If you care about health and helping others, there’s a place for you in health care — and as our population ages, a wide range of health care jobs will be in high demand for the future.
When you imagine a career in health care, roles like doctor or nurse might spring to mind first. But health care is a huge field, with jobs for every skill set. A wide variety of degrees can help you get ready for a future in health care, whether it’s in public health, tech for health, recreation studies, biomedical research, or any of dozens more areas.
So, how does that university degree translate into a job? What you study, your experience, and what’s going on in the world – economically, with technology, with health, and even with the environment – all have an impact on the job market you’ll enter.
Let’s explore some of the trends affecting health, wellness, recreation, and well-being to see how they may shape careers of the future.
- Industry trends: how do changes in our world impact what's happening in this field?
- Skills for a careers of the future: what will careers in health care look like in the future?
- Programs to study: what programs does Waterloo offer related to this field?
Digital health care and tech
Technological innovation touches every industry, and health care is no exception. No matter what your job is in health care, you’ll need some digital savvy. And if science and technology are your passion, heath care offers a wide variety of career possibilities.
Digital care is a growing trend in medicine, transforming the ways medical care is delivered. Telemedicine has been around for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked adoption of remote care. It’s expected to grow even further, especially as overall demand for health care — and home-based care — increases. That’s leading to a demand for safe, secure digital platforms for delivering medical care (add Waterloo’s Health Informatics option to your Health Sciences or Public Health degree).
Video consultations are one form of telemedicine, but there are others. Wearable technology can help collect information during those virtual consultations, or monitor a patient’s chronic condition — diabetes, or heart disease — and feed data to medical providers. Physiotherapists or kinesiologists might help patients recover through virtual reality games. And devices that track digital biomarkers through hand and eye movements may help diagnose Alzheimer’s.
Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, relies on large quantities of data, and health care definitely has that. AI can be used to improve disease detection and to prioritize patients for screening, and it plays a part in personalized medicine, among many other things. Researchers have even built virtual people to test medications. Biostatisticians use big data to determine health risks and evaluate treatments.
Of course, medical technology is always improving and changing, too. Medical physicists oversee radiation treatment plans and equipment in hospitals and clinics, or research new medical applications of physics (for example, with magnetic fields, lasers, or x-rays). Biomedical engineers use knowledge of the body’s mechanics to develop medical technology — artificial organs, or brain-computer interface programs, for example. Waterloo’s Biotechnology/Chartered Professional Accountancy program prepares grads to see new inventions through to successful product launch and beyond.
An aging population
There are more seniors than there are children under the age of 14 in Canada. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, after World War II there was a “baby boom,” a sudden rise in the number of babies born. This boom lasted for 20 years until 1965, so there are 8.2 million Canadians who are — or soon will be — seniors. By 2026, 20 per cent of Canada’s population will be 65 and over.
People are living longer, too. Life expectancy in Canada is one of the best in the world because we live in a safe, prosperous country and have good health care. In fact, the fastest growing segment of the population is people over 100! At the same time, people aren’t having as many children, so Canada’s population has more older people.
As the “boomer” generation ages out of the workforce, most industries will see vacancy rates increase. Health care has the additional factor of increased demand to care for that aging population — and seniors have specialized needs. They draw more heavily than other populations on family medicine, internal medicine, psychology services, and optometry and ophthalmology. Today’s seniors invest in activities that improve their quality of life, such as recreational programming. As the population continues to age, more workers will be needed in long-term care and more resources made available to seniors who want to age in place — that is, continue to live at home while receiving medical supervision and care.
You can specialize in the study of health care for seniors. Geriatricians specialize in medical care for seniors, and gerontologists research the biological, social, and cultural aspects of aging and the elderly. Waterloo’s School of Public Health Sciences also offers an Aging Studies option.
