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What Are the Different Types of Medical Courses?

By Patti Kate
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The landscape of medical courses is usually very broad, and can vary a lot from place to place. Breaking courses down into categories based on target audience is often the simplest approach. The most rigorous and in-depth courses are typically taught in university medical schools, and are intended for use in training the next generation of physicians. Nursing schools, which offer programs designed to train nurses, usually require a broad range of similar classes but usually have a slightly different focus and may not be as involved.

Medical assistants, technicians, and specialists in things like coding and billing usually also take classes, but these are often focused more on the basics. It’s often possible to find these sorts of classes offered at community colleges and vocational schools. In many places there are also a number of medical training courses offered for those interested in public health, usually in lower income communities or in developing countries around the world. Courses with this focus often highlight things like how to give injections and how to identify various contagious diseases and ailments. Finally, there are “continuing education” courses available for medical professionals in many parts of the world that are designed to help doctors, nurses, and others brush up on their skills or learn new and emerging trends. These sorts of courses are often offered over weekend-long seminars or conferences, and can sometimes be accessed online, too.

Courses Taught in Medical Schools

Classes taught in formal medical schools are often one of the first things that come to mind when people think about medical courses generally. Most medical schools are designed around a number of key topic areas, and students in the early years of study rotate through intensive studies of things like basic anatomy, the nervous system, and brain function. As they pass through these overviews they often drill down deeper, taking courses about specific conditions, treatment options, and medical techniques, as well as different specialties and focus areas. Book learning is usually combined with hands-on learning and practical experience, too. Medical school is a time-intensive endeavor in most parts of the world, and students often take courses for many years before they’re able to practice on their own.

Training for Nurses

Nursing programs are another place to find a range of medical programming options. Many of these courses are really similar to those offered in medical school settings, but rather than training students to be doctors they are training them to become nurses. A lot of the introductory coursework is similar, but the procedural and specialty-based classes tend to be very differently focused.

The growing field of physician’s assistant work typically follows a similar trajectory. Physician’s assistants often focus predominantly on patient care, and are often the first medical experts to treat or diagnose patients, particularly in busy hospitals or clinics. Their training is sometimes completed at medical or nursing schools, or in the health sciences wings of larger universities.

Medical Assistants and Specialists

The medical field also includes many technicians and specialists who perform often very specific tasks — operating ultrasound equipment, for instance, or running blood and tissue cultures. Most of the time there are medical courses specific to these sorts of personnel, too. Often times, the courses lead to specific degrees or licenses that permit work in a number of different settings.

Community Health Workers and Volunteers

In many places there are also courses offered as a means of training people who want to work or volunteer in health clinics or community health centers. Most of these centers have a doctor or nurse in an oversight capacity, but it’s often the case that there are more patients and problems than can be realistically addressed by just one or two people. Community health workers are often trained to be able to address minor injuries, administer routine injections, and offer seminars and community events on topics like baby care, basic hygiene, and disease prevention. The training and classes these sorts of workers need to take tend to be some of the least structured, and often vary significantly from place to place.

Continuing Education and Recertification Courses

In addition to the courses needed to qualify in a profession, many medical experts are also required to continue their education periodically, usually by attending regular conferences or lectures about developments in the field. Medical expertise and standards of care tend to evolve and develop over time, and the things that people may have learned in school sometimes become outdated. Requiring regular participation in continuing education is one way for regulatory authorities to ensure that medical professionals have access to the most cutting edge information, no matter how long they’ve been practicing.

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Discussion Comments

By Spotiche5 — On Jul 29, 2014

If you are planning to be a doctor or a surgeon, I don't think you will have to take medical billing classes. That will be handled by an employee when you start your medical practice after college.

By Rundocuri — On Jul 28, 2014

Though the medical classes you take in school will depend on the type of career you want to have, taking as many different classes as possible will make employers take notice of your diverse skills.

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