Health Science Pathways

This is the first in a series of career specific pathways guides that we will be appending to the New Pathways Handbook. The rest of the guides will be released in September 2024.

The health sciences are one of the largest drivers of the economy and offer some of the most exponential growth opportunities. We will continue to add to this resource as we find new exemplars of innovative health pathways.


The health sciences sector is full of emerging opportunities. Harnessing the power of synthetic biology and artificial intelligence will unlock new possibilities for preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases, ultimately improving human health, well-being, and longevity. For the next decade, health sciences will have one of the highest job growth potentials of any pathway and will also unleash the greatest entrepreneurial opportunities. Policy challenges range from age restrictions on formal internships and balancing access to more systemic and philosophical challenges like grappling with data privacy, gene editing, and caring for an aging population.  

While to date, health fields have specialized in treatment, over the next few years, the sector will become increasingly personalized and preventative, meaning the merging of health jobs with community wellness roles. This holistic approach to health will encompass physical, mental, and social well-being, with a focus on preventive care to reduce chronic disease incidence. Recognizing the importance of social determinants of health, integrated care models now combine medical services with social support, fostering collaboration among healthcare providers, social workers, and wellness professionals. Increased funding, policy support, and advancements in digital health technologies further facilitate this integration, enabling comprehensive and community-focused healthcare services. More specifically, with an aging population, there will be an increased need for geriatric medicine and senior care. 

On the technology front, multi-modal artificial intelligence is set to radically change the diagnostic and telemedicine industry in the next 1-3 years, making precision diagnoses from afar and generating referrals and advice as a first touch. These technologies will also radically open the gates of possibility for new entrepreneurial ventures and real-time data. Because much of the health sector is dependent on licensure, this industry is ripe for entrepreneurial disruption. That said, in most health pathways there is little focus on business, finance, or administration. These lateral pathways skills will be key to building into next-generation health science pathways, in addition to computer science, STEM, and more. 

As we grapple with global health challenges and technological advancements, the demand for skilled health professionals has never been greater. Yet, a significant gap looms ahead: a burgeoning demand for health professionals contrasted starkly with insufficient interest and engagement among youth. In the following sections, you’ll see pioneering examples of industry and educational partnerships that are working to bridge this gap through career exploration, skills development, and community connections. 

Early exposure to health-related curricula and careers can ignite lifelong passions and direct students toward fulfilling and critically needed roles in society. However, despite the clear need and opportunities within this field, many students remain unaware of the potential careers beyond traditional roles such as doctors or nurses. This is partly due to a lack of comprehensive health sciences programs in early education and a pervasive misunderstanding of the field’s scope among students and educators alike. These jobs are key pathways to economic mobility, most are not at risk of automation and many of them do not require a four-year degree. 

[…] because we’ve done comparatively little in this country to grow apprenticeships beyond their cozy home in construction. In Europe and Australia, it’s common to find apprentices in financial services, healthcare, and technology.

Ryan Craig

There are an estimated two million open healthcare industry jobs and an additional two million are expected by 2031. According to a report from Josh Bersin, “the traditional solutions of recruiting new hires, retaining employees, and reskilling the workforce will only close half of the predicted future provider gap.” 


When we say Health Sciences, we’re talking about a wide swath of industry applications captured by some of the following bigger buckets:

  • Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals: This industry focuses on the research, development, and production of biotechnological and pharmaceutical products, including medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics.
  • Healthcare Services: This broad category includes hospitals, clinics, and private practices where medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and therapists provide direct patient care. It also covers ancillary services such as imaging, laboratory work, and emergency care.
  • Public Health: This sector is concerned with the prevention of disease and the promotion of health at the community and population levels. It includes roles in epidemiology, health education, environmental health, and health policy.
  • Medical Devices and Equipment: This industry involves the design, manufacture, and supply of medical devices and equipment, ranging from surgical instruments to advanced diagnostic machines.
  • Health Informatics and Information Management: Specializing in the management of healthcare data and information systems, this industry focuses on improving patient care through technology. It includes health information management and health informatics professionals.
  • Research and Development: This area focuses on scientific research related to understanding various diseases and developing new treatments and health technologies.
  • Mental Health Services: This industry includes the provision of mental health care and counseling services, addressing mental illnesses and promoting mental well-being.
  • Rehabilitation Services: Specializing in helping patients recover, maintain, or improve physical and cognitive abilities that have been impaired, this industry includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists.
  • Long-term Care and Support: This sector focuses on providing long-term care services for individuals who need assistance with everyday activities, such as the elderly or those with chronic conditions or disabilities.