Human-centred health care
Digital medicine may be expanding, but at its core, health care is for humans, by humans. AI and digital tools can help free up health care practitioners’ time, giving them more minutes to spend per patient. Incorporating user experience design in health care settings is an emerging trend, too — making processes and products safer and more user friendly both for patients and practitioners. Green health care is another facet of human-centred care, with doctors prescribing nature walks (and even national park passes!) and hospitals introducing gardens and locally grown food. If a people-centred approach appeals to you, public health is all about community outreach and keeping everybody healthy, including preventative care, equity and access to care, and communications.
Most careers in health care will require specific hard skills: specialized training, or an advanced degree. Waterloo’s Centre for Career Development has dedicated advisors who support students all the way through the graduate program application process.
But soft skills are the secret sauce to any standout career. And as the job market changes, they’re also the skills that will allow you to make smooth transitions to a new career.
Anyone working in health care will need these soft skills:
- Empathy. Health care professionals regularly deal with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures — and they’re often worried, under stress, or in pain. An empathetic caregiver makes all the difference in difficult situations. Even if you don’t have a patient-facing role, whether you’re in data management or device development, you’ll need to be able to think and feel your way inside a patient’s experience to do your best work.
- Communication skills. Clear communication is critical to excellent health care work, whether you’re talking with a patient, family members, or coworkers, or noting information for medical records. Active listening is part of communicating, too — visibly paying attention, letting a speaker finish, and asking follow-up questions to ensure you’ve understood correctly.
- Interpersonal skills. Almost any health care job you can think of involves teamwork, often with colleagues from other professions and fields. Empathy and communication skills are keystones to great interpersonal skills. Emotional intelligence, self-awareness, respect for others, and an ability to manage conflict are other building blocks.
- Analytical thinking. Analyzing research, assessing symptoms, processing raw data, examining processes for weak points, evaluating quality of care, designing and testing new ways of doing things — any of these analytical tasks might be part of your career in health care.
Waterloo’s courses are designed to help you develop these skills, through analytical, hands-on learning and projects that emphasize collaboration. Plus, Waterloo’s world-renowned co-op program gives students lots of practice in real workplaces before they graduate into the job market.
Doctors and registered nurses will be in high demand in Canada well into the future. But there are dozens of other careers to consider — some of which you might not know about yet! Here are some degrees to explore, listed with a handful of possible job titles for graduates. Worth noting: for some careers, a range of different health-related degrees could be your first step. Some may require additional training. If that’s part of your plan, Waterloo’s Centre for Career Development has dedicated advisors who support students all the way through the graduate program application process. The best degree to pursue is the one that excites you the most!
- Medical anthropologist
- Social policy researcher
- Biological and Medical Physics
- Lab technologist
- Medical imaging technologist
- Research associate
- Formulation scientist
- Research technician
- Genetic counsellor
- Biomedical Sciences
- Cardiovascular perfusionist
- Biomedical Engineering
- Brain-computer interface designer
- Product development specialist
- Statistical programmer
- Biotechnology/Chartered Professional Accountancy
- Life sciences industry accounting
- Biotech accounting
- Research monitoring and assessment
- Communication Studies
- Health communications specialist
- Social media specialist
- Knowledge mobilization research specialist
- Health Sciences
- Policy analyst
- Honours Science
- Lab technologist
- Lab technologist
- Massage therapist
- Respiratory therapist
- Knowledge Integration
- Health information manager
- Medicinal Chemistry
- Pharmaceutical research scientist
- Regulatory strategist
- Community pharmacist
- Drug safety officer
- Hospital pharmacist
- Informatics pharmacist
- Public Health
- Health policy analyst
- Health equity specialist
- Public health inspector
- Psychology - Arts
- Cognitive behavioural therapist
- Counsellor therapist
- Speech-language pathologist
- Psychology - Science
- Child psychologist
- Clinical psychologist
- DBT therapist
- Recreation and Leisure Studies
- Recreational therapist
- Recreation and Sport Business
- Recreation facilitator
- Therapeutic Recreation
- Child life specialist
- Outreach worker
- Therapy assistant
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