About Pre-Health Pathways

Here at South Dakota Mines, students can pursue a career in health care by following a Pre-Health Pathway (such as pre-medicine, pre-dental, pre-pharmacy, etc.). Students earn their degrees while having access to the resources, support, and guidance needed to prepare for a career as a health professional. While pursing a degree from Mines, our pre-health students explore health care professions, gain experiences in clinical and research settings, volunteer their time, work with academic and support advisors, and attend professional development events to help them become competitive candidates for professional programs. 

Academic advisors offer expert advice on fulfilling curriculum requirements for a wide range of pre-health programs and preparing for professional programs. The Pre-Health Pathways Advisor offers additional support for helping students gain health care experiences, find shadowing and volunteering opportunities, build core competencies, prepare for entrance exams (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, etc.), submit professional program applications, and arrange mock interviews. The Pre-Health Pathways Advisor also supports student success by hosting skills workshops, student panel discussions, and meet-and-greet opportunities with health care professionals.

There are hundreds of careers in health care and this vast field continues to grow. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts health care to be the fastest growing employment industry between 2014 and 2024. South Dakota Mines students may select a Pre-Health Pathway from the options listed below, but students are not limited to these options. If you are thinking of following another career path in health care, you can work with your academic advisor and the Pre-Health Pathways Advisor to find the information and resources that you need to help you reach your career goals.

Pre-Health Pathways

We have listed six basic categories of health careers  below. These careers do not represent a hierarchy, but rather the components of health care teams. Different careers require different strengths and pique different interests. Students interested in health care professions should explore careers in these categories to find what best fits their interests and strengths.

Diagnosing/Treating Professions

These careers involve direct patient care from highly-skilled practitioners. These fields are typically very competitive and require both a bachelor's degree and the completion of a professional program. 

  • Medicine (M.D., D.O., & D.P.M.)
    • M.D.s and D.O.s train in specialties including allergy, cardiology, dermatology, emergency, family medicine, geriatrics, hospital medicine, immunology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, surgery, etc.
    • D.P.M.s train specifically in podiatry (diagnosing/treating the legs and feet).
  • Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
    • Approximately 80% of dentists practice as general dentists. General dentists treat all patients (adults and children) in a variety of different treatment facilities and settings.
    • Dentists may specialize in dentofacial orthopedics, dental public health, endodontics, oral/maxillofacial pathology, oral/maxillofacial radiology, oral/maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, etc.
  • Physician Assistant
    • PAs diagnose illnesses, develop treatment plans, and prescribe medications to patients. PAs may serve as principal health care providers for their patients and practice in most medical settings/specialties to improve health care access and quality as part of a health care team.
    • PAs have the flexibility to move into different areas of medicine without additional education and training.
    • Most PA programs offer a master's degree.
  • Psychology (Psy.D. or Ph.D.)
    • Psy.D.s typically go into clinical practice (e.g. administering tests, psychotherapy, etc.)
    • Ph.D.s typically conduct scientific research in psychology
    • There are many different subdisciplines and topical areas in psychology (e.g. addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, educational psychology, family and relationships, neuropsychological disorders, phobias, etc.)
  • Chiropractic Medicine (D.C.)
    • D.C.s focus on the relationship between the spine and nervous system function and how this relationship affects overall health.
  • Optometry (O.D.)
    • O.D.s specialize in vision, working to correct vision problems and testing for diseases of the eyes or other health care issues that impact eye health.
  • Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)
    • D.V.M.s treat and care for non-human animals and may specialize in a wide range of areas (e.g. exotic animals, large animals, livestock, small animals, etc.)

Allied/Associated Professions

These careers are either allied with or carry out prescribed treatments from diagnosing/treating practitioners and involve direct patient care. These careers are usually more hands-on than those in diagnosing/treating professions. Professional programs in these fields are moderately to highly competitive and vary in their educational requirements. The careers listed below require the completion of a bachelor's degree. Some of these will require completion of a professional program, while others may only require certification beyond a bachelor's degree. Some areas of specialty may require extended education up to the doctoral level.