As indicated by this short list of possible future roles, there is a large opportunity for entrepreneurship in this sector. Students should be exposed to both global challenges and trends, as well as emerging technology and asked questions about global health to spur innovative ideas. A rough list of emerging entrepreneurial opportunities are:  

  • Genomic Sequencing Services
  • Biotech Drug Development
  • CRISPR Technology Applications
  • Microbiome Therapeutics
  • Telehealth Platforms
  • Wearable Fitness Technology
  • Nutritional Genomics
  • Mental Health Tech
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Healthcare IT Solutions
  • Virtual Reality for Therapeutic Use
  • Healthcare Facilities Management
  • Healthcare Robotics
  • Elderly Care Technology
  • Health and Wellness Retreats
  • Environmental Health Solutions


Although many of these programs offer some credentials, this space is still ripe for innovation. In Missouri, schools have identified five micro-credentials in biotech that map to the Project Lead the Way biomedical sciences pathways. These credentials can be earned as early as freshman/sophomore year and serve as an effective retainment strategy for keeping students in the program. These credentials are being developed with the Bioscience Core Skills Institute (CoreSkills Institute).

Pre-existing licenses and credentials are great ways to earn a higher wage, be competitive in the job market and have real-world experiences that help inform affinities. A few licenses growing in utility and capable of setting students apart: 

  • Phlebotomy Technician Certification: A phlebotomy certification allows individuals to collect blood samples from patients. It’s a specialized skill that can be useful in many healthcare settings.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): High school students can often take courses to become a CNA, which provides an excellent introduction to patient care. CNAs work under the supervision of nurses to provide basic care to patients.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Certification: This certification is more advanced and involves a more significant time commitment but can provide invaluable experience in emergency medical services. EMTs learn how to respond to emergency situations and provide critical care in the field.

Common licenses that high schoolers may be able to get:

  • CPR and First Aid Certification: Basic yet essential, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and First Aid certifications are fundamental for anyone looking to enter the healthcare field. These certifications are often offered by organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.
  • Medical Scribe Training: While not always requiring formal certification, becoming a medical scribe involves learning medical terminology and documentation practices. Medical scribes work alongside physicians to take notes during patient visits, allowing doctors to focus more on patient care.
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician – National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
  • Certified Patient Care Technician – National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  • Certified Electrocardiography (EKG) Technician ­— National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Certification ­ — American Heart Association (AHA)/American Red Cross

Health Pathways Town Hall

On a recent Getting Smart Town Hall, we featured voices from JFF, Advance CTE, NAF and Project Lead the Way who shared great insights about the future of careers in the health sciences.

What Can K-12 Schools Do About It? 

From elementary through high school, these programs are not just about teaching biology or chemistry; they are about creating immersive, hands-on experiences that reveal the real-world impact of health sciences. This includes partnerships with local hospitals, research projects with universities, and technology-driven simulations that bring the human body and its complexities to life.

In order for these pathways to stay nimble, many of the health science pathways are mapped to the Allied Health Core Curriculum. By approaching pathways through this lens, students personal interest is able to drive their entry point and enables them to gather broader skills as they are on the journey for more specific pathways.

Multiple large foundations have set their sights on enabling careers in Health Science through radical giving and focus. The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City has been working to create Real World Learning definitions and map them to Health Science pathways. Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced a $250 million initiative to create new high schools nationwide that will graduate students directly into high-demand healthcare jobs with family-sustaining wages. This first-of-its-kind initiative pairs public education systems and hospitals in 10 communities including urban and rural locations. From the press release, “As part of this initiative, all health system partners have committed to providing job opportunities for students who successfully complete the graduation requirements of their respective programs.” 

Additionally, the CHIPS and Science Act enables high schools to leverage federal dollars to create more robust STEM programming, much of which supports a career in the broad and interdisciplinary health sciences sector. 

By highlighting these and other success stories, this publication urges school districts nationwide to consider the relevancy of their pre-existing health pathways, while also calling on districts without clearly articulated health science pathways to reconsider and begin development. It is a call to action for educational leaders to recognize the critical role they play in the workforce pipeline, ensuring that students are not only aware of but are prepared for the vast opportunities that a career in the health sciences holds.

