The jobs available in the healthcare industry are numerous and diverse. From frontline workers, such as nurses and physicians, to operations managers, there is a vast range of career options within the healthcare sector. These professions tend to be in high demand and therefore secure, as well as having good remuneration and opportunities for progression to more senior roles.
- Healthcare administrator
Patient contact: No
Healthcare administration covers a wide range of leadership roles relating to the management of medical services. It includes a mix of generalist roles, such as operations manager in a hospital or other healthcare facility, and specialist roles, such as human resources manager and risk manager within the health industry.
Path to becoming a healthcare administrator
Healthcare administrators come from a range of backgrounds. Some start out in frontline roles, such as nurses and physicians, and later choose to move into managerial roles. A bachelor’s degree will usually be a requirement for working in healthcare administration. You can enter the profession with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, which will include components in accounting, HR and IT.
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in another discipline may also be able to move into healthcare administration – for example, nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can make the transition to healthcare administration if they want to move on from direct patient care. However, in some cases, a postgraduate degree such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA) may be required, and this qualification will certainly serve as an enabler to progress to more senior leadership roles. MHA programs prepare students to take on executive roles, building their skills in strategy and policy development, as well as the management of operational issues. Senior roles include chief operating officer of a hospital or healthcare organization.
The online master’s of health administration from the Telfer School of Management brings together the fields of business and healthcare management. This executive postgraduate degree is aimed at people with several years of work experience, usually gained in a healthcare setting. The program is ideal for people working in roles such as analysts and consultants who are looking to move to more senior positions. The MHA takes two years to complete.
Where does a healthcare administrator work?
- Group physician practices
- Outpatient care centers
- Nursing home and elder-care units
- Mental health organizations
- Home healthcare organizations
- Rehabilitation centers
The demand for healthcare administrators is currently very high and is projected to continue to be high for the rest of the decade. This trend is typical in countries with an aging population, including Canada and the US. The number of openings in the sector is set to increase by 32% from 2019 to 2029 in the US.
Patient contact: Yes
There are several levels of seniority and many different roles in the field of nursing. Nurses can work in generalist roles, or as they become more experienced, and with further education, they may choose to specialize in particular areas, such as neonatal care, pediatrics or oncology.
Practical nurse (PN): A PN provides a basic level of healthcare to patients. Responsibilities vary by setting, and certain tasks are permitted in some states but not others. Tasks will generally include basic care, such as checking blood pressure, updating patient records, and helping patients to bathe and get dressed. A PN will report to a registered nurse and may require supervision for some tasks.
Registered nurse (RN): An RN has longer and more comprehensive training than a PN, and is therefore able to handle more complex needs. Training is generalist – RNs have knowledge of a broad range of patient needs and treatments. RNs are also given training in how to deal with non-routine situations so that they can handle unexpected challenges and emergencies appropriately and effectively. An RN will assess patients to decide on the appropriate nursing intervention. They administer medications and treatments and monitor medical equipment and apparatus. RNs may also assist in surgery, scans and procedures.
Nurse practitioner (NP): An NP is a more senior level of nurse, and is qualified to carry out more specialist care. Within hospitals, their skills are needed in a range of areas, including cardiovascular nursing, critical care, pediatrics, emergency and medical-surgical nursing. NPs also provide community nursing services and specialist palliative care nursing in hospices. Some nurse practitioners choose to move into managerial roles within healthcare, and may choose to study for an MHA to gain additional skills and knowledge to support this.
Where does a nurse work?
As you would expect, hospitals employ more nurses than any other healthcare setting (around 58% of all nurses in Canada). There are also many nursing roles in other facilities, including outpatient clinics, care homes, home healthcare services, hospices, correctional facilities and schools. So, if you don’t wish to work the demanding shift patterns that some hospital work requires, you will be able to find roles in nursing with more regular working hours.
Path to becoming a practical nurse or registered nurse
PN: You will need to graduate with an approved Practical Nursing diploma, which usually takes two years. You will also need to pass the Canadian Practical Nursing Registration Examination (CPNRE).
RN: A Bachelor of Nursing (BN) degree or BSN is required if you want to become an RN. The exception to this is in Quebec, where you are eligible to apply for RN roles with a Diploma of Collegial Studies in Nursing. The diploma is a three-year program, as is the BSN.
NP: An NP will always have previous experience as an RN. With further education, an RN can progress to becoming an NP. You will need to complete either a master’s degree or an advanced nursing diploma.
There is a huge shortfall in the numbers of nurses needed and the supply currently available. This shortfall is set to continue through to 2030 and beyond. This is partly due to an ever-increasing demand for healthcare services. Another factor is that more people have been leaving the profession recently because of burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of nurses is compounded by aging demographics, which means that more nursing staff are reaching retirement age now and recruitment is not keeping pace.
- Health information officer
Patient contact: No
A health information officer is responsible for:
- Maintenance of accurate patient medical records
- Ensuring the privacy and security of confidential patient medical records
- Making patient records readily accessible to the healthcare professionals who need them
- Analyzing and interpreting medical data
- Designing health information systems
- Keeping up to date with the latest software and technological advancements relating to data storage and security
- Ensuring that privacy practices are up to date and meet requirements of current legislation and ethical standards
Protecting patient privacy is an important part of the role. Breaches of data privacy can incur hefty fines. In some settings, there may be conventional paper records to maintain as well as digital records. It is also vital that records can be accessed quickly in different healthcare locations so that professionals in a facility can see the patient’s medical history, even if they have never been treated there before. The medical history can then be taken into account when a decision is made on appropriate treatment and medication.
