What to Consider if You're Switching Careers into Healthcare

Healthcare is a rewarding and well-paid career with excellent prospects. While this is an exciting field of work, it can be demanding and requires attributes such as compassion, quick thinking, and the ability to cope in stressful situations. If you’re thinking of switching careers into healthcare, ask yourself these six important questions.

1. Can You Afford it?

To start a career in healthcare, you will have to return to school and healthcare education is costly. For one year of study, fees can range from $32,495 for a public medical school to $52,515 for a private school.

What you’ll pay for schooling also depends on the type of healthcare job. A certified medical assistant course costs only $1,200-$4,200. To become a surgeon, however, you could be looking at up to $130,000 just for your undergraduate degree. Across the nursing discipline, fees vary. A Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) course averages between $8,000 and $12,000, while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can range from $35,000 to $60,000.

Most students rely on loans to pay for their medical studies but student loan debt can be crippling. Try to find ways to lower your student costs by:

  • Applying for financial aid at your medical school.
  • Exploring federal and state grants or scholarships. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a good starting point.
  • Studying online which is often cheaper and allows you to study part time.
  • Joining a work-study program.
  • Taking advantage of tax breaks for education.

For more information on medical studies, the Association of American Medical Colleges is a good resource.

2. How Will It Affect Your Personal Life? 

Switching to a career in healthcare is a major life change. You’ll work shifts that will include working nights, weekends and holidays. Doctors and nurses also often face 12-hour or double shifts. Financially, you will also need to make some sacrifices while completing your studies.

If you have a family, how will this affect them? Adapting to the changes requires a supportive partner and a plan to manage finances, schedules and household routines. If you’re leaving a nine-to-five Monday-to-Friday job, it will take time to adjust to your new routine. However, if you want a career that makes a difference in people’s lives, it will be worth it. 

3. Do You Have Transferable Skills?

Depending on your previous work experience or studies, you may have skills that are transferable to your new job. For instance, an office manager that’s keen to become a health services manager already has administration skills. Taking a healthcare practice management course will equip them to manage a medical practice or hospital department.

Some healthcare positions look favorably on applicants with previous hospital experience. Proof that you’ve clocked a certain number of hours volunteering at a hospital or worked as a hospital technician may help get your foot in the door. If you do need to further your studies, find out if your college or university will credit your previous work experience towards your degree.

4. What's the Job Market Like?

Before making a career change, it’s always wise to get a feel for the job market. Research employment rates in your city and economic forecasts in your state. Are unemployment rates high? Is the healthcare profession in your area saturated or suffering layoffs? Is there a shortage of medical facilities in your area? How do salaries compare to the national average? If the statistics are not looking rosy, consider postponing your career change until the job market improves.

5. What's Motivating The Change?

Before embarking on a new career, be clear on why you are choosing a field such as healthcare. Have you always had a passion to help others? Do you want to earn a better salary? Many healthcare jobs rank in the top 25 best-paid jobs in America. If a more challenging job is what you’re after, most healthcare workers will attest that you can never predict how your day will turn out. People who choose a career in healthcare do so for very specific reasons — what’s yours?

6. What's the Outlook for Your New Profession?

The outlook for the healthcare profession looks, pardon the pun, healthy. Rebecca Koenig, careers reporter at U.S. News says, "Healthcare jobs are prominent on our list year after year and are predicted to continue growing rapidly within the job market by 2026.” Now is a good time to move into healthcare. In addition, this is a field with ongoing learning to keep abreast of medical advances. From doctors studying towards PhDs to short supplemental courses like Maths For Nurses, you’ll always be learning and growing in your career.

Healthcare is a broad field with a variety of disciplines. If you’re not up for the long duration of study to become a doctor or surgeon, you can study pharmacy, train as a home health aide, or learn medical administration instead. If you’re not sure which specialty to pursue, volunteering at a hospital or medical practice can help you decide on the medical path that suits you best.

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