Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Doctors' Diaries

Classroom Activity

Activity Summary
Students connect health-care professions with the matching job descriptions to learn more about various medical careers.

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • describe a number of careers in the medical field.

  • describe how much and what type of education is required for different kinds of medical careers.

Suggested Time
One class period


Materials for Each Student


The Lesson

  1. Ask students what they know about careers in medicine. Have students brainstorm all the medical jobs they know of; list their suggestions on the board. Ask students if any of them have ever considered, or would consider, a medical career. Briefly discuss their responses.

  2. To help the class become acquainted with the range of jobs in medicine and health care, give each student a copy of the Who Does What? Professions handout, which is likely to contain jobs the students have never heard of or considered.

  3. Give each student a copy of the Who Does What? Job Descriptions handout, and have them try to match professions with correct descriptions. Students may need to use a dictionary or the Internet to clarify the meanings of some medical terms, such as aneurysm, sinusitus, and catheterization.

  4. Once everyone is finished, have students review all the careers on the list and choose the one that they think requires the most training and the one that requires the least.

  5. Now give each student a copy of the Who Does What? Answer Key handout. Have a discussion with students about the jobs they weren't familiar with. Did any career descriptions surprise them?

  6. Review with students the amount of training that each career requires. How accurate were students' predictions? Which career surprised them most in terms of the amount of study and practice that is involved?

  7. To conclude the lesson, ask students again if they would consider a medical career, given what they've discovered about the professions featured in the handouts. Did any students change their minds? If so, why? If not, why not?

  8. As an extension, have students choose one of the medical careers that interests them most and do additional research on that career. What skills are required to be successful? What kind of lifestyle does the career offer in terms of work hours, compensation, and benefits?

Procedure The descriptions provided for students represent only one focus of each discipline; like any other job, medical specialties include numerous duties and responsibilities.

Medical specialists can also be found in a variety of locales, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, academic institutions, public health clinics, industrial plants, and relief agencies, among many others. Medical careers also extend into the research realm, where scientists focus on learning how the body works or finding ways to combat disease.

The academic requirements listed are based on averages; more or less schooling may be expected depending upon the extent to which a person specializes in a profession or upon the state requirements that must be met. However, on average, the career that requires the most training is neurosurgeon (15 years); the career requiring the least training is phlebotomist (1-2 years).

Links and Books

Web Sites

AMA's Health-Care Careers Directory
Lists information about health-care careers and education programs for more than 80 fields.

Bureau of Labor Statistics
Includes information on working conditions, occupations, training, and the employment outlook for the health-care industry.
Provides detailed descriptions for an array of health professions. Includes information on and links to health-related education/training programs, financial aid resources, specialized learning opportunities, and current issues in health care.

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center
Offers information on a number of health careers, including how much patient interaction and physical activity is required for each.


Career Opportunities in Health Care
by Shelly Field.
Checkmark Books, 2007.
Presents information on some 80 careers; each entry features a career profile, listing duties, salary, job prospects, prerequisites, and a potential career ladder.

Intensive Care: A Doctor's Journal
by John F. Murray
University of California Press, May 2000.
Recounts a month's events in the intensive care unit of San Francisco General Hospital. John Murray, chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division there, reveals the complexity and stress of a hospital unit's day-to-day operation.

Top 100 Health-Care Careers: Your Complete Guidebook To Training And Jobs In Allied Health, Nursing, Medicine, and More
by Saul Wischnitzer and Edith Wischnitzer.
Jist Publishing, 2005.
Lists training requirements, salary ranges, advancement opportunities, certification and licensing procedures, and more for each of the careers featured. Includes a list of schools that offer training in health-care fields.


The "Who Does What?" activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards.

Grades 5-8
History and Nature of Science

• Science as a human endeavor

Grades 9-12
History and Nature of Science

• Science as a human endeavor

Classroom Activity Author

Developed by Educational Outreach staff. This classroom activity originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the companion Teacher's Guide for NOVA's "Survivor M.D.: Tattooed Doctor" program.

Teacher's Guide
Doctors' Diaries

Koch Foundation

Support provided by