Where does a health information officer work?
There are roles for information officers in hospitals, physicians’ offices, elder-care facilities, pharmaceutical firms and insurance companies.
Path to becoming a health information officer
You will need an associate degree or bachelor’s degree for most entry-level jobs in health information management. You will learn how to create and analyze patient records, and how to use software to support enhanced outcomes. For more senior roles, you may need a master’s degree. The Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) credential requires you to have a bachelor’s degree and pass the RHIA exam.
With further education, such as a master’s degree, a health information manager can progress into director and executive positions.
Health information management is a broad sector, and it is often ranked as one of the top non-medical fields to get into within the healthcare sector. Positions vary widely in seniority, from medical record technicians to executive roles in risk management.
- Physical therapist/physiotherapist
Patient contact: Yes
A physiotherapist helps to restore or improve function and the range of motion accessible to patients when it is restricted. Physiotherapists and physical therapists are terms often used interchangeably, though more normally a physical therapist will use exercise only for rehabilitation, whereas treatment from a physiotherapist tends to look at the health and lifestyle of the patient as a whole, and treatment may include hands-on therapy techniques.
Patients will seek help from a physiotherapist when they are experiencing pain and/or loss of function, often as a result of injury, illness or disability. Physiotherapy may also be needed for patients in recovery from surgery, to address birth defects, or to tackle weight issues or aging. Interventions from a physiotherapist aim to optimize the patient’s quality of life by promoting an independent and active lifestyle.
Where does a physiotherapist work?
There are roles for physiotherapists in many healthcare settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers and sports facilities.
Path to becoming a physiotherapist
If you want to become a physical therapist or physiotherapist in Canada or the US, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
The number of physiotherapists needed continues to rise, and currently supply is not meeting demand, and is not expected to over the next few years, based on student intakes.
Many countries, including Canada and the US, have seen a significant demographic shift in recent years, with a large aging population. This means that there are more people living longer, with higher numbers suffering from conditions that affect mobility, so demand for services is growing. Another impact of the aging population is that greater numbers of physiotherapists are approaching retirement age, and there is a shortfall in the supply of new candidates to fill the roles.
Patient contact: Yes
Dietitians develop and deliver food and nutrition-related strategies and programs. They promote food safety and nutrition in a variety of roles, helping patients and clients to understand and enjoy food and how nutrition can have a positive impact on health. Obesity and malnutrition are two major threats to health, and dietitians work to combat both of these problems. They may need to support patients with weight loss programs or improve their diet by educating them on preparing healthier food.
They may also be involved in research.
Where does a dietitian work?
There are roles for dietitians in health clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, government agencies, the food industry and in research. Dietitians can also work for sports teams or run their own business.
Path to becoming a dietitian
You will need a degree in nutrition and dietetics. In Canada, the university program needs to have accreditation from the Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice (DPEP). A typical program will include components in chemistry, physiology, microbiology, chronic disease, nutrition, social sciences and communication. You will also need practical training, which is supervised and can be done as part of your degree program or after graduation. A master’s degree will help with further career advancement, and can usually be completed in 18 to 24 months.
Dietitians are in high demand, with a projected 4,900 new job openings in Canada by 2030. This is partly due to the active promotion of healthy eating habits by government agencies and a greater focus on boosting a stronger immune system.
Patient contact: Yes
The role of a pharmacist entails storing, handling, preparing and dispensing prescription medication to patients. They will verify the dosage of medications as prescribed by a healthcare provider.
They also need to give patients instructions on the safe use of the medication, and will inform patients of any potential side effects of taking it.
Pharmacists can offer clinical advice and help with minor conditions, and may also give advice on healthy living. They may carry out health screenings and wellness checks, and in some cases they may give immunizations.
Where does a pharmacist work?
Pharmacists are needed to dispense medications in hospitals, clinics, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, hospices, nursing homes and medication distribution centers. Some pharmacists set up their own business in the community. Some pharmacists are employed in non-customer-facing roles in the pharmaceutical industry – for example, in the research and development of new medications, or in related roles in sales and marketing.
Path to becoming a pharmacist
A qualified pharmacist will need to study for an undergraduate degree in science, which can take up to four years. They will then need to complete a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The degree program needs to be from an accredited university.
The demand for prescription medications continues to rise, and with it the need for more pharmacists. Projections show that the demand for pharmacists will increase at a higher rate than the average for all professions.
- Medical laboratory technician
Patient contact: No
Medical laboratory technicians assist physicians by conducting tests on specimens to detect illnesses and diseases and determine the appropriate course of treatment. They conduct chemical analyses on body fluids – for example, blood or urine. The role also involves maintaining and testing lab equipment and preparing solutions or reagents for use with samples. Given the precise nature of the work, being a lab technician requires close attention to detail and a high level of accuracy.
Where does a medical laboratory technician work?
There are generalist roles in hospitals as well as specialty roles in fields such as microbiology, immunology and molecular biology.
Path to becoming a medical laboratory technician
Many lab technician roles will require an associate’s degree in clinical laboratory science or a related subject. A Medical Laboratory Technician program may include the following components:
- Clinical chemistry
- Medical terminology
The demand for medical laboratory technicians is growing, partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a huge surge in demand for testing and analysis. In recent years, there has also been rapid growth in demand for DNA testing, with more people using at-home test kits, which are then sent to laboratories for analysis.
The healthcare industry is one of the most rewarding sectors to work in. With a huge range of professions to choose from, high levels of job security, good pay and no shortage of opportunities for progression, it has plenty to recommend it to anyone looking for a fulfilling career.