Deciding what type of medicine to study is a big decision, and it isn’t one that you should make lightly. In fact, you should look into numerous fields and understand what they all entail before deciding which one is best for you. Different fields of medicine will be more suited for some people than others, and since medical school is such a long and expensive endeavor, you don’t want to risk making the wrong choice.
To help answer the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’ here are six different types of medicine that you should know about.
1. Oral Medicine
Starting the list to answer the question ‘What type of medicine should I study?’, we have dentistry. Dentistry is a broad field with a lot of opportunities to specialize in specific focuses. For instance, a cosmetic dentist is different than a general dentist as they will offer more cosmetic procedures and treatments as opposed to being a standard family dentist. Similarly, pediatric dentists will have a focus on younger patients and specialize in working with younger children and families.
However, despite these specifics, many dentists are trained to diagnose and treat oral health issues pertaining to the teeth, gums, and mouth. This requires specialized schooling and a license to practice in your state or the state you want to work in. The requirements can vary between states, although most require students to graduate from an accredited program with a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Both clinical and written exams will need to be passed as well. If a specialty area is desired, postdoctoral training will be necessary.
As a dentist, you will be required to know how to fill cavities and remove decay, repair and remove teeth, use whitening treatments, administer pain management medications, prescribe antibiotics, read x-rays, and understand how to make molds and models for dental treatments like dentures.
Along with these responsibilities, there are numerous other specialty areas such as:
- Endodontists: A dental professional who can perform root canals, removing blood and nerves from damaged, infected, or injured teeth.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: A dental professional who operates on the jaws, gums, neck, and mouth. They can perform treatments such as repairing cleft palates and lips or removing impacted teeth.
- Orthodontists: A dental professional who works to straighten teeth via braces and other alternatives, such as aligners.
- Periodontists: A dental professional who treats the gums and bones that support the teeth.
These are just four of many specialties, and if you are interested in pursuing dentistry, you should consider the different options as you work towards your degree.
Once graduated and licensed, some dentists will work alongside others at an established practice, or they may open their own, and some even teach in their spare time. Dentistry offers a lot of potential, especially if you’re passionate about the field and willing to apply yourself.
2. Medical Speech-Language Pathology
A speech-language pathologist is another position to consider when asking the question, ‘What field of medicine should I study?’. In this field, you will be responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and treating speech and swallowing disorders in both children and adults.
To become a speech-language pathologist, you will need at least a master’s degree in many cases. Although some master’s programs won’t require a previous bachelor’s degree in order to be admitted. Instead, they may require specific healthcare-related courses. However, this will vary depending on where you are and the school you go to.
In most states, you will need a license to be able to practice as a speech-language pathologist, and this usually requires a master’s degree, clinical experience, and a written exam.
As a speech-language pathologist, you could work in numerous places, such as schools, offices for occupational and speech therapies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Many speech-language pathologists find work with rehabilitation services, working with people who have lost abilities due to an accident. This allows them to work closely with the next medical field.
3. Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is another field to consider when asking the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’, and they often work alongside speech-language pathologists. As an occupational therapist, you will be responsible for helping to treat patients who have suffered an injury, illness, or disability by using everyday activities as therapy. This can include walking, building strength, and increasing coordination.
In order to become an occupational therapist, you will need a master’s degree from an accredited institution. This type of degree will usually require a prior bachelor’s degree with specific course work including physiology and biology. You should always contact the program you are interested in beforehand so that you know what is required to enroll.
Although a master’s degree will take about two or three years to complete, doctoral programs can take up to three and a half years. Some schools may offer dual programs that allow students to complete both their master’s and doctoral degrees in five years. However, both of these degrees will require 24 weeks of supervised clinical work, and doctoral degrees will require an additional 16 weeks.
Like the other fields on this list, you will be required to be licensed to the state you want to practice in, and some states will require additional training in order to maintain your license.
In this occupation, you can expect to work in a variety of places, including rehabilitation centers, hospitals, schools, and long-term care facilities.
4. Chiropractic and Orthopedic Medicine
Chiropractic medicine is another field to consider when asking the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’. Chiropractors work to help treat health issues stemming from the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.
