Medical Professions: Job Descriptions & Career and Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career in the medical profession? Get real job descriptions and training requirements to see if a career in the medical profession is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in the Medical Profession

Medical professions work in a variety of clinical and therapeutic settings caring, treating, and healing patients; there are many potential fields within medicine to consider, including medical diagnostic sonographers, occupational therapists and chiropractors. Consider the following list of pros and cons for these occupations below to determine whether a career within medicine is right for you.

Diagnostic Medical SonographerOccupational TherapistChiropractor
Career OverviewDiagnostic medical sonographers operate equipment that sends sound waves into a patient's body to produce an imageOccupational therapists teach patients with disabilities how to handle everyday tasksChiropractors use spinal manipulation and other therapies to treat patients who have neck, back and joint problems
Education RequirementsCertificate or associate's degreeMaster's degreeDoctoral degree
Program Length1-2 years2 years beyond undergraduate degree4 years beyond undergraduate coursework
Additional TrainingContinuing education requiredContinuing education required in some states Continuing education required
Certification and/or LicensingAmerican Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) certification required; license required in some statesNational Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification required for licensure; license requiredLicense required
Job Outlook for 2012-2022Much faster-than-average job growth (46% increase)*Faster-than-average growth (29% increase)*Faster-than-average job growth (15% increase)*
Approximate Median Salary (2014)$67,530*$78,810*$66,720*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate and maintain the equipment used to create ultrasound images of specific areas of a patient's body in order to diagnose medical problems. They document the results and maintain patient records. They prepare patients for the procedure and answer any questions patients may have. Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in different areas of the body, such as the abdomen, heart and female reproductive system. The majority are employed by hospitals, while others work in physician's offices, outpatient centers and medical laboratories.

Requirements

You typically must obtain an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography to enter the field, although completion of a 1-year certificate program may suffice if you are already trained in another healthcare discipline. Some states require a license to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer, and most employers require ARDMS certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. To earn this credential, you must satisfy educational requirements, sit for an ARDMS exam in your chosen specialty and then pass the exam. Basic cardiac life support (BCLS) certification is often required by employers as well. This is what employers were looking for in November 2012:

  • A medical center in Texas sought a sonographer with at least 1 year of experience to schedule patients, perform maintenance on diagnostic imaging equipment and conduct ultrasound exams on OB/GYN patients. BCLS and ARDMS certifications were required in addition to an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography.
  • A North Carolina hospital wanted to hire an echocardiogram sonographer proficient in medical terminology to perform cardiac ultrasound exams on all age groups and document the findings in reports and videos. An associate's degree in the healthcare field along with ARDMS and BCLS certifications were required.
  • A diagnostic services company in Nashville was looking for a sonographer to travel in the area and perform endothelium tests. Graduation from an accredited school and ARDMS certification were required.

Standing Out

Since most diagnostic medical sonographers enter the field with an associate's degree, obtaining a bachelor's degree can make you stand out and help you advance in your career. In addition, if you have a bachelors' degree in sonography, you'll be able to waive additional experience requirements (beyond those required for the degree) for ARDMS certifications. Obtaining multiple certifications can also increase your value to employers and give you better job options, according to the BLS. The ARDMS offers certifications in various ultrasound specialties, including fetal echocardiography, breast, vascular technology and neurosonology.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists treat people with injuries, disabilities and other physical and mental conditions. They evaluate the patient's condition and determine a course of treatment. Their duties include teaching patients exercises to restore function, helping patients adapt to challenging situations like the loss of a leg and teaching them skills that may lead to employment. Occupational therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools and doctor's offices.

Requirements

You must complete a master's degree program in occupational therapy to obtain work as an occupational therapist. A typical degree program requires you to complete courses in anatomy, neurobiology, physical dysfunction and research. You must also complete an internship or fieldwork. Every state requires a license, the BLS reports. In addition to completing an accredited occupational therapy degree program, you must pass the NBCOT certification test to obtain a license. Employers were seeking the following in November 2012:

  • A hospital health system in Delaware was looking for an occupational therapist to work individually with patients in an acute rehabilitation facility. Completion of an accredited occupational therapy program and possession of a Delaware occupational therapy license or ability to obtain one were required. Experience was preferred, but the employer was willing to consider new graduates.
  • An outpatient care facility in Chicago sought an occupational therapist with a bachelor's degree to provide hand therapy to patients. An Illinois license was required, and new graduates were encouraged to apply. Hand therapy certification wasn't required.
  • A rehabilitative services company in Pennsylvania was seeking an occupational therapist to evaluate patients and provide treatment designed to increase function, reduce pain and restore muscle strength. Candidates were required to be graduates of an accredited occupational therapy program and to have a Pennsylvania occupational therapy license or be able to obtain one.

Standing Out

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that you can increase your chances of career advancement by specializing in a certain type of therapy. The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) offers certification in various treatment areas, including pediatrics, physical rehabilitation, low vision and gerontology. Another way to move ahead is to obtain a doctorate in the field. According to AOTA, a Doctor of Occupational Therapy could help you find different positions in this field, such as leadership or teaching positions.

Chiropractor

Chiropractors diagnose ailments of the musculoskeletal system by examining patients and learning about their medical history. They sometimes take x-rays to determine the problem. Chiropractors offer various forms of treatment, such as spinal adjustments, ultrasound and massage. Most work in group practices or run their own.

Requirements

You must have a state license to work as a chiropractor. State licensing requirements vary, but typically require you to pass an exam after obtaining your Doctor of Chiropractic. This doctoral program typically takes 4 years to complete and includes courses on anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, pathology, radiology and nutrition. Some schools require 90 credits in undergraduate coursework for admission to chiropractic programs, and some schools require a bachelor's degree. You're required to complete clinical experiences before receiving a Doctor of Chiropractic.

Following are some actual job openings posted in November 2012:

  • A national diagnostics company wanted to hire a chiropractor licensed to practice in Illinois and willing to travel and conduct musculoskeletal ultrasound, electromyography and nerve conduction velocity tests. A valid driver's license was required along with the ability to obtain a license to practice in Indiana.
  • A healthcare services firm sought a licensed chiropractor with at least 2 years of experience to diagnose and treat patients at a facility in California. Duties included recordkeeping, taking x-rays, performing chiropractic adjustments and marketing services.
  • A Missouri chiropractic college was looking for a chiropractor with at least 5 years of experience and a Missouri license to help administer student health services. A Doctor of Chiropractic was required and clinical experience preferred.

Standing Out

You can advance in a career as a chiropractor by increasing your client base. The BLS reports that chiropractors can build their practice by educating the public about the value of chiropractic care. To prepare for this task, you might consider joining a professional organization like the American Chiropractic Association. Professional organizations offer seminars and publication materials that teach you how to educate potential clients. Obtaining additional training in a related field can also help your practice expand. Sports rehabilitation and nutrition, for example, are relevant areas that can be combined with your practice.

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