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Which Health Career?

Deciding to be a doctor, nurse, or any other health professional is a difficult decision. It is important to think not only about the professional side of things, but also about the personal commitments, one's values, expectations, ideals, and the lifestyle one wishes to lead. Shadowing professionals and looking at graduate school offerings are a good way to begin to decide.

  • Shadowing professionals:  Shadowing is the best way to get the experience of working in a health profession, and provides the opportunity to ask questions of the professional and observe how the professional balances time, accommodates for the unexpected, and who they work with on a day-to-day basis. The Beloit community (both the college and city) has many different options to choose from for shadowing health professionals, and the members of HPAC and Career Services can help you make contacts.
  • Be Prepared and Ask Questions: During a shadowing experience it is important to ask questions and come prepared. Here are a few things to think about when shadowing a professional:
    • What degree does this professional have?
    • What can I learn about the day-to-day living and working situation of this professional?
    • How much patient contact does this professional have?
    • What kind of relationships does he/she have with patients? 
    • What frustration does the professional encounter?
    • What did I learn from the patient and their family?
  • Overall Goal of Shadowing: To experience the life of a professional: the challenges faced in career and in daily life, and what it really means to be a doctor, nurse, or other health professional. It is important to ask yourself if this is the way you want to live day-to-day.
    • Remember: everything you see and hear during shadowing is confidential!
  • Looking at potential graduate schools: If you are interested in medicine, public health, nursing, podiatry, or any other health career, it is important to look at graduate schools and their requirements for entry and what they offer once you are there. Searching for the perfect graduate or professional school can be a daunting task, but an important part of the search is looking at the courses offered at the schools (Are they fun? Are they interesting?), and contacting the admissions departments to have them send you information and provide contacts for current students or faculty you may work with.
  • Questions to think about:
    • Is this the program I want to be in?
    • How long does it take to get my degree?
    • Do I like the location, and what opportunities does its location provide?
    • What are the prerequisites for entry, and will I have time to complete them?
    • Are the offered courses interesting, fun, exciting?
  • Look for professional societies (websites) and/or blogs: These online resources can provide news about the profession you are interested in, contacts within the profession, information on graduate schools, research, and journals related to the profession. Blogs can be a good resource to understanding the lifestyle, challenges, and rewards of being involved in different health professions.
  • Careers/Degrees to check out:
      • Medicine Degree options: Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
      • Nursing Degree options: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.), Doctor of Nurse Practice (D.N.P.) or Doctor of Nursing Science (D.N.S.),  PhD
      • Physician's Assistant
      • Physical Therapy
      • Public Health
      • Mental Health: Degree options: Master of Science, Psychology (M.S.P.), Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), Master of Education (M. Ed), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
      • Veterinarian - Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
      • Pharmacist – Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
      • Podiatrist – Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM)
      • Dentistry – Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)
      • Optometry – Doctor of Optometry (OD)


      Guidelines for Health Career Prerequisite Courses offers guidelines for Beloit College courses and health careers. is a multidisciplinary health careers website designed to explain the array of health professions and provide easy access to information about health careers.

      Physician Assistant Program Directory allows students to research program data in one place. Data in the directory is self-reported to PAEA from every PA program.