School Models

The programs featured in this publication are at the forefront of educational innovation. They offer compelling evidence of what is possible when schools commit to preparing students for the future of healthcare. Many of these schools and programs leverage accelerated pathways (dual enrollment or H-TECH models), unbundled credit-bearing experiences in the community or through virtual reality), and credentialed experiences like getting a CNA while still in high school.

Del Lago Academy

Del Lago Academy in Escondido, California prepares students for opportunities in healthcare and biotech and partners with local medical organizations to extend learning beyond the classroom. The academy was opened in 2013 by Escondido UHSD to extend access to careers in healthcare and biotech. The four pillars of the 800-student high school include: heal the world, fuel the world, feed the world, restore and protect the environment. Students engage in an interdisciplinary project focused on one of the pillars each semester. Juniors work alongside an industry professional for six weeks. 

Healthcare Careers Academy

Healthcare Careers Academy in Tacoma is a four-year, part-time high school program offered at two different high schools (Stadium and Mount Tahoma) where students engage in four years of healthcare skill-building and experiences. While ninth and tenth graders, students explore passions, have the opportunity to earn 5 certifications and learn about healthcare pathway choices from colleges and professionals. In eleventh and twelfth grade, students are connected to college partners to learn about healthcare programs, admissions, scholarships, and more. Additionally, this academy offers the Next Move Internship Program, where upper-level students have the choice to engage in one or more of the following: 60-90 hours healthcare internships guided by an industry mentor, 6-8 hour “shadow” to observe a college lab or healthcare facility, one-on-one informational interviews with a healthcare professional, or healthcare related volunteer activities. Key to the success of this program is the way that students are supported by various members of the program including their cohort of peers and upper-level students; high school teachers, many with a background in healthcare; a career readiness internship coach; college healthcare program students and staff; and working professionals. 

Ballard High School

Ballard High School in Seattle, WA offers three innovative biotechnology courses: Biotech Biology, Biotech Genetics, and Systems Medicine. These courses incorporate real-world phenomena into the curriculum, developed in collaboration with prestigious institutions such as the Institute for Systems Biology and UW Genome Sciences. This curriculum begins with an introduction to professional skills and project-based learning, goal setting and portfolio development. Then juniors and seniors begin their more personalized schedules with internships, dual enrollment courses and capstone experiences. Juniors meet with industry mentors monthly during the first semester and take a five-week introduction to Essential Workplace Skills. During the second semester, they engage in a 10-12 week internship (at least 70 hours).

Michael DeBakey High School for Health Professions

Michael DeBakey High School for Health Professions was the first High School for Health Professions in the nation. Opening in Houston, TX in 1972, this program began with  45 students attending classes at Baylor College of Medicine and continues to connect students to real-world learning experiences through a partnership with the Texas Medical Center. 

Aldine ISD

Aldine ISD in Houston, Texas partnered with Memorial Hermann Health System to redesign a local high school with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to expose and prepare students for opportunities in the medical field. The collaboration not only equips young people with future-forward skills but also places them directly in a pipeline to work in a high-demand industry, addressing the medical desert in which the school district is situated.

Health Leadership High School

Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque, NM prepares young people to become community health advocates and leaders in the healthcare industry. With just shy of 200 learners from 14-24 years old, the school is part of the Leadership Schools Network serving marginalized and disengaged youth. Each summer the staff solicits project ideas from community health providers. They do not have ‘courses,’ rather they have projects and most students work on three per day. Every project must have deliverables valuable to the community. All students in the network benefit from paid internships. they train kids to be health advocates (self, family, community) and were able to get kids quickly active in the pandemic response (see feature).


Central High

An hour west of O-Hare (Chicago, IL), Central High School brings college and career readiness to life for 1,300 learners in a rural community. Working with counselors and SchoolLinks, 8th grade students self-assess their interests. In 9th and 10th grade they explore college and career options and in 11th grade, they analyze their interests and experiences to start to make a plan. Finally, in 12th grade, they create their individualized postsecondary plan. The program features a Veterinary Science program (the only NAVTA-approved program in the area), an entrepreneurship program, and media production program that live streams sporting events.

Collegiate Edu-Nation

Collegiate Edu-Nation, a network of 17 rural Texas districts, offers something like a rural P-TECH program by combining dual enrollment and work-based learning. For Health Science, they use the OneHealth model which focuses on animal, human and environmental health and takes students through a progression of awareness, exploration, preparation and career training. While rooted in Texas, they are beginning to work in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

Louisa County School District

The CTE program at Louisa County School District in Virginia offers a robust set of 17 industry-connected pathways, including a Teacher Academy (after starting a district early childhood center), Health Sciences and a variety of trades. 


