Careers in the health and life sciences are many and varied. You are probably familiar with numerous medical or practitioner roles, such as physician, dentist, physical therapist, or veterinarian, and may have interests in global or public health. But are you aware of career options in biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry, genome science, or science writing? Or how your interests in health and life sciences could intersect with careers in government, the creative sector, or innovation and entrepreneurship?
The Health and Life Sciences Career Options Guide is designed to provide you with a career development framework for charting your own pathway of investigation and exploration in various areas of science. Expand your thinking about how your skills, interests, strengths, and passions can find a career fit in the world of the health and life sciences—imagine the possibilities!
Each student is unique and the manner in which he or she chooses and plans for a career is highly individualistic. Through the process of self-inquiry, we can gain insights into our values, interests, skills, personality, and what we have learned from our unique set of experiences. Understanding ourselves is critical in career planning and development.
A Good Place to Start
- Review the Know Yourself section to begin learning more about you—who you are and who you are becoming.
- Use the self-assessment tools in CareerBeam to discover and understand your values, interests, personality, and more [CareerBeam > Career Exploration > Assessing Yourself].
- Schedule an appointment with a career adviser to have a conversation about your career questions.
TIP: Talk with, or develop, your Board of Directors; those individuals who know you well and could also reflect back to your strengths, skills or patterns you may not realize about yourself. This information can be part of your discovery process, too!
By learning more about the roles, day-to-day activities and tasks, environments, skills, and experiences for various careers, you will be better able to identify professional paths aligning with your own values, interests, skills, strengths, and personality. You can gain experience to help you in your exploration through classes, student organizations, clubs, service opportunities, work-study jobs, and internships—on campus and elsewhere.
Resources for learning more about careers
More than 70 career options within the field of health sciences
- Global Health Co-Major at Duke
A variety of resources for exploring careers in global health, from experiential learning opportunities and academic offerings, to career development resources and programming options
- Health Career Options
Duke’s Office of Health Professions Advising provides links to professional organizations, Duke student groups, and general and professional school information
- O*Net Health Science Career Cluster
Extensive information about job-related responsibilities, professional environments, salaries, skills required, options for employment, educational requirements, and more
- Public Health Online
Explore specialty areas within public health, identify programs of interest, and discover various career paths within the field of public health
Learn about the array of topics and careers in the bioscience world
- Biotech, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Company Directory
Research a variety of companies throughout the world by reading about their work and visiting the company’s Careers webpage—job and internship postings are also included
Career Exploration Tools
Research industry and company resources, reports, and tools to learn about careers and industries
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
Find career information on duties, education and training, pay, and outlook for hundreds of occupations—explore the Healthcare and Life, Physical, and Social Science occupational groups for options in the health and life sciences
- What Can I Do With This Major?
Explore possible career paths and typical hiring employers associated with a variety of academic majors to develop strategies for maximizing your career opportunities
TIP: Research Duke departmental websites for more extensive career-related information according to specific majors of interest.
Examples of career opportunities in Health and Life Sciences
physician, physical therapist, nurse practitioner, genetic counselor, vision therapist
- Public Health
maternal and child health, epidemiology, nutrition, environmental health, biostatistics
- Global Health
research and policy, program management, program development
Teaching, Education, e.g. teach science in K-12, postsecondary, or professional schools; science education research; develop funding strategies for science education
business development, client-facing product support, marketing
- Writing and Publishing
health communication, science journalism, science education materials
life sciences consulting, healthcare consulting, lobbyist for biotech
basic science, clinical, and translational research
- Government and Policy
science and technology policy, health policy advisor, work for governmental office [FDA, FBI, NIH, CDC, etc.]
- Nonprofit and Research Foundations
discovery specialist for research foundation, grants specialist
health innovation, digital health, mobile health, personalized medicine
- Creative sector
toy designer developing toys for infants; creating web-based scientific educational materials; web design, art, and/or writing for scientific organization; educational videos
TIP: Talk with a career adviser about possibilities for exploring career opportunities—at the intersection of your interests.
News sources help you stay abreast of current news, changes and developments in your career areas of interest.
- Science AAAS: Online journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science providing current science developments, career articles and resources, and job posting sites.
- Science Daily: Online news site covering discoveries in all fields of the physical, biological, earth and applied sciences.
- HealthcareDIVE: Online newsletter focused on the latest developments in health IT, practice management, hospital administration and more in health and healthcare industries. Website also has JOBS tab.
- BioSpace: Online community for industry news and careers for life sciences professionals.
Professional Organizations provide excellent resources for students, ranging from career development resources and student memberships, to job and internship postings.
- American Society for Microbiology: A life science society dedicated to promoting and advancing the microbial sciences.
- American Public Health Association: APHA champions the health of all people and all communities by influencing federal policy and bringing together public health practitioners from multiple fields of public health for collaborative and innovative problem-solving.
- American Medical Writers Association: A professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence in medical communication and providing educational resources in pursuit of that goal.
- American Chemical Society: ACS seeks to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people by advancing science, advocating for chemistry, enabling career development, supporting future chemists, and more.
- American Society of Human Genetics: ASHG’s mission is to advance human genetics in science, health, and society through excellence in research, education, and advocacy.
TIP: Search out professional organizations in career clusters of interest to learn more about career options, mentoring opportunities, recent news and research, and more.
Learn from other Dukies
- Reach out to Duke alumni through LinkedIn and the Duke Alumni Network LinkedIn Group to have a discussion about career paths, companies, and jobs.
- Duke students with more experience are great resources for learning about opportunities, finding positions, and networking with other Duke alumni.
