The Many Types of Hospital Jobs: Who Does What in Healthcare?
By Robbie Gould on 02/01/2024
A hospital is a lot like a beehive.
It's a busy place where around-the-clock activity is the norm, and where collaboration isn't just encouraged – it's essential. Just like the well-ordered world of bees, hospitals thrive on a clearly defined hierarchy and structure, with each role aligned towards a common, noble goal – health and healing.
In this buzzing environment, each healthcare professional, from doctors, techs and nurses to administrative and janitorial staff, plays a pivotal role. The sheer size and complexity of the healthcare field can be overwhelming — especially when you see it all working together within the controlled chaos of a hospital. Both at the bedside and in the backroom, healthcare professionals of all specialties function interdependently to keep communities in tip-top shape in a variety of hospital settings.
And these roles constitute an extensive array of medical careers. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare professions are rapidly growing, reflecting an increasing demand for medical expertise in hospitals.
Navigating the immense and intricate landscape of the healthcare industry can be daunting. So, we put together a list of many types of jobs you may encounter in the hospital setting.
These medical professionals specialize in providing anesthesia to patients for surgeries and other medical procedures. They play a crucial role in pain management and ensuring patient safety during operations.
Their responsibilities include evaluating patients before surgery, administering anesthesia, monitoring vital signs during the procedure, and overseeing recovery from anesthesia.
They also work in pain management outside of surgical settings, to treat patients with chronic pain conditions.
To become an anesthesiologist, your must complete extensive education and training involving undergraduate education, medical school, residency and more. Rasmussen University does not offer any programs that will lead to this career opportunity.
Clinical lab technician
A clinical lab technician, also known as a medical laboratory technician (MLT), plays a vital role in the healthcare system by performing laboratory tests that assist in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
Their duties include preparing samples for analysis, operating lab equipment, conducting chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests, analyzing results for accuracy, and recording findings.
They work under the supervision of a medical technologist or laboratory manager.
The educational requirements for becoming a clinical lab technician typically include:
1. Associate’s degree
An associate's degree in medical laboratory technology or a related field is the minimum requirement. This program usually takes about two years to complete.1
Many employers prefer or require certification, which can be obtained from organizations like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP®). Certification often requires passing an exam after completing an educational program.
3. State licensure
Some states require clinical lab technicians to be licensed. The requirements for licensure vary by state but usually include having a degree and passing a certification exam.
For more on this, check out How to Become a Medical Lab Technician in 4 Important Steps.
Health information technician
A health information technician (HIT) is a professional who manages and organizes patient medical records and health data, ensuring its accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems.
They play a crucial role in the healthcare industry by coding and categorizing patient information for databases and registries, maintaining patients' medical and treatment histories, and ensuring that all healthcare information systems comply with laws, regulations, and standards.
They are essential in managing the information that healthcare providers rely on to deliver quality care.
To work as a health information technician, the following education and training are typically required:
1. Educational degree
Most positions require at least an associate's degree in health information management or a related field. These programs usually take about two years to complete and include courses in medical terminology, health data requirements and standards, and computer systems.
Many employers prefer candidates who are certified. One common certification is the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT®) credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA®). Obtaining this certification usually requires passing an exam after completing an accredited associate degree program.
Some states may require HITs to be licensed, although this is less common than for other healthcare professions. Requirements for licensure, if applicable, generally include having a degree and passing a certification exam.
Health information technology can go many different directions, and the certification options in this career path are equally varied! Check out 8 Healthcare IT Certifications That Will Impress Employers to see what we mean.
Health services manager
A health services manager, also known as a healthcare administrator or healthcare executive, is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and supervising the delivery of healthcare services.
Their role can vary but often includes managing the operations and administration of healthcare facilities, departments, or private medical practices.
They work to improve efficiency and quality in delivering healthcare services, oversee compliance with healthcare laws and regulations, manage facility finances, including billing and budgeting, and coordinate between medical staff and department heads.
