Career Pathways


Industry overview

The healthcare sector offers diverse opportunities in clinical, research and administrative settings. Opportunities span from patient care and advocacy to research, healthcare policy, and public health. While these careers are often very rewarding — both personally and financially — many require a minimum of four to eight years of education before beginning a career. Explore this section to learn what kind of health care career is right for you.

Pre-health snapshot- An overview of pre-health programs at VCU
What can I do with this major- A list of career paths sorted by common majors
Explore health careers- This multidisciplinary, interactive website offers extensive information on clinical and nonclinical career paths in healthcare
Mynextmove- Explore possibilities in health care, match your skills
Bureau of Labor Statistics- An encyclopedia of careers, find out about different roles, education requirements, salaries, and more
Competitive medical and dental candidates - Find out where you rank with previous applicants
Vault Guides - A sample of careers in healthcare. Each guide gives, among other valuable information, an overview of the job and entry-level requirements.
Public Health Careers -  Explore major areas of public health employment to identify prominent occupations and relevant specializations, and provide employment and salary data.

Preparing for a career

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Biomedical Equipment Technicians
  • Cardiovascular Technologists
  • Chiropractors
  • Dental Assistants
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dental Laboratory Technicians
  • Dentists
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
  • Dietitians and Nutritionists
  • Emergency Medical Technicians
  • Emergency Nurses
  • Endodontists
  • Geriatricians
  • Health Advocates
  • Hospice Workers
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Medical Laboratory Technicians
  • Microbiologists
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Optometrists
  • Orthodontists
  • Pediatricians
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Physician Assistants
  • Physicians
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Registered Nurses
  • School Nurses
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Surgeons
  • Surgical Technologists
  • Toxicologists
  • Transplant Coordinators



Practical, hands-on, experience is an important component of a successful career in healthcare. There are many ways to gain experience outside of a traditional internship.


Shadowing is a vital component to understanding more about a professional field of interest. Shadowing involves following a professional throughout his or her day, observing the ins-and-outs of the profession as a whole. Most graduate and professional programs in health sciences require a minimum number of hours of shadowing experience.

Health Professions Shadowing

MCV Healthcare Experience opportunities


Volunteering is another vital component toward understanding more about a professional field of interest. While shadowing involves simply observing, volunteering allows you to actively perform tasks and make contributions to a workplace or organization. Experiences with direct patient contact are highly regarded by most admissions representatives. Most admissions representatives want to see that you give freely of your time to support your community as well.

Healthcare Volunteering opportunities


Research experience is encouraged but not required in all healthcare disciplines or professional programs. If you are interested in attending a research-focused institution or applying to a research-heavy program, obtaining significant experience performing research will be an important part of your application. Contact faculty members who are undertaking research that matches your interests and volunteer in their labs.

The VCU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and Division for Health Sciences Diversity offer additional information. Contact Herb Hill at for more information.

Paid opportunities

Many paid opportunities will require you to first complete a certification program to be considered, however, there are some that do not require certification. Talk to a career advisor about which option might work best for you.

Certification not usually required

  • Patient care technician
  • Nonmedical patient transporter
  • Medical scribe/medical transcriptionist
  • Patient services representative
  • Dispensing optician
  • Research/laboratory assistant
  • Home care aid

Certification required

  • Certified nursing assistant
  • Dental assistant
  • EMT-B
  • Medical assistant
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Surgical technician
  • Phlebotomy
  • Personal care aid

To find opportunities to obtain health care certification explore these resources:

Leadership and student organization involvement

Developing skills in leadership, teamwork and interpersonal communication will help you succeed in all health care fields. Many students gain these skills in student organizations or through part-time or full-time work. Admissions representatives often prefer to see leadership experience both in- and outside of health care settings.

Having significant involvement and experiences in a few organizations is preferred over shallow experience in a multitude of organizations. Explore RamsConnect for a complete list of student organizations.

Applying and interviewing

Resumes, cover letters, and personal statements
Letters of recommendation
ReferencesTop 6 Ways to Become a Competitive Applicant for Medical or Dental School

Opportunity search resources

Funding your education

Military Education Funding Benefits

Ford Fellowship

Application fee assistance programs

ADEA fee assistance

AAMC assistance program

Professional associations

Joining a professional association opens doors to numerous opportunities. Professional associations allow you to connect with experienced professionals who can help you explore career options, alert you to internship or job opportunities and provide insight into current industry trends and practices. Many professional associations offer reduced or discounted membership fees to students.

ConnectVA- Nonprofits in Virginia, has the capability to search for health-related organizations, volunteering opportunities, and jobs
TheAgapeCenter- a listing of all health-related organizations’ local Virginia branches

Meet with an Advisor

To schedule an appointment with a Healthcare advisor, call (804) 828-1645 or log into your Handshake account.

Image of Cody Rogalski, Assistant Director, Career and Industry Advising [View Image]

Virginia Commonwealth University
Division of Student Success
907 Floyd Avenue, Room 143
Box 842007
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2007

Phone: (804) 828-1645
Fax: (804) 828-2060
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Created by VCU University Relations

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