  • Genetic Counseling
    • Genetic counselors are trained in medical genetics and in counseling to help patients make decisions pertaining to their genetic health.
  • Nursing
    • Accelerated nursing programs are available for students who have completed a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing.
    • After becoming a Registered Nurse (R.N.), one can pursue specialized degrees to become a nurse anesthetist, nurse informaticist, nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse, public health nurse, etc.
  • Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
    • Pharm.D.s focus on the safe and effective use of medications.
  • Psychometrics
    • Psychometrists administer and score a variety of neurophysiological and psychological tests for patients with traumatic brain injuries, neurological diseases, learning disabilities, or psychological health issues. They may also administer these kinds of tests for neurological or psychological research purposes. 
    • After earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics, or a health science field, psychometrists either obtain a certification or go on to master's degree programs in psychology or another health science field.

Assisting/Adjunct Professions

These careers support other health professional and typically involve either direct patient care or hands-on applications. Professional programs in these careers are minimally to moderately competitive. The careers listed below require the completion of a bachelor's degree. Most of these will require require certification beyond a bachelor's degree. 

  • Anesthesiologist Assistant
    • Anesthesiologist assistants work as part of the anesthesia care team to design and implement anesthesia care plans. They accompany the patient before, during, and after anesthesia to ensure quality and continuity of care.
    • After completing a bachelor's degree, anesthesiologist assistants complete a master's degree from programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
  • Medical Dosimetry
    • Medical dosimetrists work as part of radiation oncology teams to ensure that radiation treatment promotes the most lethal radiation dose with the fewest side effects to patients' healthy organs.
    • After radiation is prescribed by an oncologist, the medical dosimetrist creates a plan to deliver the prescribed radiation dosage, monitors organs using CT, PET/CT, or MRI imaging, provides data to radiation oncologists, and creates plans for minimizing damage to healthy organs.
    • Following completion of a bachelor's degree (preferably in a physical science), medical dosimetrists complete an accredited medical dosimetry program.
  • Medical Laboratory Science
    • Medical laboratory scientists discover the presence/absence of disease and provide data that help physicians diagnose and treat their patients.
    • There are many specialties within medical lab science, including blood bank technology, cytotechnology, hematology, and microbiology.
  • Medical Physics
    • Medical physicists often work as consultants to hospitals, clinics, or medical schools, where they apply their knowledge of physics to serve patients.
    • Most jobs in medical physics involve therapy (approximately 85%), but about 10% of jobs are in diagnostic imaging and the remaining 5% are in nuclear medicine.
    • Medical physicists can specialize in subfields such as therapeutic radiological physics, diagnostic radiological physics, medical nuclear physics, or medical health physics.
    • Following completion of a bachelor's degree, medical physicists typically complete a master's degree or Ph.D. in physics, medical physics, or radiation biology before taking a certification examination given by the American Board of Radiology or the American Board of Medical Physicists.
  • Pathologists' Assistant
    • Pathologists' assistants provide anatomic pathology services (e.g. tissue specimen collection, preparation, and testing; preparing postmortem examinations; education and training; etc.) under the direction and supervision of a pathologist.
    • Bachelor's degrees are required by 9 of the 10 National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)-accredited pathologists' assistants programs.
  • Clinical Perfusion
    • Perfusionists operate heart-lung machines and manage the physiological and metabolic demands of patients during cardiac surgeries. They also deliver the drug that stops the heart and are increasingly found monitoring patients in catheterization laboratories and cardiovascular intensive care units.
    • Perfusionists typically complete additional specialized training for certification or a master's degree after finishing their bachelor's degree.

Rehabilitating Professions

These careers involve direct patient care from highly-skilled practitioners. These fields are typically moderately competitive, but can be highly competitive when the number of applicants exceeds the number of available seats in professional programs.  The careers listed below require the completion of a bachelor's degree. Most of these careers require the completion of a professional program. People in these professions must have strong interpersonal skills.

  • Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD)
    • Careers in CSD include audiologists (who typically earn a doctor of audiology [Au.D.] degree) and speech-language pathologists (who typically earn a master's degree in speech-language pathology).
    • While the most common pathway for careers in CSD involves specialized undergraduate programs, it is not a requirement to have a CSD-specific degree to move into graduate programs.
  • Occupational Therapy
    • Occupational therapists help patients learn to perform basic living and working tasks so that they can participate in the things they want and need to do.
    • Occupational therapy helps people function in all of their environments (e.g., home, work, school, community) and addresses the physical, psychological, and cognitive aspects of their well-being through engagement in occupation.
    • Common occupational therapy interventions include:
      • Helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and develop social skills
      • Helping people recovering from injury to regain function through retraining and/or adaptations
      • Providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
  • Orthotics/Prosthetics
    • Orthotic and Prosthetic (O/P) practitioners combine medicine and engineering by working with patients to improve function with the help of custom braces (orthoses) and artificial limbs (prostheses).
  • Physical Therapy
    • Physical therapists work with patients who are recovering from accidents or who have disabling conditions to help restore function, improve balance and mobility, increase flexibility and coordination, and diminish pain.