To become a health services manager, the following educational and professional requirements are typically necessary:
1. Bachelor’s degree
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, health administration, health management, public health administration, or a related field. This degree typically takes four years to complete and includes coursework in health laws and ethics and business administration.
2. Master’s degree (preferred for many positions)
Many employers prefer or require a master’s degree for higher-level positions. A graduate degree like a Master of Health Administration (MHA) is a good fit.
Many people never realize this career exists, let alone take the time to consider it as an option. But health services management can be a very rewarding path. Check out 8 Reasons to Consider a Career in Health Services Management to see how.
An occupational therapist (OT) is a healthcare professional who helps individuals of all ages to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with physical, mental, or developmental conditions.
OTs use assessments and interventions to improve a client's ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments. They assist patients with rehabilitative activities and exercises outlined in a treatment plan, help with adapting to an environment, and offer guidance on using assistive equipment.
Their goal is to enhance patients' quality of life and enable them to participate more fully in their daily activities.
The educational and licensing requirements to become an Occupational Therapist are:
1. Master's degree
Occupational therapy requires a master's degree in occupational therapy. Some OTs also choose to pursue a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree. Rasmussen University does not offer any programs that will lead to this career opportunity.
2. National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) Exam
After completing a master’s or doctoral program, graduates must pass the NBCOT® exam to become a registered occupational therapist.
3. State licensure
Each state requires OTs to be licensed, which involves passing the NBCOT® exam and meeting any additional state-specific requirements.
These professionals are responsible for dispensing medications prescribed by physicians and other healthcare providers. They play a critical role in patient healthcare through medication management, providing information about drugs, including details about their uses, side effects, interactions, and proper storage.
Pharmacists also counsel patients on medication adherence, conduct health and wellness screenings, administer vaccinations, and collaborate with healthcare providers on patient care. They ensure the accuracy of prescriptions, check for potential drug interactions, and counsel patients on the safe and effective use of their medications.
The education and licensing requirements to become a pharmacist are rigorous and include:
1. Bachelor's degree
Pharmacy students are required to finish a bachelor's degree in a science-related discipline or complete a minimum of two years of undergraduate studies in pre-pharmacy courses. Rasmussen University does not offer any programs that will lead to this career opportunity.
2. A doctorate degree in pharmacy (Pharm D)
Once admitted, pharmacist hopefuls need to succeed in their pharmacy doctorate programs. These programs take many years to complete.
After obtaining a Pharm.D., pharmacists must be licensed to practice. This typically involves passing two exams: the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX®) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE®) or a state-specific law exam.
A pharmacy technician supports pharmacists in a variety of settings, such as retail pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.
Their primary responsibilities include assisting with the preparation and dispensing of prescription medications, managing inventory, handling customer service inquiries, and performing administrative tasks like processing insurance claims and maintaining patient records.
They work under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist and play a key role in ensuring the smooth operation of the pharmacy.
The education and training requirements to become a pharmacy technician typically include:
1. High school diploma or GED
This is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level pharmacy technician positions.
2. Postsecondary education or training (varies)
Some states and employers require the completion of a formal education or training program in pharmacy technology.
These programs, offered at community colleges and vocational schools, typically last one year and lead to a certificate, like Rasmussen University – where you can earn a Pharmacy Technician Certificate in as few as nine months.1
Courses cover topics such as pharmaceutical terminology, pharmacy law and ethics, and medication management.
3. Certification (optional, but preferred by many employers)
Certification through organizations like the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board ( PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association® (NHA) can enhance employment opportunities. Certification may require completion of a formal education program, and requirements usually include passing an exam, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE®).
4. State licensure or registration
Requirements vary by state. Some states require pharmacy technicians to be licensed or registered, which may include passing exams, completing a formal education program, and undergoing a criminal background check.
