Dentistry (D.D.S., D.M.D.)

Dentists are highly skilled health professionals who provide a wide range of oral health care that includes the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of problems associated with the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. They examine the teeth, mouth, and associated tissues, diagnose and treat diseases, restore defective teeth and tissue, and replace missing teeth. Dentists are instrumental in the early detection of oral cancer and systemic conditions that manifest in the mouth. Today’s dentists are at the forefront of a range of new developments in dental implants, computer generated imaging, and cosmetic and aesthetic procedures.

Eighty percent of practicing dentists are engaged in general practice. The remainder specialize in one of nine areas, including orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, dental public health, and oral and maxillofacial radiology.

There are currently 64 accredited dental schools in the United States that grant Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D) degrees. Education includes a bachelor’s degree and four years of dental school and additional training for specialties.

For more information see:


AADSAS Application

Allopathic Medicine (M.D.)

Allopathic medicine is based on the concept that the biology of diseases can be understood by reducing the body to its parts, organs, tissues, and systems. Medications and treatments are developed and prescribed based on biomedical research and systematic clinical trials.

The allopathic physician’s responsibilities cover a wide range of functions in the maintenance of health and the treatment of disease, including both acute and chronic care and preventive approaches involving substantial patient education. These include diagnosing disease, supervising the care of patients, prescribing medications and other treatments, and participating in the delivery of health care. Although most physicians provide direct patient care, some concentrate on basic or applied research, become teachers and/or administrators, or combine various elements of these activities.

After completion of four years of medical school physicians are required to complete a residency program in order to focus their medical training. Areas of specialties include anesthesiology, family and general medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, surgery and vary in length.

There are over 100 allopathic medical schools in the United States that grant the Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree. Education generally includes a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and from 3-8 years of medical residency training.

For more information on pursuing an M.D. degree, see:


AMCAS Application

Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

Osteopathic physicians diagnose illness and injury, prescribe and administer treatment, and advise patients about how to prevent and manage disease. A major distinction between the M.D. and the D.O is that the D.O. has a strongly holistic philosophy and practices osteopathic manipulative medicine, a distinctive system of hands-on diagnosis and treatment which focuses specifically on the musculoskeletal system.

Approximately 50% of the 54,000 osteopathic physicians in the United State practice general or family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics. The rest specialize in a wide range of practice areas, including emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and surgery. Like M.D.s, osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to diagnose, treat, prescribe, and perform surgery in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

There are currently 30 accredited osteopathic medical schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Education includes a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of osteopathic medical school, and from 3-8 years of medical residency training.

For more information on pursuing a D.O. degree, see:


AACOMAS Application

Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.)

Podiatric medicine is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the study of human movement, with the medical care of the lower leg, foot and ankle as its primary focus. A doctor of podiatric medicine has undergone lengthy, thorough study to become uniquely well-qualified to treat this specific part of the body. Many practitioners can focus on a particular area of podiatric medicine. These options can include surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, and primary care. The skills of podiatric physicians are in increasing demand because disorders of the foot and ankle are among the most widespread and neglected health problems.

There are currently 9 accredited podiatric schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) degree. Education includes a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of podiatric school, and 1-3 years of residency training.

For more information, see:


AACPMAS Application

Optometry (O.D.)

Optometry is a comprehensive healthcare field for eyes and vision, including examination, diagnosis, and treatment of the eyes and surrounding structures, and the treatment of vision problems. Optometrists (O.D.s) work with ophthalmologists (M.D.s or D.O.s) who are physicians specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and defects and who perform surgery. Optometrists also work with opticians who fit, supply, and adjust eyewear according to prescriptions written by optometrists for ophthalmologists. More than 75% of practicing optometrists are in solo practice.

There are currently 21 accredited Optometry schools in the U.S. that grant the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Education includes a bachelor’s degree and four years of optometry school.

For more information, see:


OptomCAS Application

Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

Pharmacy is a doctoral level health profession in which licensed professionals provide information about medication to consumers and other health care professionals. Pharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and monitor patient health. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists must understand the use; clinical effects; and composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties. They protect the public by ensuring drug purity and strength. The goal of pharmacy care is to maximize positive health care outcomes and improve patients’ quality of life with minimum risk. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drug store, or in a hospital or clinic.

There are over 100 accredited pharmacy schools in the United States that grant the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Education includes at least two years of college and 4 years of pharmacy school. A Bachelor’s Degree prior to admission to pharmacy school is strongly recommended and often required.

For more information, see:


PHARMCAS Application

Physician Associate (P.A.)

Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. PAs should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

Although physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is present for only 1 or 2 days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the physician. In 47 States and the District of Columbia, PAs may prescribe medications.

There are currently about 137 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States, more than 90 of which offer a master’s degree. Education generally includes a bachelor’s degree and 2-3 additional years to obtain a master’s degree.

For more information, see:


CASPA Application

Veterinary Medicine


VMCAS Application

Explore Health Careers

This is an independent resource created in collaboration between health professionals and leading health care associations designed to help people start down the road toward a career in health.

On their website you will find the latest health career information and tools to guide you as you prepare for a future in health care.