In 2011, IBM infused work experiences and employment opportunities into the dual enrollment model and supported the development of Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). These schools focus on durable skills such as good work habits and interpersonal skills, as well as technical skills that are specific to the program and community partnerships. P-TECH requires coordination between secondary, postsecondary, and employers laying the foundation for opportunities to integrate green skills and lead to green jobs. Utilities companies have a huge opportunity to play more of a role in this transition as well. There is an emerging opportunity (and options) to have these programs specialize in health based on community partnerships and assets, these programs are called H-TECHs.  

Polytechnic School

At the Polytechnic School in Pasadena, CA, Dr. Bala Selvakumar hosts a genomics research seminar where students identify an area of interest, formulate a research question, collect data, and publish results in a journal of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Topics range from the use of AI to improve the diagnosis and quality of care of medical challenges like food allergies; to the role of societal inequities in the incidence of cancer; to the influence of environment versus genetics within the context of posttraumatic stress disorders, diabetes, tendon injuries and cancer; to the lack of diversity in clinical studies and its impact on healthcare for those under- or not represented. 

Roosevelt H-TECH

Roosevelt H-TECH in Dallas, Texas offers college credit (amounting to an Associate’s Degree),  internship opportunities and exploration in both Allied Health and Business Management fields.

Fox Tech

Nursing and Healthcare at Fox Tech in San Antonio ISD is set up to feel like a hospital, with an ER room, a nurse’s station and a pharmacy. Here, the students can earn Phlebotomy Certification, Patient Care Tech Certification, among others. Students at the H-Tech also have the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree while still in college and also get connected to interviews for open job opportunities upon graduation. They partner with Alamo Colleges District and San Antonio College. 

St. Vrain Eagle Tech

St. Vrain Eagle Tech at Frederick High School works with Aims Community College and Northern Colorado Bioscience and Pharmaceutical companies to graduate students with a high school diploma and Associate of General Studies (AGS) degree in 4-6 years. This program offers a pathway in biochemistry. Along with college courses, students receive mentorships and internships through Agilent Technologies, KBI Biopharma, AGC Biologics or Corden Pharma to provide real-world experiences to supplement their academic coursework.

Project Lead the Way

Lincoln-West School of Science and Health

Lincoln-West School of Science and Health located in Cleveland, Ohio is the only school embedded in a public hospital. Through mastery-based learning and interdisciplinary studies, students are able to participate in powerful real-world learning in all subject. The fields not only include patient care, but also human resources, information technology, marketing and communications, food services, and engineering.

Summit Technology Academy

Summit Technology Academy in Southeast Kansas City, MO offers a year-long program designed for juniors and seniors who aim to explore careers in Allied Health or plan to pursue healthcare programs in college. Throughout the course, students will immerse themselves in medical terminology and engage in projects across various disciplines including Physical Therapy, Radiology, Respiratory Therapy, Dentistry, Occupational Therapy, EMT, Surgical Technology, Chiropractics, Athletic Training, and more. The curriculum also focuses on personal resume development and provides internship and externship opportunities. Additionally, students have the chance to earn industry-recognized credentials such as Basic Life Saver CPR, OSHA 10 Healthcare, and HIPAA training, equipping them with essential skills for their future careers. Students who take Allied Health at STA and have a 3.0 unweighted GPA/95% attendance may also choose to participate in a university partnership program called KUDegree in 3 (KUD3), in which students begin to earn a bachelor’s degree while still in high school.

Clairemont High

Clairemont High opened in 1958 and now serves 820 students, making it one of the smaller high schools in San Diego USD. In 2015, with help from ConnectEd, the Clairemont staff implemented career pathways that gave learners the choice of four academies: Business, Digital Media Production, Health and Medical Science, and Information Technology. 

Elkhorn Crossing High School

Elkhorn Crossing High School in Georgetown, Kentucky boasts a “Health Sciences Village,” a place to earn credentials like NOCTI, Biotechnology, EKG Technician and Pharmacy Technician industry certification and also Dual Credit English through University of Kentucky.

NAF Academies

Calvin Coolidge High School

Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington D.C. is a four-year career education program that provides students with rigorous health and science coursework (through PLTW), in addition to college and career exposure, tailored academic support, and mentorship opportunities that go from Health Careers Exploration in year one, through principles of biomedical sciences and human body systems and ends with Medical Interventions in year four. 