A physical therapist (PT) is a healthcare professional who helps patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility, often without the need for surgery. They develop individualized plans of care for patients suffering from injuries or chronic conditions, aiming to enhance movement, relieve pain, and prevent disability.
Their work involves evaluating patients’ physical abilities, administering therapeutic exercises and treatments, using techniques like massage and stretching, and educating patients on how to manage their condition and prevent further injury.
The education and licensing requirements to become a physical therapist are:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
Start by completing a bachelor's degree, preferably in a science-related field. Most Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs require prerequisites in subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy. Rasmussen University does not offer any programs that will lead to this career opportunity.
2. Graduate from a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program
Enroll in a DPT program, which typically takes three years to complete. These programs combine classroom learning with clinical experience and cover areas such as biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology.
3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE®)
After graduating from a DPT program, you must pass the NPTE® to be eligible for licensure. This exam tests your knowledge and skills in physical therapy.
4. Obtain a state license
Physical therapists need to be licensed to practice in their respective states. Requirements vary by state but generally include passing the NPTE and completing any additional state-specific criteria.
Physical therapist assistant
A physical therapist assistant (PTA) works under the supervision of a physical therapist to help patients recover from illnesses and injuries.
Their primary role is to assist in implementing treatment plans designed by physical therapists. Tasks include helping patients perform specific exercises, providing therapeutic treatments like massage and ultrasound, monitoring patient progress, educating patients and families about post-therapy care, and maintaining treatment areas and equipment.
To work professionally as a physical therapist assistant, the following education and certification are typically required:
1. Earn an associate's degree
Enroll in and complete a two-year associate’s degree program in physical therapy assisting. These programs are typically offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. The curriculum includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience.
2. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE®) for PTAs
After graduating from an accredited program, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination for Physical Therapist Assistants (NPTE for PTAs). This exam assesses your knowledge and skills necessary to work as a PTA.
3. Obtain state licensure or certification
Most states require PTAs to be licensed or certified to practice. This generally involves passing the NPTE for PTAs and meeting any additional state requirements, which may include background checks or continuing education.
Check out Physical Therapist Assistant Education: What to Expect in Your PTA Training for more detail on the training for this career.
A physician, also known as a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), is a professional who diagnoses and treats illnesses, manages healthcare for patients, and provides preventive care. They conduct physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and may perform surgeries.
Physicians can work in various specialties, such as family medicine, pediatrics, surgery, or psychiatry, each focusing on different aspects of patient care. Other essential hospital titles for doctors include radiologist and surgeon.
The educational and training requirements to practice as a physician are extensive:
1. Bachelor's degree
Complete an undergraduate degree, typically in a science-related field. Rasmussen University does not offer any programs that will lead to this career opportunity.
2. Medical school
Attend and graduate from a medical school program, which typically takes four years. This leads to an MD or DO degree. Medical school combines classroom education in health sciences with clinical rotations in various medical fields.
3. Residency training
After medical school, complete a residency program in your chosen specialty. Residency programs, which are paid training positions in hospitals or clinics, typically last 3-7 years, depending on the specialty.
Physicians must obtain and maintain a license to practice medicine. This requires passing a series of exams (USMLE® for MDs or COMLEX-USA® for DOs) and meeting other state-specific requirements.
A radiologic technologist (rad tech), also known as a radiographer, is a healthcare professional who specializes in taking diagnostic images of patients using a range of imaging technologies.
Similar to another key medical professional in the imaging and diagnostics field, the diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound tech, the technologies radio techs use include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and mammography.
Radiologic technologists prepare patients for procedures, explaining the process and ensuring their comfort. They position patients and equipment correctly to get the best images while adhering to safety protocols to minimize radiation exposure to patients and themselves.
They also maintain imaging equipment and assist radiologists in analyzing images for diagnostic purposes.
The educational and certification requirements to become a radiologic technologist include:
1. Associate’s degree
Most radiologic technologists hold an associate’s degree in Radiologic Technology or a related field, which typically takes two years to complete.
