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Degrees for a Career in Medical Care

Medical care is an extremely broad field, encompassing hundreds of occupations and employing 14.3 million people as of 2008. It's also a great choice if you're concerned about future job security: The health care industry is expected to grow 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, and half of the 20 projected fastest-growing professions are health care-related.

The following snapshot of degrees in medical care for some of the leading professions can help you prepare for a career in this exciting and in-demand field.

Degrees for Nurses

picture of doctor and nurse

In order to become a nurse, you can choose from one of several educational paths. While some nurses obtain a diploma, this option is becoming less common as members of the profession become better educated. As of 2010, 36.1 percent of nurses had associate's degrees, and 36.8 percent had bachelor's degrees. A four-year degree is the best college degree for a career as a registered nurse, as it opens the greatest number of job opportunities.

If you want greater job responsibilities and a higher salary, consider a career as an advanced practical nurse. The best degree for jobs in this field, which include clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists, is a master's degree in nursing.

Degree Programs for Physicians

Physicians have some of the most rigorous educational requirements of any profession. But if you're not daunted by the prospect of four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of internships and residencies, you could be rewarded with a sizable salary and a respected occupation. The top degrees for physicians are medical doctor (MD) and doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).

Degree Programs for Medical Technicians and Technologists

Some of the most popular careers in this category include:

  • Clinical laboratory technicians and technologists. The top college degree for clinical laboratory technicians is an associate's degree, while the top degree for technologists is a bachelor's with a major in one of the life sciences or medical technology.
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. These workers generally have a high-school diploma and complete a formal training program. Paramedics have better job opportunities with an associate's degree, however. Some professionals in the field are calling for more EMTs and paramedics to obtain bachelor's degrees, which is likely to become the best degree in medical care for these professions as workers become more highly educated.
  • Radiology and ultrasound technicians. At present, associate's degrees are the most common degrees held by these workers. However, a bachelor's degree can make you a more competitive job applicant in this growing field.

Medical Degree Path for Your Profession

Whichever career you choose in the wide field of medical care, be sure that your degree path provides you with the educational background you need to secure a good job. Talk to employers and workers in the field, and take a few minutes to scan job openings, paying attention to educational requirements. This research can pay off when it comes time to enter the workforce.


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