If you watch CSI, you’ve likely had this thought at least once: How do crime scene investigators (CSIs) have time to do all of that work?! On the show, they photograph crime scenes, run and report on tests, interview witnesses and also arrest criminals. In reality, CSIs do a lot of important work, but some of what the show portrays are actually tasks that fall to forensic pathologists. CSI and forensic pathologist aren’t the only health care positions that are commonly misrepresented as interchangeable. Because there are key differences that you’re going to need to be aware of as you choose your career, this week we’re helping to relieve some of the confusion by exploring ten commonly confused positions.
CSI…or forensic pathologist?
Education requirements for these two positions set them apart. Requirements for CSIs are often set by the hiring agency. Some require a two-year degree, while others require a bachelor’s or even master’s degree with extensive study in both scientific subjects and criminal justice. Forensic pathologists must earn a bachelor’s degree, then a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). It takes a minimum of 13 years of education and training after high school to become a forensic pathologist.
Job duties are another area in which CSIs are different than forensic pathologists. CSIs spend most of their time in the field, working at crime scenes. Their job duties include diagramming and documenting these scenes and writing evidence collection and procedure reports. Forensic pathologists spend most of their time in the lab, performing autopsies or examining tissue samples under the microscope. They also ensure that procedures regarding evidence collection are followed and coordinate their work with law enforcement operations.
Athletic trainer… or personal trainer?
Athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited professional program at either the bachelor’s or master’s level. Personal trainers need certifications and should consider specialty certifications and CPR/AED.
Athletic trainers provide optimal patient care while working in a dynamic medical environment. They focus on the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. Fitness trainers can work in various environments, including gyms and homes, as they manage individual or small group exercise programs.
To become a psychiatrist, you first must earn a medical degree, after which you can enter a residency program in psychiatry. Post-graduate education in psychiatry consists of four years of residency training, of which at least three are in psychiatry. During the first year, the resident spends at least four months in general medical care, including internal medicine, family medicine or pediatrics, and at least two months in neurology.
To be a psychologist, you must earn a doctoral degree in psychology. In terms of curriculum, psychology students in traditional programs can expect to study both normal and abnormal functioning, focusing on the intersection of two critical relationships: the one between brain function and behavior and the one between the environment and behavior.
Most psychiatrists spend over 60% of their time with patients. Two-thirds of these patients are seen as outpatients, with the rest being seen in a hospital setting or increasingly in partial hospital or day programs and community residential programs. Many psychologists work independently. They also team up with other professionals to contribute to every area of society. That’s why you will find psychologists in laboratories, hospitals, courtrooms, schools and universities, community health centers, prisons and corporate offices.
Physician assistant…or medical assistant?
Physician assistants — sometimes incorrectly referred to as physician’s assistants — graduate from accredited PA programs, pass the national certification exam and obtain a license in the state where they plan on practicing. If this is your career aspiration, you cannot bypass any of these steps. To practice as a medical assistant, employers prefer graduates of formal programs in medical assisting. These programs are offered in vocational-technical high schools, post-secondary vocational schools, community and junior colleges and colleges and universities.
Physician assistants are medical providers who are licensed to diagnose and treat illness and disease and to prescribe medication for patients. They work in physician offices, hospitals and clinics in collaboration with a licensed physician. Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists running smoothly.
Orientation and mobility specialist…or occupational therapist?
Orientation and mobility programs offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Distance education classes are available to help you become an orientation and mobility specialist. Coursework, a practicum and an internship are required. To become an occupational therapist, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree and then go on to a master’s degree program in occupational therapy.
Orientation and mobility specialists work in varied environments including homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, hospitals and rural and urban communities. They provide direct service to clients as well as consultative services. Most occupational therapists work in hospitals or occupational therapy practices while others work in schools, physicians’ offices, home health services and nursing homes.
The health care field offers many opportunities for you to make a difference. If you’re not certain which one is best for you, try shadowing to make sure you choose the right path.