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Alternative pathways

A page within Pre-Health Student Resource Center

Have a parallel plan!

It is always a good idea to consider alternate options, even if you're sure of what you want to do. The list below is not meant to be exhaustive, but it will give you some examples to spur your exploration. 

If you are looking for ideas and in-depth guidance, consider taking HP 106: Introduction to Health-Related Careerstaught by Pre-Health Center staff. 

Alternative pathways blocks

See undergraduate and graduate programs at UWL

Whether you are exploring majors, or considering new graduate paths, UWL has plenty of options - many of which might be new to you. See our Healthcare pathways page

Explore health-related certificates, degrees, and post-baccalaureate programs


Career changers/accelerators

Associate's degrees through the Wisconsin Technical College System

  • WI technical colleges list - a list of technical college options in WI; note that many programs offer strong career opportunities, even as a tack-on after a bachelor's degree
  • Western Technical College – Biomedical Electronics, Medical Coding Specialist, Physical Therapy Assistant, Respiratory Therapy, and others 
  • Madison Area Technical College – Medical Billing Specialist, Medical Laboratory Technician, Radiography, and others 
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College - Cardiovascular Technology, Mortuary Science, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Surgical Technology, and others 
  • There are sometimes wait-lists for healthcare-related associate degree programs
Learn about gap-year options

Gap years have become increasingly common in recent years - for example, according to the AAMC, 44 percent of students enrolling in medical school in 2019 took at least one gap year.

Still, it's important to ask yourself: why am I considering a gap year?

If your GPA is a concern, use a GPA calculator to see how your GPA changes by retaking a class, or by adding new classes:

There are many options for "academic record enhancement", from taking a few courses to enrolling in a graduate program. Many students find that a formal post-baccalaureate program, with its built-in supports and professional focus, help them achieve their goals. These programs can be expensive though, so it's important to weigh out the costs and benefits. 

If your academic profile is strong, gaining experience is a great way to improve your chances of a successful application. See below for some ideas to get you started:

Service opportunities (note: these are competitive applications!):

    Temporary jobs:

Keep letters of evaluation in mind as you move forward. Don't lose touch with potentially strong letter writers, and think about how your next steps might lead to new people that will be "in your corner". 

Pursue a nursing degree

Nursing info

Nursing overview

Overview of the Profession 

Nurses work hands-on to provide and coordinate critical care for patients in a variety of settings. Education can start with short-term certificates (Certified Nursing Assistant), and continue all the way up to the doctoral level (Nurse Practitioner)While one can become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree, there is a growing movement for nurses to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum.  

Nursing at UWL is a “pivot” not a major or a track! UWL students sometimes graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a science discipline, to then begin a post-baccalaureate or accelerated nursing program. 

Learn about the nursing profession at 


Prerequisite coursework can vary by program, but may include the following: 


  • General Biology (BIO 105)  
  • Anatomy & Physiology I & II (BIO 312 & BIO 313) 
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology (MIC 230)


  • General Chemistry I & II (CHM 103 & CHM 104) 


  • Elementary Statistics (STAT 145) or Mathematical Models in Biology (MTH 265) 

Social Sciences 

  • General Psychology (PSY 100)  
  • Introduction to Sociology (SOC 110) or similar 
  • Lifespan Development (PSY 212) or similar upper level PSY/SOC course 

Additional recommendations 

  • Human Nutrition (NUT 200) 
  • At least one advanced Biology course, e.g. Genetics (BIO 306) 

Wisconsin programs where UWL students often apply: 

  • Gain patient care experience: Get "hands-on" care in any health-related setting. CNA, phlebotomist, EMT, resident assistant, and camp nurse are common roles - many positions can be found on HandshakeMost students will get a CNA certification, which helps open up some additional work opportunitiesWestern Technical College in La Crosse has a program with flexible class times.  
  • Shadow or observe the profession: once you are interested in nursing shadowing is a good next step. It can be a challenge to find shadowing opportunities in healthcare settings, but you can find tips here. Keep in mind, nurses work in a variety of settings and specialty areas - one shadowing experience probably doesn't tell you whether the profession is right for you. 

Selecting programs: The AACN American Association of Colleges of Nursing website has a program directory. You can use the Pre-Health Center’s Organizer tool to keep track of the requirements of the programs you are considering.  

Testing: varies, and is sometimes not required; TEAS is common when an entrance exam is required. 

How to apply: Each program has its own application process. See some example programs in the “Coursework” tab. has an excellent guide to accelerated nursing programs. 

Timelinedeadlines for programs vary, so always communicate with the programs for which you plan to apply. In general, plan well ahead of time; for example, UW-Madison’s application period runs from July to September, for a start date of the following May. Keep in mind, it is ok to take a year to work and gain experience prior to applying.  

See Apply with confidence for more information on personal statements, letters of recommendation, interviewing, and more. 

Wisconsin programs where UWL students often apply: 

An alumni story

Sarah Baar

Bachelor of Science in Biology, May 2015
Now working as an RN (Registered Nurse)

Picture of Sarah Baar, UWL 2015

What advice do you have for students that are reconsidering their options in healthcare?

Shadow, shadow, shadow. Even if you think you are 100% positive about the career path you are on, shadow someone in that career and make sure that you can picture yourself doing and enjoying that career for many years to come. 

What were your original career goals, and what did you end up doing?

Originally I wanted to be a physician, either in OB or pediatrics. I now work as a nurse on a pediatric inpatient neuroscience and trauma unit.

What/who helped you decide on your eventual goal?

Through my time at UWL, I took a plethora of science classes while working towards my biology degree. In addition to taking theses courses, I also volunteered in the Emergency Department at Gundersen. Through this experience, I was encouraged to shadow different doctors and providers to determine what route I truly wanted to take in the huge world that is healthcare. After countless shadow experiences, in many different areas of medicine, I found my favorite to be nursing. I enjoyed being at the bedside and carrying out the plan put in place by the healthcare team, nurses included.

What’s one great thing about your job?

I find the greatest amount of joy in helping others. Today, I have the honor of working with some the strongest kids I know. Having a front row seat to the resilience my patients show, accompanied with their true love for life and the curiosity they have for the world around them provides me with a sense of fulfillment I never thought I’d feel in any job.

And one tough thing about your job?

Losing a patient who is only a child and seemingly had their whole life ahead of them, is still, and will always be a very challenging part of this profession.

Find a full-time job in healthcare

Full-time professional roles in health care settings, through employers such as LHI, Mayo, Gundersen, MCW, and others. Often, these employers post their positions in Handshake, but you can also go to and search for these positions to learn more!

  • Laboratory Technician/Laboratory Support Technician
  • Patient Liaison
  • Health Unit Coordinator
  • Provider Network Contracting Specialist
  • Clinical Research Coordinator 
  • Tumor Registrar/Cancer Registrar
  • Counseling/Mental Health/Social Work professions 
  • Research Associate
  • Medical Scribe
  • Check out Biopharmguy - a directory of entry-level biotechnology, pharmaceutical, & medical device companies and jobs
Pathways decorative