As you begin researching medical degrees, questions start to come up like what’s actually the difference between an M.D. and a Ph.D.?

Both earn the title “Doctor,” so how do you know which education track is right for you?

It is good to have these questions early on and to try and find the answers. At the NEOMED College of Pharmacy, we're not only talking with students who have decided on pharmacy school. We want to help you determine what field within health care is right for you—whatever path you may take. 

Find out if a career in health care is for you. Download the guide, Getting a Job as a Medical Professional with Your Health Care Degree.

To help guide you in your decision making, here are seven questions you should consider as you pursue a career in health care (and feel free to contact NEOMED directly if you don't find your questions below):

1. Are you currently an undergrad student or are you switching careers?

Undergraduate students are often engaged in student life and expect longer educational programs ahead. Positions for direct practitioners like doctors often take 7-10 years before the student graduates and completes internships, ranging from 3 to 7 additional years of training. For this reason, undergraduate students are often more willing to dedicate the time it takes to enter these fields.

On the other hand, those switching careers may need an expedited path to achieving a paying position. Many supporting positions in medicine require only an undergraduate degree or certificate, reducing the time in school to 2-4 years.

2. Do you like caring for people or doing research?

If you are a people person, this choice may be obvious. Careers in primary care medicine like family medicine and pediatricians work closely with people providing direct care. Entering these fields usually indicates a desire to help people, or at least personally interact with patients every day.

For other people, they may prefer to help patients from a distance. While they would not provide direct care, they would assist patients by helping to diagnose conditions or provide treatments. Other medical research positions only deal with patients in the aggregate. These professionals are often driven by the need to solve a mystery or beat an impossible challenge.

3. Do you want to help people without touching them?

Career success is often defined by the ability to find a position that suits your motivations. Many health care professionals are driven to help people but do not want direct patient interactions. Aggregate careers like cancer research may be too abstract to trigger their sense of satisfaction for helping people.

For people with this mix of characteristics, it may be best to consider options like pathology or lab technician careers. That way they can directly track the progress of particular patients without actually providing direct care.

4. Is a patient-centered career important to you or not?

Working with patients to provide direct care is a spectrum of possibilities. Primary care doctors often provide care to patients through a variety of life stages. This familiarity often helps them to diagnose conditions or better communicate with particular patients.

Other specialty areas of medical practice, such as surgery, only allow for patient interaction through one stage of life or a specific condition. The medical professional's relationship with patients can be long-term or temporary.

5. Do you enjoy scientific analysis and experimentation?

Every medical-based career requires some scientific understanding. However, there are many careers that are tailored to people who genuinely enjoy in-depth analysis and experimentation using scientific principles or concepts.

With dedication, professionals who struggle with scientific topics can still be competent medical administrators or medical ethics experts. However, pathologists, cytogeneticists, histotechnologists, and others may perform complex procedures that require a fundamental ability to utilize scientific knowledge.

6. Do you have a favorite population or life stage?

A number of medical fields only work with patients in a particular life stage. Pediatricians only deal with children, so generally, most practitioners are at least comfortable interacting with the very young.

On the other hand, geriatric medicine exclusively involves seniors. These professionals should be comfortable dealing with late-stage issues common within elder populations. Meanwhile, hospice doctors work with patients near the end of life.

It is important for medical professionals to connect the field they choose with the population they want to serve.

7. Do you want to work generally with patients or are you passionate about a certain issue?

Many people choose careers because of a particular issue that is important to them. Understanding your personal motivations is essential to selecting the right career. Pediatricians, public health professionals, and medical researchers can all focus on improving the health of children. However, they all approach the topic from unique angles.

Knowing a general topic of interest is not enough. Career seekers must also understand what approach is most feasible, given their particular needs and interests.

Find the Right Career for YOU!

If you're ready to take the next step toward an exciting career in the medical field — we can help you get started. If you need help deciding which career path is best for you, we invite you to set up a career consultation by contacting the  the College of Pharmacy at or by scheduling a meeting today.

Want to learn more about health care careers at NEOMED? Download our resource, "Getting a Job as a Medical Professional with Your Health Care Degree".

Download the Guide

About the author

Kelly Tomory

Assistant Director of Admission