2. Certification and licensure
Many states require radiologic technologists to be licensed or certified. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists ( ARRT®) offers certification that is widely accepted for licensure. To obtain this certification, candidates must complete an accredited educational program and pass an exam.
See our article, How to Become a Radiologic Technologist: Examining Your Path, for a closer look!
Where would hospitals be without the critical work of registered nurses!?
A registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional who provides and coordinates patient care, educates patients and the public about various health conditions, and offers advice and emotional support to patients and their families.
RNs perform a wide range of duties, including assessing patient health problems and needs, developing and implementing nursing care plans, administering medications and treatments, recording patient medical information and vital signs, and assisting with patient rehabilitation and follow-up.
In a hospital setting, you will run into RNs of many different specializations. Here are just a few.
- Neonatal nurses
- PACU nurses
- Pediatric nurses
- Medical-Surgical nurses
- Float pool nurses and travel nurses
Yes, the list of possible nursing specialties you could get into is long!
There are several different paths registered nurses take to reach their careers. Check out How to Become an RN Fast: Explore Four Potential Paths for more on that.
Surgical technologists are also called operating room technicians and surg techs. They play a vital role in the operating room, working alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses to ensure that surgical procedures run smoothly.
This hospital career is unique in that it’s very hands-on, while also being low in paperwork and patient interaction.
Their primary responsibilities include preparing the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment, ensuring the sterility of the environment, preparing patients for surgery, and assisting surgeons during operations by passing instruments and other sterile supplies.
The educational and certification requirements to become a surgical technologist typically include:
1. Associate's degree
Most surgical technologists earn an associate's degree in nursing or complete a postsecondary educational program in surgical technology. These programs, often found in community colleges and technical schools, usually take between several months and two years to complete and result in a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree.1
While not always mandatory, many employers prefer or require surgical technologists to be certified. Certification can be obtained through organizations like the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA®).
3. State regulations
Some states have regulatory requirements for surgical technologists, such as registration or licensure. It's essential to check the specific requirements in the state where you plan to work.
Check out 9 Things You Should Know About Surgical Technologist Programs to get a closer look at this interesting career.
Where would you fit in?
These roles aren’t even close to a comprehensive list. Hospitals run on a powerful mix of professionals in many different careers, specializations and roles. Without each professional playing their part, patient safety and healthcare quality would plummet.
Whether you're drawn to direct patient care, fascinated by the intricacies of medical technology, or passionate about the organizational aspects of healthcare services, there's a career path to suit you.
As you consider your professional goals in healthcare, think about where your interests align best within this array of disciplines.
Whether you're seeking a hands-on clinical role or a position in the broader scope of healthcare administration, each path offers unique opportunities to contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, ensuring that the healthcare system operates effectively and compassionately.
If you'd like to learn more about the roles of healthcare professionals, check out our articles "Operating Room Jobs: Who's Who in the OR?" or "Medical Office Jobs: 7 Familiar Faces You See During Your Clinic Visit".
Rasmussen University does not offer educational programs to prepare students for all occupations profiled. Please see www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of the programs offered.
1Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
NBSTSA® is a registered trademark of NATIONAL BOARD OF SURGICAL TECHNOLOGY AND SURGICAL ASSISTING
ARRT® is a registered trademark of American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
USMLE® is a registered trademark of National Board of Medical Examiners
COMLEX-USA® is a registered trademark of National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc.
NPTE® is a registered trademark of Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
MPJE® is a registered trademark of NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOARDS OF PHARMACY
National Healthcareer Association® is a registered trademark of Assessment Technologies Institute, L.L.C.
NAPLEX® is a registered trademark of National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
ASCP® is a registered trademark of American Society for Clinical Pathology, Inc.
RHIT® is a registered trademark of American Health Information Management Association
AHIMA® is a registered trademark of American Health Information Management Association