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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

Doctor Who? Break the Stereotypes

By Ashna Makhija


  • What the pathway to a career in medicine looks like for all pre-med students (traditional and non-traditional routes)

  • The 135+ different specialty options available to you as a physician

  • Not interested in being a MD, DO or MD-PhD based physician? This article also provides a list of alternate healthcare careers that are in demand in 2022


The pre-med community can be an overwhelming space when it comes to seeking guidance, especially because there are multiple pathways to get to the same destination and navigating this wealth of information and perspectives can be difficult for pre-med students. This short article highlights the pathway to a career in medicine for all pre-med students.

A traditional path looks like a linear pathway through each stage with minimal time spent in each, whereas a non-traditional pathway may look like spirals from one stage to another with an indefinite amount of time spent in each phase. Neither pathway is right or wrong, but rather think of both pathways as leading to the same destination. In this article, you will also find resources to the 135+ different specialties as a physician as well as a list of alternate healthcare careers that are in demand as of 2022.

Pathways to Careers in Medicine:

  • 4+ Years: Undergraduate Time

    • Pre-requisite courses in biology, chemistry, physics, English, mathematics, psychology/sociology to get a solid foundational understanding

    • Can be as short as a 3-year accelerated program or as long as one needs to finish the undergraduate degree. The average student takes 5 years to complete this leg of their journey.

  • 2-10+ Years: Post-Grad Time, which may include any combination of:

    • Grad school (masters or diploma programs in addition to the undergraduate degree)

    • Special master's programs (SMPs)

    • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

    • Shadowing

    • Working for experience and/or financial means

    • Research

    • Catching up on missed pre-requisite courses

    • Financial planning for medical school

    • Applying to medical school (during application cycles)

  • 4 Years: Medical School

  • 4-8+ Years: Residency - a chance to specialize

    • 135+ specialty + subspecialty choices

Not interested in being a MD, DO or MD-PhD Based Physician?

On another note, students who want a high-paying job in healthcare without an MD, DO or PhD can also choose to go down these paths:

  • Scientific Researcher: lab-based trials/experiments

  • Physician Assistant: varied role in medicine with a patient interaction component

  • Genetic Counselor: work alongside physician to diagnose genetic familial disorders

  • Nurse anesthetic: patient interaction and supervision during procedures

  • Nurse practitioner: can work independently or in collaboration with physicians

  • Nuclear medicine technologist: using radioactive materials for imaging and diagnostic purposes

  • ​​Speech-language pathologist: diagnosing and treating speaking and swallowing disorders

  • Radiation therapist: work alongside oncologist to curate treatment plans and administer treatment

  • Radiologic and MRI Technician: perform imaging services

  • Nurse midwives: gyn. exams, family planning services and prenatal care

  • Orthotist and prosthetist: work with medical devices to measure and fit them onto patients

  • Dental hygienist: works alongside dentist

  • Respiratory Therapist: treats a variety of respiratory disorders

  • Dietitian and Nutritionist: food and nutrition specialists

  • Diagnostic imaging professional: this can include

    • medical sonographers,

    • cardiovascular technologists and technicians,

    • Medical Lab Technician

    • Neurodiagnostic Technologist, etc.

  • Chiropractor: spinal adjustments and manipulation

  • Biomedical Engineer: designing solutions using engineering and medical principles

  • Medical and Health Services Managers — also called Healthcare Executives, Healthcare Administrators or Healthcare Managers: manage an entire facility or specialize in managing one specific clinical area or department

  • Pharmacist: dispensing prescription medications

Alternatively, students can choose to head into medical school straight after their undergraduate degree, as mentioned in the pathway above. It is also very common to see professionals from the healthcare careers mentioned above to go into medical school to become a physician. I am attaching another Med Insider Article written by my colleague, Laqshika, on the various specialties in medicine available to those who take the MD, DO or MD-PhD pathway to becoming physicians.

While the pre-med community can indeed be an overwhelming space to navigate, I hope that this article and all the resources attached can help you draft out a rough plan for your healthcare career!



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