The urge to make people's lives better is a strong motivation, and people can express it in a lot of possible career paths. One obvious option is health care, where a variety of healing professions hold out the promise of a brighter future. If a lifetime of dedication to others is your idea of time well spent, one of these choices might be your ideal career.
Physicians and Surgeons
Doctors are the quintessential healers and should be at the top of any list. They train extensively to treat illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions through medications, surgery or other therapies. Family doctors and other primary-care physicians provide long-term, routine health care, while specialists treat graver or more complicated conditions as they arise. The career can be rewarding, but training as a doctor will take a big chunk of time out of your life.
There aren't always enough doctors to go around, especially in poor or remote areas. Where doctors are scarce or budgets are tight, physician assistants or advanced practice nurses often offer healing and general health care. Referred to collectively as midlevel practitioners, they provide a level of care close to a physician's but usually with only six to seven years of training
Chiropractors, or doctors of chiropractic, take a different approach to healing. Their philosophy argues that the human body can largely keep itself healthy, if you take away obstacles to health. Chiropractors believe that misalignments of your musculoskeletal system can interfere with health and devote their practice to treating those misalignments through physical adjustments.
Naturopathic doctors have a similar focus on wellness and a holistic approach to treatment of patients. They encourage health through lifestyle adjustments and noninvasive therapies such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and improved nutrition. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine cautions that limited and contradictory evidence from studies raises questions about the effectiveness of certain areas of naturopathic medicine, however.
Therapy and Rehabilitation
If you have an achievement-oriented personality, you might find satisfaction working in therapy and rehabilitation. As a physical therapist or occupational therapist, you'll help patients recovering from injuries, surgeries and strokes or other neurological problems. You'll also work with patients whose chronic diseases or conditions compromise their quality of life. Your work will have a dramatic impact on their daily lives and happiness. For patients with hearing or communications difficulties, you can have a similar impact working as an audiologist or speech-language pathologist. Audiologists help restore hearing or cope with its loss, while speech pathologists help patients learn or relearn speech and communications skills.
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Medicine
- National Public Radio: Midlevel Providers Fill Primary Care Doctors' Shoes
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Chiropractic
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Naturopathy
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Naturopathy -- An Introduction
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Physical Therapist
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Occupational Therapist
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Audiologist
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Speech-Language Pathologist
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.