Common Careers With a Professional Degree

Earning a professional degree can lead the way toward your choice of a rewarding career. Common careers with a professional degree include dentist, lawyer, optometrist, physician, pharmacist, veterinarian, and more. Learn which professional degrees you’ll need to qualify for these exciting careers.

Dentist

Dentists diagnose and treat issues with the teeth and gums, and they’re responsible for keeping patients’ oral health in excellent shape. Along with removing decay from patients’ teeth, they fill cavities and repair teeth that have been injured. Dentists are also responsible for educating patients about dental health, including demonstrating proper brushing and flossing techniques.

To become a dentist, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, typically in biology or another science. Then you’ll need to complete dental school and earn one of three professional degrees: Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). To practice as a dentist, you’ll also need a dental license from your state. The job market for dentists is predicted to grow much faster than other occupations, which means becoming a dentist could be a smart choice for career-oriented students.

Lawyer

Lawyers provide experienced legal counsel to individuals, families, and organizations of all types and sizes. Many lawyers perform legal research, build complex and compelling legal cases, and interpret regulations and rulings. Along with filing legal documents, many also represent clients in courtroom settings, where they present cases and argue on behalf of clients. Many lawyers specialize in specific areas, such as family law or intellectual property law.

To become a lawyer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as government, history, English, or philosophy. Then you’ll need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and complete three years of law school. After earning your juris doctor (J.D.) degree, you’ll need to pass the bar exam in order to practice in your state.

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Optometrist

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Optometrists examine patients’ eyes and diagnose and treat eye-related problems. They’re experts in both eye injuries and eye diseases, and they can also prescribe glasses and corrective lenses. Optometrists may also perform eye surgery and provide post-operative care, and they offer educational services to help patients maintain healthy vision.

To become an optometrist, you’ll first need a bachelor’s degree in biology or pre-medical science. After taking the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), you can enroll in a professional program to earn your Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Like many optometrists, you may also take on a one-year residency before getting your optometry license.

Physician

Doctors and physicians diagnose patients’ illnesses and injuries. They record and monitor patients’ medical histories, develop treatment plans, prescribe essential medications, and help patients prevent serious medical issues. While many doctors serve as family or general physicians, some specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics, or other areas.

To become a physician, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in pre-medical science or a related subject, along with several years of professional training. Next, you’ll take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and complete a professional program to earn your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. You’ll also need a license to practice in your state.

Pharmacist

Pharmacists are responsible for filling prescriptions and dispensing medications. They provide instructions for taking medications, and they monitor patients’ prescriptions for potentially negative interactions. Pharmacists also counsel patients on taking medications safely and provide general health information about diet and stress management.

To become a pharmacist, you’ll need at least a couple of years of college-level courses before taking the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). Most professional pharmacy degree programs take four years, and you’ll earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree upon completion. You’ll need a state pharmacist license to practice professionally.

Veterinarian

How to become a vet

Veterinarians examine, diagnose, and treat animals. They address injuries, provide vaccinations against diseases, conduct surgery, prescribe medication, and even euthanize terminally ill or seriously injured animals. Veterinarians also educate animal owners about maintaining good health and caring for medical conditions.

Veterinarians may work in animal hospitals, on farms, or in laboratories and research centers. They typically need a bachelor’s degree before completing veterinary school and earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, which usually takes four years. To practice, veterinarians have to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and earn a license in their state. Many also opt to earn one of 40 specialty certifications from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

As you map out your educational plan and your career goals, make sure you have adequate funding for your professional degree. Fill out the FAFSA® form to complete a major step toward securing financial aid for college and graduate studies.