Pre-Health Professions

These are exciting and challenging times for you to become a healthcare professional. Niagara University offers a pre-health professions advisement program designed to help you make the best decision you can about your future in healthcare.


Dentists are doctors who prevent, diagnose and treat mouth, gum and tooth problems. Dentists treat tooth decay, fill cavities, have x-rays of the teeth and jaws taken and examine them, and put sealants on teeth to protect them. Dentists also repair broken and chipped teeth, perform corrective surgery, prescribe dentures and perform procedures such as root canals. A dentist is also involved in education: teaching patients how to brush and floss correctly, and other ways of preventing dental problems. After earning an undergraduate degree, the doctoral in dental medicine requires four years of dental school. Dentists work in private practice, armed services and federal, state and local health departments

Dentists oversee a number of different employees, such as dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental laboratory technicians, and dental office receptionists. Dentists can be general practitioners, or specialize in a number of fields. Orthodontists straighten patients' teeth with retainers and braces, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on patients' jaws and mouths. Periodontists treat gums and the bones that support the teeth, endodontists perform root canals, and oral pathologists study oral diseases.

Human Medicine

A physician or medical doctor must be able to apply medical knowledge to properly diagnose and treat a patient's ailment. A doctor may prescribe medication for a patient's treatment, or he/she may provide healthier lifestyle recommendations. If a patient's health concerns are beyond a physician's scope of practice, the patient is referred to another doctor who specializes in a specific area such as a pediatrics, orthopedics, surgery, radiology, cardiology or gastroenterology.

After earning an undergraduate degree, medical training requires four years of medical school, followed by 3-8 years of internship and residency depending on specialization chosen. Physicians work in hospitals, clinics, private or group practice, federal, state and local health departments, government agencies and medical schools.

Veterinary Medicine

A veterinarian is a physician for animals. The responsibilities of a veterinarian are varied because of the many species of animals needing treatment. Large animal veterinarians primarily treat farm animals such as goats, sheep, horses and cows. Small animal veterinarians are those that treat most of our pets animals like cats, dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits. Finally, exotic animal veterinarians can work at zoos and circuses, taking care of animals like elephants and giraffes or in private practice, treating exotic pets such as snakes and lizards. After earning an undergraduate degree, the doctorate in veterinary medical training requires four academic years at a college of veterinarian medicine. Veterinarians who plan to specialize will spend additional years in internships or residency programs. Veterinarians work in group or private practice, federal agencies such the Department of Agriculture or Department of Health and Human Services, research laboratories, animal food and pharmaceutical industries.

Just like medical doctors, veterinarians can work in general medicine, or they can specialize within their categories. For example, large animal vets can either provide general care for large animals, or they may specialize in areas like equine reproduction or large animal surgery. Other fields of specialty for veterinarians include orthopedics, radiology and oncology.


A pharmacist dispenses medications to patients, at the direction of a medical doctor, veterinarian, or dentist. Pharmacists can be found working in the pharmacy section of drugstores, grocery stores, hospitals, or clinics. After spending two or more years in undergraduate coursework, the doctorate in pharmacy requires four academic years in graduate school, which is accredited by the American Council of Pharmaceutical Education. In addition, pharmacists need to be constantly furthering their education by keeping up on the latest research and newest drugs being developed. Pharmacists work in hospitals, health clinics, retail chains, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and health insurance firms.

Pharmacists are responsible for ordering and dispensing drugs and medications, and advising both patients and doctors about possible drug interactions. They also consult with patients to make sure that patients understand how to use their prescription drugs as well as which side effects might occur as a result of these medications. Pharmacists may also work in the field of research, testing and studying new drugs to check safety and effectiveness.


An optometrist is a doctor of optometry or OD. Optometrists have licenses that allow them to conduct eye examinations, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and diagnose some eye disorders. They test color perception, depth perception, and visual acuity. Optometrists also routinely check for symptoms of glaucoma and other eye diseases. For conditions requiring surgery, optometrists refer patients to ophthalmologists. Some optometrists provide pre- and post-operative care to patients undergoing eye surgery, although optometrists do not perform the surgery.

After earning an undergraduate degree, the doctorate in optometry (OD) requires four academic years at optometry school. Many optometrists work in private practice, vision care centers, hospitals, physicians' offices, armed services and government organizations. Optometrists can specialize in pediatric optometry, vision therapy, ocular disease and public health.