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How to Become a Health Care Provider

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Becoming a health care provider can provide a wide range of opportunities for those who are interested in health care fields. Depending upon the exact type of job or health care profession that you want to enter, you'll need some special education in order to get there. Health care provider jobs are among the most secure in uncertain economic times and those who become health care providers often find their work satisfying. Here are some steps you'll have to take in order to enter most kinds of health care fields.

Reaching Your Health Care Provider Goals

Identify the kind of health care field in which you want to work. There are a wide variety of fields and each of them has specific educational requirements in order to start working in that field. For example, the course of study to become an unlicensed medical assistant can take as few as three months, whereas becoming a pharmacist will likely take at least six years if you have no college degree.

Consider the cost of education. Many educational programs for health care providers are offered in community colleges, which cost less than larger, 4-year schools. Public, state-supported schools are almost always less expensive than private schools, too. Speak with someone in the financial aid department of the school you are thinking of applying to for the most accurate information on your particular situation.

Identify the prerequisite courses that you will need to take. Many programs, such as nursing, may require you to have courses in biology, English, or other college-level subjects. If you need to take these courses, make sure they will transfer to the school you'll attend for your health care provider education.

Gain acceptance into the proper educational program. Getting accepted into your program usually requires that you gather and submit admissions materials, including an application, resume, and letters of references. Once accepted into the program, you will complete a course of study which will prepare you to practice in your chosen health care field.

Complete your educational program. This can be the most challenging part of the process, as it can take several years. Balancing work and life responsibilities is an important part of persisting to completion of the program.

Apply for and pass your certification or licensure exam. Certification is sometimes all that is required if you are working in an unlicensed area of health care, such as medical assisting or phlebotomy. If you are seeking licensure, such as if you want to become a nurse, pharmacist, or physical therapist, you will need to pass a licensure exam first before you are qualified to sit for a certification exam. Many times, only the licensure exam is required.


If the profession you are choosing requires licensure in order to practice, be sure the program you choose will qualify you to seek licensure once you graduate. This usually means the program is well-established and is accredited by the appropriate organization.

If your educational program requires that you take an entry examination, be sure to adequately prepare for it. Study the material on which you'll be tested and get plenty of sleep the night before your test.

If you are unsure if a particular field is right for you, contact your local hospital or career counseling center and ask about "shadowing" opportunities. These experiences can let you see first-hand what a particular health care provider does.