye and to specialize in low-vision care.
Pharmacists are health care professionals who dispense medications prescribed by physicians. They also counsel patients on proper drug use. Pharmacists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, retail businesses, long-term care facilities, internet pharmacies, and public health services.
Physical therapists (PTs) are evidence-based healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. They offer cost-effective treatment that improves mobility and relieves pain, reduces the need for surgery and prescription drugs, and allows patients to participate in a recovery plan designed for their specific needs. In addition, physical therapist work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
Physicians examine patients, obtain medical histories, and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients about illness, injuries, health conditions, and prevention. They can also conduct medical research, teach, and run medical centers. Physicians work in one or more specialties.
Physician assistants (PAs) are health care professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs provide physical exams, order and administer tests, make diagnoses, and treat illnesses. PAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and surgical centers. They are qualified to practice in over 60 specialty areas.
A doctor of podiatric medicine, known also as a podiatric physician surgeon, is qualified by their education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. When treating patients, this system is also known as the lower extremity. Podiatric physicians are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat the lower extremity based on their education, training and expertise. Podiatrists are defined as physicians by the federal government.
Veterinarians specialize in providing medical care for domestic food animals, pets, zoo animals and those of the wild. Part of their activities are also providing for the health of the human population by controlling animal diseases such as rabies and mad cow disease. In addition they inspect our meats, fish and milk to keep these foods safe for us.
A post-baccalaureate program is for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree, and are interested in a health professions career. They need either to finish prerequisite courses and/or need to improve their academic standing for a more competitive professional school application. Learn more about post-baccalaureate programs.
Explore ALL Health Professions
ExploreHealthCareers.org is a collaboration between today's health professionals and leading health care associations designed to help people like you start down the road toward a career in health. Here you’ll find the latest health career information and tools to guide you as you prepare for a future in health care.
We recommend that all pre-health students enroll in courses that meet the particular general education requirements to help develop a broad understanding of the health professions in relation to other disciplines of study. Review our General Education Recommendations [PDF] for additional information.