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  • Writer's pictureAllison Styffe

Career Clusters: so you wanna work in health?

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

In our Which Cluster is the One For You? post, we shared that the Career Clusters framework is one of many ways to learn more about the occupations that exist in the world. Knowing more about career clusters can help you narrow down not only which cluster is right for you, but more specifically which pathway(s) and occupation(s) might bring you the most fulfillment.

This week, we're going to take a look at the Health Science cluster. So if you've always been interested in a health-related careers, or perhaps took the assessment we recommended in our last post and found this cluster ranking near the top, stick around! This post will cover:

  • what kinds of pathways and occupations are found in this career cluster

  • programs to explore health-based careers while in high school

  • strategies to develop knowledge & skills that will prepare you for the health industry


Pathways & Occupations

Healthcare is the largest and fastest-growing industry in the United States. Some careers involve working directly with people, while others involve research into diseases or collecting and formatting data and information. You could work in hospitals, medical or dental offices, laboratories, communities, medivac units, even sports arenas or cruise ships.

This career cluster is organized into five career pathways, with a variety of occupations within each pathway—

Click the links below to see example careers in each pathway based on education level—

Biotechnology research and development Includes occupations involved in research and development as it applies to human health. Workers may study diseases to discover new treatments, invent or distribute medical products/devices used to directly assist patients or to improve the accuracy of diagnostic tests, etc.

Therapeutic services Includes occupations focused primarily on improving the health of patients over time through direct care, treatment, counseling, or health education information.

Diagnostic services Includes occupations related to the tests and evaluations that aid in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, injuries or other physical conditions.

Health informatics Includes workers involved in all aspects of managing health care agencies, patient data and information, financial information, and computer applications related to health care processes and procedures. Workers usually have limited interaction with patients.

Support services Includes occupations that interact with patients or the public to provide a therapeutic environment for the delivery of health care. Includes technical and professional careers.


Career Exploration

If you think you may be interested in a health-related career, there are a few ways to start getting experience and exposure now to help explore the kind of work involved in these types of careers. The following entities provide excellent opportunities to dip your toes in the health career waters—

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Portland & Willamette Valley From apprenticeships to internships, from dentistry to cancer research, OHSU offers a wide variety of programs for students who want hands-on experience with health-related work.

Spend a term with their Health Occupations program, where you can observe different medical specialities through clinical rotations; spend a week participating in their MedStar summer camp; or spend a day at Diagnosis Day and be exposed to many of the various health care careers that impact patient-care.

Virtual Job Shadow Online Platform Username: BakerWebS16, Password: CareerPrep2020! All Baker students have access to this virtual platform, with videos and resources that give you a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of hundreds of occupations. To get started, click on the Careers menu at the top, then Career Central. From there, click on the Filter By: Cluster button, and select Health Sciences from the menu on the left-hand side.


Knowledge & Skills

There are many classes you can take at your local community college to help build foundational knowledge and skills that will prepare you for the healthcare industry. If you're a Baker Web Academy student who would like to take one or more courses through your community college, contact our Enrollment Specialist, Kimberly Linn.

Here are a few I strongly recommend—


Some community colleges will offer courses like Intro to Health Care Systems and even Orientation to Public Health Professions or Healthcare Career Essentials. Talk with your advisor about opportunities at your local campus (or online) to see ways that you can learn more about the foundations of health care. Other fun class options in this realm include Health and Social Justice, Health Psychology, and First Aid & CPR, through which you earn a certification and course credit!

Sciences Hopefully it's no surprise that sciences make up a major piece of the foundation for many Health Science occupations! While in high school, you'll want to take a Biology sequence, a Chemistry sequence, and as much Anatomy & Physiology as you can fit into your schedule. Pro tip: go for the 200-level science sequences — they are more rigorous but will better prepare you, plus they are more likely to count for credit at the university level and are often prerequisites for two-year technical programs like nursing and dental hygiene.

Interpersonal Communication This one is less obvious, but just as important when it comes to gaining foundational skills needed to thrive among the healthcare occupations. This is because you are more likely than not to be working directly with patients and are expected to be able to communicate effectively and respectfully one-on-one, sometimes in high-pressure situations.


Again, you'll likely be working with people if you go into these fields, so understanding the behind-the-scenes of human behavior can be essential. And while some of the jobs are focused on physical health, other careers in this cluster are focused on mental and emotional health. If you've got your eye on an occupation in the Therapeutic Services pathway in particular, be sure to put a psychology class (or two or three) on your course plan.

Medical Terminology For those of you who are eager to get into the technicalities! Let me start by warning you: this class is not easy. The course description alone is a mouthful. But gaining an understanding of medical terminology will be foundational in almost every single career under the Health Services umbrella.

Want some personalized guidance? Click here to schedule a meeting with your career & college counselor today. Allison Styffe works with BEC students in Central, Southern, and Eastern Oregon. Jennifer Tracewell works with all BWA students as well as BEC students in Portland, Salem, and Eugene.
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