So you finally completed your undergrad work and graduated from college, congrats! You are probably finding yourself thinking: “where do I go from here? Now that I have this great (likely expensive) college degree how am I going to find my niche in the workplace?” Maybe you have considered joining the healthcare industry or maybe you are just someone who has always enjoyed an active lifestyle and found the human body fascinating. Either way, you know that the health and wellness sectors are teeming with possible career options. Sometimes the most difficult aspect is breaking down all of these opportunities to see which one you find most appealing and conducive to your lifestyle. There is no time like the present, so let’s dissect a few of the most common options:
Medical School – This is one of the longest and most financially costly healthcare careers, involving a 4-year academic commitment followed by 3-7+ years of residency training in your chosen specialty before you are considered an attending physician. After that time there is also the option to further specialize by pursuing a fellowship in a specific area of interest. There are two branches of medical education: allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO). While the founding principles of these two branches vary slightly, the training is almost identical and after the year 2020 all medical students (MD and DO) will apply for and complete the same residency programs. Tuition varies, but the average cost for 4-years of education at a public institution is around $200,000. Most recent college graduates do not have almost a quarter of a million dollars sitting around so student loans are common among medical students. With all that said, practicing as a physician gives you the chance to connect one-on-one with patients, be involved in cutting edge research, and save lives. The range of specialty options is quite diverse and most medical students are able to find their true calling during 3rd/4th year rotations. There are opportunities to practice in major hospitals, in smaller clinics, or even to open the doors to your own private practice. Income as a physician is highly dependent on your chosen specialty, and can range anywhere from $150,000 - $445,000 per year. While this trend does not hold true in all cases, specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine are consistently on the lower end of this range while specialties such as orthopedics and cardiology are on the upper end.
Dental School – Again, this one of the longer and more expensive career options. Dental school involves a 4-year academic commitment prior to practicing as a general dentist with additional residency time required for specialties such as orthodontics, oral surgery, pediatrics, ect. Tuition again varies, but the average cost for 4-years of education at a public institution is around $190,000. While student loans are common among dental students as well, the fact that as a dentist you can begin practicing immediately after the first 4 years of school rather than being required to complete a residency means that these loans can get paid off sooner. The majority of dentists open up private practices making this a wonderful option for those who enjoy the freedom to live where they choose. For some, dentistry is appealing right away because of this practice freedom, for others the appeal is in the fact that oral hygiene and care has been linked to early detection and even prevention of serious conditions including heart disease. The income range for dentist runs anywhere from $70,000 on the lower end up to $190,000 on the higher end. Typically dentists who pursue the aforementioned specialties achieve this upper tier income while general dentists are on the closer to the lower tier.
Nursing School - The path to become a nurse can take on several different forms because within this profession there are many different degrees you can obtain. The shortest route to become a registered nurse would be to complete a two-year associates degree in nursing. However, the majority of nursing positions require, at a minimum, a bachelor of science in nursing. These programs are 4 years in length and consist of both didactic, classroom learning and hands-on clinical experience. After obtaining a BSN in nursing you can then choose to pursue a Master’s degree. If you wish to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) you will need to complete a 1-2 year Master’s program. Often times nurses complete these degrees while working in the field so the structure of these programs are typically flexible. The highest degree you can obtain with nursing is a Doctorate degree. While there are several variations of this Doctorate degree, most nurses opt for the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This requires 3-6 additional years of schooling but is enticing due to the prospect for a higher salary and more practice autonomy. As with physicians and PAs, nurses can practice in virtually any specialty and often times have more continuity of care with the patients and their families. Many students find this career path appealing because there is a chance to choose between a typical 8 am -5 pm, Monday-Friday schedule at a clinic or a ‘Three 12’s’ schedule at a hospital. Additionally, the ability to easily transition into travel nursing draws those interested in exploring other states and countries. The annual income for a nurse is highly variable but generally falls within the range of $45,000 - $85,000 per year.
