Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy

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Physicians diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses, often within a specialty area of practice. Physician assistants likewise work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry, as part of a medical team under the supervision of a physician. Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions; they also may provide advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, and oversee the medications given to patients

Education and Certification Requirements

Medicine, dentistry and pharmacy all require completion of a professional school program, one or more internships and/or residencies, and state licensure. Generally, M.D., D.O., and Pharm.D. degrees require four years of study after the bachelor’s degree, and the D.D.S. requires three. Physician assistants generally complete a two-year master’s program prior to their internship.


Compensation for physicians varies with type of practice; in 2017, physicians practicing internal medicine received total median annual compensation of $247,319 and physicians practicing in general surgery received total median annual compensation of $409,665.

In 2017, the median annual wage for physician assistants was $104,860. For dentists it was $158,120, and the median for pharmacists was $124,170. In all these fields, earnings vary according to the number of years in practice, location, hours worked, and specialty.

Job Outlook

Employment of physicians is projected to grow 13 percent by 2026, while jobs for physician assistants are projected to grow 37 percent; employment is both fields is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of dentists is projected to grow 19 percent, and jobs for pharmacists are projected to grow 6 percent.

Though these fields play very different roles in the health care arena, a major in HDFS can provide a great launching platform for further study in medical, dental, pharmacy or other health-related professions. Undergraduate course requirements for all are roughly the same. UI students preparing for health-related careers should consult Health Professions Advising at the Career Center for help in identifying appropriate prerequisite courses, preparing for professional school exams, and learning how to construct an effective professional school application.

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