The saying “Well begun is half done” has a lot of relevance in a student’s life. It is important to be well-prepared before choosing a professional degree to ensure that there are no unwanted surprises later. Knowing details such as just how long it will take you to finish your desired degree, how much effort and what resources the degree will need, and what kind of prospects the degree can offer will go a long way in ensuring you are ready for your field of study. Below is a step-by-step guide outlining the key details you need to know before you choose a professional degree from a number of exciting fields of study.

Medicine

Medicine

Medical doctors diagnose and treat illnesses. They study patients' medical histories, conduct physical examinations and prescribe medications as required.

Steps Needed to Complete the Degree

  1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree program: A number of students select majors such as anatomy, biology or chemistry.
  2. Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): This is a multiple-choice five-hour computerised test that covers topics such as physical science, biology, critical thinking and verbal skills.
  3. Attend a four-year medical school: The first two years consist of theoretical study and laboratory work, while the last two years consist of clinical experience, with rotations at clinics and hospitals.
  4. Complete residency and earn an MD (Doctor of Medicine): This can take 3-7 years depending on the specialisation. Some students undertake fellowships that last 1-2 years after the residency.
  5. Earn the license to practice: The licensing exam is typically held in the first year of the residency.
  6. Opt to get board-certified: A board certification is not mandatory but is preferred to stay current in the chosen speciality.

Time Needed to Complete the Degree: A typical path to becoming a doctor can take 7-11 years after getting a Bachelor’s Degree. Some students study further by completing fellowships in their desired speciality.

Income & Job Prospects: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for doctors in 2017 was $208,000 per year or $100 per hour. In addition, the projected increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 13%, faster than the average projected increase for all professions.

Schools to Consider:

The University of Central Florida is ranked 10th in the Most Innovative Schools rankings for 2018 by US News & World Report, and offers a research-based MD program powered by innovation and high-tech learning tools.

Nursing

Nursing

Registered nurses (RNs) ensure and coordinate patient care, and offer advice about various health conditions.

Steps Needed to Complete the Degree

  1. There are three different paths to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN):
  • Complete a Bachelor of Science degree program in Nursing (BSN)
  • Complete an Associate’s Degree program in Nursing (AND)
  • Complete a diploma program from an approved nursing program.
  1. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to get a license.

Time Needed to Complete the Degree: BSN programs usually take four years, while ADN and diploma programs usually take 2-3 years to complete.  

Income & Job Prospects: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for nurses in 2017 was $70,000 per year or $33.65 per hour. In addition, the projected increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 15%, much faster than the average projected increase for all professions.
Schools to Consider: 
Ulster University is ranked 33rd in the QS 2018 Top Nursing Schools in the World rankings, and offers a wide range of Nursing programs.

Dentistry

Dentistry

Dentists examine, diagnose and treat health issues related to patients’ teeth, gums and mouth. They also offer expert advice on dental and oral health and hygiene.

Steps Needed to Complete the Degree

  1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree program: A number of students choose majors such as biology or health.
  2. Take the Dental Admissions Test (MCAT).
  3. Attend a four-year dental school to earn a DDS or DMD degree: The first two years involve studying courses such as oral anatomy in classroom and laboratory settings. The last two years involve supervised, hands-on experience in dental clinics. At the end of four years, students are awarded with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.
  4. Earn the license to practice: The licensing exam consists of both written and practical test components.
  5. Opt for a specialization: A specialization is not a must to begin practicing. Students take up a 2-4 year residency related to the chosen specialty.

Time Needed to Complete the Degree: A typical path to becoming a dentist can take four years after getting a Bachelor’s Degree. Some students study further by taking up a two-year (or longer) residency for their desired speciality.

Income & Job Prospects: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for dentists in 2017 was $158,120 per year or $76.02 per hour. In addition, the projected increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 19%, much faster than the average projected increase for all professions.
Schools to Consider: The University of Alabama at Birmingham's international dental program (IDP) offers non-US trained dentists the opportunity to earn a DMD degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Dentistry. Following an intensive six-months preparatory term, qualified students merge with traditional students to complete the final two years of the DMD curriculum.

Information Systems and Technology Management

Infortmation Technology Management

Information technology (IT) managers plan, coordinate, and supervise IT-related tasks in an organization. They also help create the IT vision of a business.

Steps Needed to Complete the Degree

  1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree program in fields such as:
  1. Opt for a Master’s Degree: A Bachelor’s Degree is sufficient to enter the field but many students choose to earn a Master’s Degree to improve their knowledge base and job prospects.

Time Needed to Complete the Degree: A typical path to becoming an information systems or technology manager takes fours years.

Income & Job Prospects: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for computer and information systems managers in 2017 was $139,220 per year or $66.93 per hour. In addition, the projected increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 12%, faster than the average projected increase for all professions.

Schools to Consider:  Valparaiso University, ranked 5th in the US Midwest Regional Universities 2019 rankings by US News & World Report, offers a number of bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in Computer Engineering and Information Technology.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

Pharmacists offer their expertise in the correct usage of medicines and dispense prescription medications to patients. They also help conduct health screenings and give vaccinations.

Steps Needed to Complete the Degree

  1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree program: Several institutes require completion of a Bachelor’s Degree while others require two years of undergraduate study with majors such as chemistry, biology or physics.
  2. Take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (MCAT): The test is required for several but not all graduate pharmacy programs.
  3. Attend a four-year pharmacy school and earn a Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy) Degree: The duration can vary with institutes. Some require three years of school, while others accept high school graduates directly into a six-year program.  
  4. Earn the license to Practice: Students need to pass two exams – the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) that tests pharmacy skills and knowledge, and a pharmacy law exam.
  5. Opt for a certification: Pharmacists administering vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states.
  6. Opt for a speciality: Pharmacists seeking career advancement can opt for a 1-2-year residency for additional training and specialization.

Time Needed to Complete the Degree: A typical path to becoming a pharmacist takes fours years after a Bachelor’s Degree. This time can vary with different institutes.

Income & Job Prospects: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for pharmacists in 2017 was $124,170 per year or $59.70 per hour. The projected increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 6%, equal to the average projected increase for all professions.

Schools to Consider: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS University) is a reputed institute that specializes in providing health care focused programs.

Watch this space for part two of this blog, where we will be covering the fields of law, nursing practice, economics, engineering and business administration.

About the Author: Bhakti Mathew is a freelance writer and compulsive reader. Originally from India, she is still trying to wrap her head around the fact that her family and she have moved to a different city every year since the last three years.