Building Your Healthcare Career after High School

If you’re a high school or college student considering a career in healthcare, congratulations! The healthcare field is full of exciting opportunities for people of all education levels and abilities.

High school is a great time to start thinking about careers. “All your life you’ve been asked what you want to do when you grow up?”. “In high school, you start to work towards making that happen.”

Understanding what you enjoy—and what you’re good at—is the first step in exploring careers, say school counselors. “If you don’t know what you want to do, the question is, ‘What do you like to learn about?’”.

Most high school students have one goal in mind: Receiving their diploma. But if you want to pursue a health career, simply meeting graduation requirements may not be enough. All pre-professional healthcare students have to continue to study math and science at college. To prepare, our best advice is that you continue to take demanding math and science classes throughout high school.

“You need a strong working knowledge of math, science, and English to qualify for most health career training programs.” says Henryne Tobias, Project Director for ExploreHealthCareers.org. “I agree with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics national standards for grades 9 through 12 that students need to take four years of math. Four years of science would also strengthen preparation for all types of health careers.”

Whether you some day plan to go to a community college, a four-year university, or medical school, taking rigorous high school courses now can help you:

  • improve your chances of getting into the school of your choice,
  • expand your health career opportunities, and
  • dramatically increase your future income.

 
Healthcare isn’t right for everyone. Although the work can be highly rewarding, it can also be physically and mentally exhausting. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding if this field is for you:

  • Almost all healthcare positions require a high school diploma, and most require additional education. To best prepare for a healthcare career while you’re in high school, you should get a solid grounding in the sciences.
  • Before you make up your mind about a specific healthcare profession, consider shadowing a person who is in the line of work you’ve chosen. Contact a professional healthcare association in your area or talk to your school guidance counselor about how to set up such an experience.
  • Usually, your earning potential as a healthcare professional will increase along with your level of education. However, money isn’t the main reason most people decide to work in healthcare. Salaries aren’t as high in healthcare as in other industries, and most healthcare workers say they chose to enter the field because they like helping others.
  • Many healthcare professions require you to pass a certification or licensure exam before you can work. Your educational program should prepare you for the exam, but the test could still be difficult for you.
  • Patients need attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the action never stops in healthcare. This means healthcare workers have to be flexible. For example, you may have to work shifts in the middle of the night. You also have to be adaptable to rapid change in the healthcare industry. You may work in several different settings during the course of your career, from hospitals to clinics to community-health agencies.

 
It’s never too early to begin preparing for a career in the health care industry! There are many exciting programs designed especially for students in middle and high school.