Home Column Laura Bigaouette: Considering a career change?

Laura Bigaouette: Considering a career change?

Laura Bigaouette

Have you been asking yourself, “Am I living up to my potential? Am I really satisfied with my current work/profession? Do I have a dream that I have yet to pursue? Is it too late to pursue it now? Will I be successful in a new career?” 

In an article for The Atlantic, Barbara Bradley Hagerty noted that there is a growing body of research that indicates that “having a sense of purpose is a powerful predictor of mental and physical robustness.” Many career-changers seek opportunities that offer fulfillment, including ones in the health care professions.

The health care industry is expected to continue exponential growth over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for health care occupations in the United States is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Many specific health-related occupations are also projected to have job growth of 30 to 40 percent over the decade. Some of these occupations include physician assistants, physicians, surgeons, pediatricians, veterinarians, dental assistants and hygienists, dentists, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, opticians, optometrists and physical therapists.

Westchester County’s job market mirrors the anticipated national trend. The county growth rate for health service occupations is, by far, the highest among other industries for year-over-year job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Amy Allen, vice president and executive director, Hudson Valley Workforce Academy, Westchester County Association, has also recognized the many opportunities in the high-demand field, noting that skill sets are transferrable for patient care and interaction. She has also acknowledged that health care providers are often open to candidates who have empathy and the right attitude; companies and providers can train for aptitude.

Several local college programs are built to educate and prepare for the various careers in health. There are myriad education options, including certificate programs, post-baccalaureate programs and degree programs. Night class options accommodate student schedules and facilitate a gradual transition into respective programs.

If you are unsure about committing to a program or an area of interest, you could volunteer to get a feel for whether it is truly the right fit. Other key considerations in choosing a health care education program are the support and resources offered.

It can be intimidating to change fields and return to school. Look for programs that provide individualized attention and advising. You will want someone in the program with whom you can discuss your skills and background, goals, ideas and career track. Advisers in health-related educational programs are familiar with the industry and are well-equipped to discuss your options and fit, as well as support your aspirations.

Today, schools, programs and employers have put an emphasis on a holistic evaluation for health care practitioners. This means that background, skills and experiences are weighed along with academic record. Individuals may feel that past situations (for example, poor academic performance) may hinder their pursuit of a health care career, but these experiences — and the improvements made/lessons learned from them — can profoundly inform and add perspective to a health services career. As mentioned, the health care field needs empathetic and relatable people.

The bottom line is, if you are passionate about a particular field, pursue it. Those who change careers often have added perspective and experience to contribute. For those considering health, remember that there are growing options, so it is never too late.

Laura Bigaouette is program director at the Fordham University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She is director and pre-health adviser for the school’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical/Pre-Health Program and works with many career changers to help prepare them for the transition into the industry. She can be reached at postbac@fordham.edu.

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