You’ve always been drawn to the medical field, for the same reasons as anyone else: You want to help people. You want to make a difference. You’re a whiz at science, and hey, the pay’s not bad.
But by the time you’ve completed your Bachelors degree, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot more options out there than just Doctor or Nurse. You need a Masters degree, not only to stand out from the other 21 million college students out there, but to be qualified in your field. Still, you’re not sure which route to take. Let’s break down some of the biggest differences between two viable but separate fields that could encapsulate a lot of smaller niche pockets in the medical field, too: nursing and medical laboratory science.
Nurses are most commonly on the floor all day, interacting directly with patients. Their job is to serve as a liaison between the person and the doctor, and they’re often the ones dealing with the majority of the “customer service” aspects of the patient care role. Yes, people can be mean and grouchy, but they can also be incredibly kind and compassionate, too.
How much you like interacting with people should be a major factor in your career path consideration. A Medical Laboratory Science Masters degree, on the other hand, would qualify you to work in the more behind-the-scenes designs of medicine and healthcare. It’s much more about technology, innovation, detective work, and lab coats. While you might work closely with a team of colleagues, you’re not going to be interacting much with patients, if at all.
Nursing is notorious for its long, strange hours of shift work, especially in your first years on the job. Be prepared to work night shifts, morning shifts, and evening shifts, sometimes all within the same week.
More technical fields can also involve shift work, but depending on your area of specialty, you might find yourself in a more stable nine-to-five. People with Medical Laboratory Science Masters degrees in particular are more likely to work on long-term research and development projects with more predictable daylight hours.
There are a number of consideration factors here: How likely are you to get a job right out of school? How much will that job pay? Is there room for upward mobility in your field?
For nurses, finding a good-paying job right out of the gates can be tough. Employers want professionals with experience. Med lab students might be more likely to find an entry-level position on an established research team.
On the other hand, nurses can go anywhere. People need medical assistance everywhere from Denver to Dubai. Medical laboratory science masters might be more limited to areas with research facilities and projects related to their interests or areas of expertise.
In either case, though, you should be well compensated. The average starting wage for four-year college graduates is $32.60 an hour, and people with Masters degrees can often earn much more than that.
No matter what you decide, the medical profession always needs more hands on deck. College graduates almost always agree that their degree was worth it, and in healthcare especially, you’ll know you’ll be making a difference, regardless of how you do it.