Physical Therapy School – The majority of Physical Therapy programs are 3 years in length and allow students to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. For those of you who have considered this career path for a while, you might recall that previously a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy was available but is no longer offered within the United States. Tuition is again highly dependent on institution, but the average cost at a public institution for in-state residents is around $45,000 ($90,000 for out-of-state students). As with many of the schools discussed thus far, PT school incorporates classroom and lab work with clinical experience during rotations. Similar to dental school a residency is not required for PT students. With that said, many physical therapists choose to pursue a clinical residency or fellowship in an area that is of particular interest to them, which allows them to then further specialize the work that they do on a day-to-day basis. Some of the specialties available to PTs include: cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports PT, and women’s health. Often times individuals who have a particular interest in sports medicine pursue this career option, but there are countless other applications for physical therapy that students are exposed to throughout their clinical rotations. The salary range for a PT is $55,000 - $115,000.
Chiropractic School – A Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree generally takes 4 years to complete. Most students obtain a Bachelor’s degree before applying, but the specific pre-requisites vary by institution. Each program is a bit different with regards to tuition costs, but on average it will cost a student $120,000 for a 4-year chiropractic education. As with many of the programs discussed thus far, chiropractic school involves both classroom and clinical education. Within the classroom setting, chiropractic students study the hard sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biology, and neurology. Many programs will also include some education on the business end of running a practice. Within the clinical setting, students are trained in spinal adjustments, assessing reflexes, taking x-rays, and offering recommendations for the clients overall health. Chiropractors also are able to refer out to other healthcare professionals should they deem it necessary. As with dentistry, most chiropractors open private practices upon completion of the D.C. degree allowing for location freedom when choosing where to practice. While most chiropractors work full-time, part-time positions are an option and because most are self-employed, this offers the perk of being able to set your own work hours. Because chiropractors set their own hours and rates, annual income varies but generally falls within the range of $30,000 - $140,000 annually.
Muscle Activation Techniques™ - There are two pathways to become an MAT™ practitioner. Either you begin with the Jumpstart course and then take the Specialist course or vice versa. The Jumpstart course is a 3-module class that occurs over the course of 3 months. Each module runs Saturday-Sunday and focuses on a specific area of the body – Lower Body, Upper Body, or Trunk & Spine. The Specialist course is an 8-module class that occurs over the course of 9 months. The area of focus in this courses switches every 2 modules starting with Lower Body followed by Upper Body then Trunk & Spine and finishing with Cervical/Accessory muscles. Both courses are practical based with approximately 25% of lecture on neurophysiology and biomechanics sprinkled in. The cost for the Jumpstart course is $1,149 while the price for the Specialist course is $11,500 for a grand total of $12,649. Out of all of the career options discussed thus far, MAT™ may offer the greatest degree of location flexibility (although massage therapy would be in the running as well). As a Certified MAT™ Specialist you are quite literally able to work on clients anywhere in the world assuming you have your table and hands with you! The shorter certification timeline and the less expensive nature make MAT™ an especially enticing option for recent graduates. For some, MAT™ becomes their primary means of income. For others MAT™ becomes an adjunct and they decide to pursue or continue other modalities as well. The salary for an MAT™ Specialist highly is variable because each practitioner is able to set his or her own rates and also self-dictates the number of clients they see per day/per week. The general range is anywhere from $100-$300 per hour.
So what’s the right option for you? Well, we can’t tell you the answer to that but we do hope that this information will help you to make a more informed decision on your career path in the future. Keep in mind that as a recent graduate the possibilities for you are endless. Make sure that you take into account your personality and passion to find the path that is right for you. If you plan on pursuing one of the longer, more expensive options be sure to do additional research before committing to that investment. If you opt for one of the shorter, less expensive options remind yourself that many professionals in the health and wellness industry combine multiple modalities within their practice. Whatever your decision, stay focused and true to the mission of helping other achieve optimum health and you will find great success!
Stay tuned for part 2 coming next week!