In order to become a chiropractor, you will need to complete a four-year program to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and license. Three of these required years are usually dedicated to an undergraduate college education that is required for admission. This typically amounts to 90 hours of education before admission, and some programs may require a bachelor’s degree before granting admission. Some may also have other specific requirements, such as chemistry, biology, and physics coursework.
As a practicing chiropractor, you will be responsible for assessing medical conditions and performing examinations. This includes knowing how to analyze posture, reflexes, and spinal condition and then providing therapeutic treatment that often involves realigning the spinal column or other joints.
Many will practice in their own offices, or in an established practice alongside other chiropractors. Most will also work full time, and even on weekends and in the evening, to accommodate patients.
Similarly, orthopedic specialists and surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system and work to treat the joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones that help people move. Orthopedic surgery is just one specialty in orthopedics, but it can be something to consider if this type of medicine is something that interests you.
As an orthopedic specialist, you will be responsible for assessing and treating problems using both non-invasive and sometimes invasive methods. However, being a qualified surgeon doesn’t always mean that operations will be necessary, and many try to use surgical techniques as a last resort.
This type of occupation will require more training than chiropractic discipline, but it can give you a broader field to study and more opportunities in places like hospitals.
5. Vascular Medicine
Another field of medicine to consider when asking the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’, is vascular medicine. This type of medicine focuses on diagnosing and treating problems in the circulatory system, notably the blood vessels, arteries, lymphatic system, and veins.
While vascular specialists can help diagnose and treat these problems non-invasively, a vascular surgeon is qualified to perform surgery should that be necessary.
To become a vascular surgeon there are a few different programs, and many require five years of residency in surgery with an extra two years in vascular surgery in particular. This track grants graduates the option to be board certified for both general and vascular surgery. However, if you choose three years of residency in vascular surgery and only two in general, you will only be eligible for a certificate in vascular surgery.
As a vascular surgeon, there are a few notable conditions that you will be responsible for treating, such as:
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Varicose Veins
- Peripheral Artery Disease
Studying this field of medicine can give you the ability to work in many hospitals across the country. Although some may work in outside offices, most find jobs primarily in hospitals where they can assist or conduct surgery with all of the necessary tools.
6. Veterinary Medicine
Lastly, when asking the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’, you may want to consider something that doesn’t involve the treatment of humans. Veterinary medicine is a large field and if you’re an animal lover, it can be the best way to combine your passion for medicine and animals.
Veterinarians work to provide healthcare for a wide array of animals, and you may also choose to specialize in specific species. Most vets will work in private clinics or animal hospitals where they will treat pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and birds. However, some may also see snakes and other kinds of reptiles. This means that, as a vet, you will need to have a broad knowledge of how to diagnose and treat a lot of different species.
Usual tasks can include administering vaccinations, assessing general health, providing dental care, setting fractures, and conducting surgical procedures.
Some vets may also choose to work with livestock animals specifically, meaning that they will frequent farms to assess the animals, treat injuries, and vaccinate cows, horses, pigs, and sheep.
To become a veterinarian, you will need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and a veterinary medicine program will usually take about four years to complete. However, admission to these programs can be highly competitive, and most will require a bachelor’s degree in order to be considered. You may also have to have passed many classes, including animal science, chemistry, and biology.
In addition to your degree, you will also need to be licensed, which will require that you have taken and passed the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, along with the state’s own exam.
Although this may seem like a lot of work, and it certainly is, if you want a medical career that can allow you to work with animals, veterinary medicine is something to seriously consider.
What Type of Medicine Should You Study?
When it comes to answering the question, ‘What type of medicine should I study?’, you have a lot of options, and these are only six of many. However, when it comes to choosing a type of medicine, it’s important to explore your interests as well as your comforts. For instance, not everyone will be comfortable performing surgical procedures, and would instead prefer non-invasive positions such as an occupational therapist or chiropractor.
You will also have to consider what type of medicine interests you the most. For example, some people might not find oral medicine very interesting when compared to vascular medicine, and therefore, they will enjoy working towards mastering that field more. This is important because you don’t want to spend years studying something that you have no passion or interest in. Not only will that make entering that field feel like a chore, but you will also be less likely to give your all to your patients due to an inherent lack of interest.
While these are only six of the numerous fields, keep them in mind when considering which field of medicine is best for you, and consider speaking to a college counselor or a medical school representative to learn more about the other field that might interest you.