Gaining experience through various opportunities is the best way to test your interests and learn whether a particular career is a good fit or not. If you think a career in the health professions is for you, put yourself in experiences where you serve patients and volunteer in a clinical environment.
If you are interested in other types of careers in the health and life sciences, find ways to do the type of work in which you are interested, whether that is through a formal internship or creating your own experience in collaboration with an individual or a group. Class projects, serving in student organizations, volunteering, shadowing and even —that summer job before college— can also provide information about your interests, skills, and strengths. Consider ways to get involved on campus and outside the walls of Duke:
Paid experience is the only type of experience that counts when testing out interests.
ALL experience counts as possible ways to explore your interests and develop skills. Think about both specific skills developed in a particular environment and transferable skills that you can invest in a variety of places and situations.
Student Organizations can provide connections with others interested in similar career pursuits. Explore various groups available using these resources.
- National Student Organizations and Duke Student Organizations
Explore the Health Career Options tab of the HPA website to find health-professions groups to join
Search DukeGroups for health-related student organizations of interest. Examples include, GlobeMed, Project HEAL, American Medical Women’s Association, Duke HOSA
- Departmental student groups
Find majors’ unions or other departmental-focused student groups—if the group has a listserv, be sure to sign up—you may learn about experiential opportunities through these emails
Find life-science-related student organizations of interest—examples of groups to check out, Genome Research & Education Society, Duke ASM, Duke UG Bioethics Society, Neurogenesis
Internships are short-term opportunities for you to get experience in a particular sector of the health and life sciences. Many companies and organizations have formal, well-defined internship experiences, but you may find a valuable experience that doesn’t have internship for a title. Excellent resources to begin your search for positions include:
The Duke Career Center’s online platform for internship and job postings (as well as events and appointment scheduling)
- iNet and UCAN internship databases
Contains hundreds of opportunities located in the United States and around the world
- Gain Experience on the HPA website
Experiences for pre-health students, including shadowing at Duke and beyond, listed with additional information.
Conducting research, whether basic science or clinical or translational research, is an important part of developing your experiential portfolio as a health and life sciences student at Duke. Use your time at Duke to explore research topics of interest and develop both technical and transferable skills in the process of seeking answers to hypothesis-driven questions. Consider developing your research interest into an independent study that could lead to a senior thesis, a powerful learning experience that may influence your career trajectory.
- Undergraduate Research Support Office
Including funding, tips for contacting mentors, links to finding faculty research and more—check out the Opportunities tab to find opportunities both at and away from Duke
Research networking system featuring the research, scholarship and activities of Duke faculty members and academic staff—find researchers to whom you may want to reach out
- Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research (MUSER)
A central web-based location for Duke faculty, postdoctoral researchers, lab managers, and graduate students to advertise undergraduate research positions
- Research student groups:
- Duke Undergraduate Research Society (DURS): Check out resources, research ambassadors, tips for connecting in research, research opportunities, and more.
- Duke American Society for Microbiology (ASM): Supports undergraduate research through techniques workshops, resources, networking opportunities, and more.
TIP: Don’t depend solely on finding posted opportunities for gaining experience or internships. Talk with professors, your Board of Directors, friends of your family, parents of friends, former supervisors or teachers, etc. to potentially identify opportunities that haven’t been—or won’t be—posted in some database or online.
Your search strategy for opportunities includes integration and culmination of the reflection, preparation and action you’ve experienced and in which you’ve engaged. An effective search strategy is built upon the critical elements of self-inquiry, career research, networking, and both written and spoken communication. Review the Search Strategically section of our website for more information.
Networking is a crucial part of an effective search—developing relationships with others
- Career Center Networking Guide
Learn the basics of networking and tips for success
Search for Duke alumni by industry, geography, company, and more—use this video tutorial to help you create a strong profile
Networking is something I won’t need to do if I am pursuing opportunities in the sciences.
Whether you are headed to professional school, industry, or laboratory research, reaching out to those who are doing work of interest to you, or who may know of possible opportunities, is invaluable in your search and learning process.
Events are held on campus with various employers throughout the academic year. Check lists of employers attending to identify those who align with your interests in the health and life sciences.
- Career Fairs
Review this list to discover all the career fairs promoted by the Career Center, both in-person and virtual
- Information Sessions
Monitor the CareerConnections calendar to see when employers of interest may be holding information sessions, either on campus or remotely online
Job & Internship Resources
The Duke online platform for internship and job postings (as well as events and appointment scheduling)
- iNet and UCAN
- Biotech, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Company Directory
Job and internship postings in addition to information about companies
- Internships/Co-ops and Summer Research Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Extensive list of paid summer opportunities in a variety of categories, including both domestic and international options
- Global Health Nonprofits | Change the World
Links to individual organization websites, such as WaterPartners International, American Refugee Committee, and Partners in Health
- Emory Rollins School of Public Health: Public Health Employment Connection
Listing of global public health jobs from a variety of employers around the world
Search for jobs and internships on and off campus at Duke
If I don’t have an internship/a job secured by [fill in an early semester date] I will never find one.
Be aware that different industries—and companies and organizations within industries—operate on different hiring timelines and recruiting schedules. Not all health and life sciences companies will come to campus to recruit, but that doesn’t mean there are not positions available to Duke students at your company of interest!
Examples of employers who have hired Duke health and life sciences students
(not all come to campus)
- RTI International
- NIH: Summer Internship Program and Post-baccalaureate IRTA
- Rock Health
- Science & Technology Policy Institute
- IBM Watson Health
- Triage Consulting Group
- Simon and Kucher Partners
- Partners in Health
- Omada Health
- Practice Fusion