Merrimack College

Health Science Job Skills

Four Ways to Prepare for a Health Sciences Career

Health science jobs are growing more plentiful, but it’s a crowded job market. Here’s how to put your best foot forward.

Health science careers are growing faster than any other segment of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that, over the next decade, jobs in health sciences and health care will grow three times faster than the overall rate of employment. Health science jobs account for more than half of the 30 fastest-growing occupations.

These opportunities stand out for their variety as well as their quality. Fast-growing health science career sectors encompass all kinds of professional roles, from direct practice in health and wellness to public health policy, health administration and health education.

Regardless of your specific career objective, preparing for the best health sciences jobs involves a common set of steps that’s fairly consistent across all parts of the workforce.

Here are some rules of thumb to get your health science career off on the right foot.

Steps Toward a Healthy Career in Health Sciences

1. Earn a health sciences master’s degree.

“In anything having to do with health sciences, you have to get a master’s degree if you really want to be competitive,” says Kara Lavertu, who earned an exercise science master’s degree from Merrimack College.

Although the field is growing, says Lavertu, most health science jobs draw a swarm of applicants. “There are lots of people going into these fields,” she explains, “so you have to bring yourself up a step to make yourself more marketable. Health science is always moving forward, so you have to keep learning.”

Although the field is growing, says Lavertu, most health science jobs draw a swarm of applicants. “There are lots of people going into these fields,” she explains, “so you have to bring yourself up a step to make yourself more marketable. Health science is always moving forward, so you have to keep learning.”

2. Acquire hands-on experience.

“Having proven achievements on my resume made a huge difference in job interviews,” says Patrick Allen, a graduate of Merrimack’s health and wellness management master’s program.

After receiving one of Merrimack’s health and science graduate fellowships, Allen designed and implemented an employee wellness program for Merrimack’s workforce. When he entered the health sciences job market, he says, “I was able to talk confidently about what I had learned, and I could point to some real-world accomplishments. That’s invaluable. You can discuss not only what you know, but what you’ve done.”

3. Seek professional mentorship.

“It really helps to know people who are smarter than you,” says Will Franco, who earned an exercise science master’s degree from Merrimack in 2018. “That’s how you get better at what you do. You work with people who know some things you haven’t learned yet.”

Franco leveraged Merrimack’s relationships in exercise science to find mentors who specialized in his field (strength and conditioning). “I met so many people at Merrimack,” he says. “Scientists, researchers, coaches from other colleges. Brian Doo, the strength coach of the Boston Celtics, came to campus, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. The master’s program in exercise science really opened my eyes.”

4. Participate in health science research.

“During my graduate program I did a lot of data collection out in the field,” says Tara Daly. A Merrimack health sciences fellow who earned her community health education master’s degree in 2017, Daly worked with professor Juliana Cohen on a high-profile study related to childhood nutrition.

“Having health science research on my resume definitely helped me establish my credibility as a job applicant,” says Daly, who now works as a clinical researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It also gave me the foundation to contribute right away in my job.”

A Checklist of Universal Skills for Health Science Careers

Whatever steps you take to get ready for the health science job market, it’s useful to know what characteristics and skills are important to employers.

The desired skill set varies from one health science career niche to the next. But certain “universal skills” have value in almost all health science occupations. The list includes:

Evidence-based decision-making.

Health science professionals in all disciplines need the ability to synthesize input from multiple sources, commit to a plan with confidence, and articulate the reasoning behind it.

Strong interpersonal skills.

Whether you’re interacting with patients, other health science professionals, or experts in non-health fields (such as education or public policy), it’s essential to communicate clearly, listen respectfully and inspire confidence and trust.

Attention to detail.

Small mistakes can have big consequences in most health sciences jobs. In many cases lives are literally at stake. In other instances, you must act as a responsible steward for large investments of time, money, technology and human capital.

Empathy.

Health science careers are often described as “helping professions,” because they typically serve people and populations who confront formidable challenges. The best health professionals uphold the dignity of people who face physical, psychological, financial and/or societal vulnerabilities.

Technical know-how.

Almost every health sciences job involves some form of specialized technology. You may need to be proficient with anything (or everything) from diagnostic instruments to therapeutic equipment, fitness machines, data-crunching software, digital media, and visualization tools.

Here’s one final skill that can keep any health sciences career on the upswing: a knack for continuous learning. Health science knowledge, technologies and methods will continue to advance throughout your working life. A master’s in health science can help you develop the habits of mind to stay ahead of the curve.

“There are lots of people going into these fields, so you have to bring yourself up a step to make yourself more marketable. Health science is always moving forward, so you have to keep learning.”

― Kara Lavertu, MS Exercise and Sport Science ’19

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To talk to someone about our master’s degree programs in health sciences, contact the Merrimack College Office of Graduate Admission.

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