Porterville High School Academy of Medical Careers AOHS

Porterville High School Academy of Medical Careers AOHS in California offers NAF Global Health, an introduction public health on a global scale. Through this program, students discover what disease is and investigate how it impacts world populations. By studying different societies, they learn about the relationship between health and socioeconomic development. Learners discover how environmental, nutritional, and behavioral risk factors jeopardize health and understand how communities, governments, and cooperative global efforts can intervene to improve health.

Unbundled Experiences

Artificial Intelligence for Global Health Challenge

The Artificial Intelligence for Global Health Challenge on KnoPro, is a great example of a way to get students working on health science-connected work. Students are challenged to answer the question: “How can AI be used to save lives and improve global health outcomes?” and win points, money, and more while gaining valuable skills and experiences.
The KnoPro platform from NAF extends client project opportunities to all students across multiple sectors. 

The Knowledge Society

The Knowledge Society, a Canadian youth accelerator, is another standout example of students tackling big health-related challenges using technology. We’ve heard from students like Rachel who, while not working on a health-related project, is using CRISPR to edit crop sequences, which is just one example of how interdisciplinary these strands are.

NFTE Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

NFTE Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge consists of eight months of local, regional and national business plan and pitch competitions. Thousands of students go on to compete in a high-stakes national championship in New York City. Each round is judged by a panel of experts including business leaders and successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time. Since NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge launched in 2006, millions of dollars in seed capital have been awarded and many of these projects have been focused on challenges within Health Sciences. 

Regeneron Science Fair

Regeneron Science Fair from Society for Science is a great example of the power of science fairs for connecting students to doing work that matters. When speaking with students who participated in this program we heard them say time and time again the importance of interdisciplinary learning as a way to open up avenues for opportunity and agency. 

Pathway Resources

Numerous resources exist to support career exploration and curriculum development, while also providing the tools needed by teams of guidance and advisory counselors to help students make their best next step.

ASA’s EvolveMe and FutureScape are great resources to help with middle-grade career exploration. Within these tools, students can find their way into Health Science Pathways and other opportunities for discovery. Through a partnership with Science Near Me and, students can search for science events near them and earn points within the career exploration platforms. Sci Starter is also working with ASU to create micro-credentials, starting with Girl Scouts badging.

Below are a few resources that are uniquely helpful for helping learners understand the possibilities of the Health Sciences sector and consindering if it is a good fit for them.  

  • PLTW Biomedical Sciences is a great curriculum to consult for integrating into your own school. 
  • Advance CTE Pathways Resources provides a helpful overview of the existing Health Science pathways with supports, possible careers and more.
  • Pathful (formerly Nepris) is a great tool for connecting you people to industry professionals in service of career exploration. 
  • Roadtrip Nation Health Sciences Interviews is a useful tool for hearing directly from health science professionals.
  • InnovateBIO High School Network offers a generous list of possible careers in addition to curricula to use to get students on a BioTech Pathway.
  • Penn State University has created multiple models of career exploration to help students be exposed to emerging careers and get face time with working professionals.
  • AHIMA also has a career map for students
  • HOSA–Future Health Professionals is an accumulation of resources for aspiring health science professionals.
  • MedCerts offers a set of pathways that begin with a certificate and point toward other stackable certificates and experiences that ultimately lead to a job.
  • Career Village and AI Career Coach – supports users asking for content around Health Science career pathways (see partner orgs who may support a variety of pathways – such as Opportunity @ Work)
  • – has a Health Science Community Forum – with WBL, scholarships, and more to explore.

Considerations for Getting Started

Start an H-TECH.

Improve partnerships with a local community college and lead business partners so students graduate with an AA degree, industry credentials and valuable work experiences.

Make it more interdisciplinary.

The future of health is interconnected and will require knowledge in tech, stats, computer science, entrepreneurship and complexity sciences. Consider integrating more exploratory strands alongside the more traditional health curriculum.

Make it multi-generational.

Do you have a facility where high school students can learn skills toward a career in health? Consider expanding those hours and opening it up to other members in the community  looking to re-skill and pivot.

Get comfortable with AI.

AI will play a huge factor in science. From proteins and rapid pattern mapping to being your virtual assistant and personal logistics specialist, students (and all other professionals) need to get ready for AI.

Consider the whole person.

As we’ve been discussing in other blogs and publications, the entire education system is in need of a radical shift toward whole-person thinking. This is true of the healthcare industry as well. How are you thinking about care and wellness as well as health? Where do interpersonal skills come into play?