Health Administration & Health Education Professions

Careers in health administration assist or manage health organizations rather than dealing with individual patients. Careers in these professions vary greatly in terms of educational requirements, but typically do not require as many courses in science and mathematics as other health professions. These careers do tend to require a greater foundation in the social sciences and health administrators must have strong interpersonal skills. Professional programs in these field also vary in their selectivity. The careers listed below require the completion of a bachelor's degree. Careers in health education assist patients and other health care professionals with managing their health and with navigating the health care system. The careers listed below require the completion of a bachelor's degree. People in these professions must have strong interpersonal skills.

  • Health Administration
    • Health care administrators (a.k.a. health services managers or health care managers) direct the operation of hospitals and other health care organizations. They are not involved directly with patients, but rather are responsible for facilities, services, programs, staff, budgets, etc. They help to shape policy and lead health-related organizations in a way that serves individual patients by improving health care systems.
    • Health care administrators earn a master's degree from an accredited program after completing a bachelor's degree in biology, health sciences, or other related fields.
  • Health/Wellness Programming
    • Health/Wellness coordinators combine their interests in nutrition, fitness, and mental health by designing and implementing company-wide wellness programs.
    • Health/Wellness coordinators typically hold at least a bachelor's degree, though most also hold a master's degree in nursing, occupational health, exercise science, public health, social work, psychology, or other related field.
  • Medical Animation/Illustration
    • Medical animators/illustrators are detail-oriented individuals who do interdisciplinary projects to provide materials for health education.
    • Most medical animators/illustrators earn a master's degree from accredited graduate programs in medical illustration from one of only 4 institutions in North America. Only 7-20 students are accepted each year.
  • Medical/Health Science Library Science
    • Medical librarians earn a Master of Library and Information Science degree after completing a bachelors degree in any field.
    • Some medical librarians may have other advanced degrees in fields such as medical informatics or business and management.

Health Affiliated Professions

These careers are independent of health care systems, but are related to human health. These careers vary widely, with some requiring direct patient care and other involving no patient care at all. Some careers are highly competitive, while others are minimally selective. Most of these careers require a bachelor's degree in addition to graduate-level degrees, often at the doctoral level. 

  • Forensic Science
    • Forensic scientists are interdisciplinary researchers who use biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and psychology to serve the justice system and to promote better public health practices.
    • Forensic scientists can specialize in a variety of areas, such as forensic biology, forensic chemistry, forensic pathology, and forensic toxicology.
  • Medical Informatics
    • Medical informaticists are interdisciplinary researchers who study the effective uses of biomedical data, information, and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem-solving, and decision-making motivated by efforts to improve human health.
    • Medical informaticists may specialize in areas such as clinical research informatics, dental informatics, global health informatics, intensive care informatics, medical imaging informatics, etc.
  • Pharmacology & Related Fields
    • Pharmacologists study the affects of drugs on biological systems.
    • Pharmaceutical Scientists work primarily in laboratories to research and develop pharmaceuticals for treating a wide-range of diseases.
    • Medical Science Liaisons establish and maintain relationships with clinicians and researchers to ensure that pharmaceutical products are used effectively and appropriately.
    • Regulatory Affairs Specialists assist in obtaining and maintaining government approval for drugs, medical devices, etc.
  • Public Health
    • People who work in public health come from a wide range of educational backgrounds. Some earn master's degrees (e.g. Master of Public Health [M.P.H.], Master of Health Administration [M.H.A.], Master of Science [M.S.], or Master of Science in Public Health [M.S.P.H.]), while others earn doctoral degrees (e.g. Doctor of Philosophy [Ph.D.], Doctor of Public Health [Dr.P.H.], or Doctor of Science [Sc.D.]).
    • Over 20 major fields of study fall under the core disciplines of Behavioral Science/Health Education, Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, or Health Services Administration.
      • Behavioral Science/Health Education 
      • Biostatistics 
      • Environmental Health 
        • Built environment specialists
        • Environmental health advocates/practitioners
        • Food safety specialists
        • Occupational health & safety experts
      • Epidemiology