The single-handed most critical, yet annoying question any college student may be asked is the following: “What are you majoring in?” While many individuals may be fortunate enough to have this question figured out, others struggle to even wrap their minds around committing to one of the many majors Pacific Union College has to offer. Although PUC is especially known for its pre-med, pre-dent, and nursing programs, there are also plenty of options offered in allied health.
So, what careers do allied health studies lead to? Fear not, here are just a few occupations one can have with a background in allied health: physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, x-ray technician, radiology technician, nutrition/dietetics, speech-language pathology, and more, including a new program in diagnostic medical sonography. There are close to 20 different allied health options for students to choose from! See a full list of PUC’s majors, including all of the allied health programs, at puc.edu/admissions.
Yet, many incoming college students are unaware of the boundless possibilities—aside from pre-med, pre-dent, and nursing—that healthcare has to offer. So, the question remains, how does one go about pursuing a career in allied health? In light of these questions, PUC’s very own allied health adviser, Vicki Saunders, offers insight on how to become an allied health professional.
What is your role at PUC?
I am an assistant professor of nutrition and I also coordinate the two-year health sciences degree program.
What is your favorite part about being an adviser?
My favorite part about being an adviser is the one-on-one conversations with students. What can I say? For the most part, it is very rewarding.
Can you explain what pre-professional programs are?
Pre-professional programs are tracks in undergraduate programs that prepare you to continue on to another institution to earn a professional degree after completing a series of prerequisite classes, which generally are 1-2 years (though a few programs now require a four-year degree). The term “pre-professional” is a bit confusing, as it applies to a much broader group than just pre-allied health programs; it can include pre-allied health programs as well as pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, etc. I specifically work with students who have chosen to study pre-allied health programs. (See a full list of PUC’s majors, including all of the allied health programs, at puc.edu/admissions.)
What is a piece of advice you can give to incoming students interested in pursuing a career in allied health?
Well, if they are not here yet, I suggest they start shadowing. If they are shadowing, they can get a form on Loma Linda University’s website (or other prospective schools) for tracking shadowing hours. Many schools now require individuals applying to allied health programs to complete a certain number of shadowing hours. For example, physical therapy requires 80 hours of shadowing versus occupational therapy requires only 40 hours. Some therapies don’t require a lot of hours, but it is good to shadow and observe what these professionals do to see if it’s a fit for you. Different personalities click with different professions. Some professions are behind the scenes, while others require contact with people regularly.
Given how competitive some pre-professional and allied health programs are, what are some tips on how to succeed?
One tip is to take all the sciences you can in high school to give yourself a foundation. It’s probably not a good idea to try to skip chemistry and physics in high school if you want to get into a physical therapy program in college. There are some schools that are really academically challenging, but a large number of schools are not as rigorous. However, incoming students can’t doodle around their freshman year—they may miss out on what they want to get into. One of the biggest errors students make is looking at a schedule of 16 class credits plotted on their calendars and say, “look at all that free time!” Sixteen hours represents approximately a 40-hour week. They need to consider more than just time in classes; there’s studying, prepping for class and projects, writing research papers, etc. College students end up knowing how to balance time usually around their second year, although freshmen sometimes have a harder time doing that.
How do PUC’s pre-professional programs set themselves apart from programs offered by other schools?
It depends on which school one is looking at. Not all schools offer the A.S. degree in health sciences that we do. This is a way for students who are just attending college to complete prerequisites to also leave with a diploma. PUC is known for its high academic standards. When I was at LLU for an advisers’ conference, there were some PUC alumni who mentioned they had found that some of their college courses were more difficult at PUC than what they had found at LLU. Although we have not transitioned to a being a university, we are a very established college.
Interested in learning more about PUC’s degree in health sciences, or another allied health program? Talk with one of our enrollment counselors today! They can give you more information about each program’s requirements and advise you on what classes you should take to be prepared for PUC. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 862-7080, option 2 to talk with a counselor.