Allied Health Career Education

Allied Health Career Education

What is Allied Health?

Allied Health Professions is an umbrella phrase referring to numerous health care professions, most of which make up the support staff for the doctors. The definition of allied health professions is a matter of some debate. At its most basic, the phrase refers to any health care career other than nursing or medicine (doctors) that requires some form of postsecondary education. 

Even though the individual professions under allied health can be very different, there are many characteristics that the allied health professions share in common, including:

  • The requirement for a high school diploma or equivalent
  • The requirement for specialized training beyond high school
  • The frequent requirement to pass examinations, and/or obtain certification
  • The frequent requirement to obtain state licensing

The allied health professions make up a very large portion of the health care system in the U.S. According to the Health Professions Network (HPN), there are over 85 distinct occupations in allied health (excluding doctors and nurses). Over 6 million individuals work in these allied health careers.

Listing of Allied Health Professions

Following is a listing of many of the recognized allied health professions:

Anesthesiologist assistant Counseling professions - School counselor Medical Librarians
Art therapist Counseling professions - Student affairs practitioner Medical Transcriptionist
Athletic trainer Cytotechnologist Music therapist
Audiologist Dance therapist Music Therapy
Blindness and visual impairment - Low vision therapist Dental assistant Nerve Conduction Studies Technologist
Blindness and visual impairment - Orientation and mobility specialist Dental hygienist Nuclear medicine technologist
Blindness and visual impairment - Rehabilitation teacher Dental laboratory technician Nurse Aide Instructors
Blood bank technology - specialist Diagnostic medical sonographer Occupational therapy - Occupational therapist
Cardiovascular technologist Dietetics - Dietetic technician, registered Occupational therapy - Occupational therapy assistant
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Clinical assistant Dietetics - Registered dietitian / nutritionist Ophthalmic assistant
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Clinical laboratory scientist / medical technologist Electroneurodiagnostic technologist Ophthalmic dispensing optician
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Clinical laboratory technician / medical laboratory technician Emergency medical technician - paramedic Ophthalmic medical technician / technologist
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Cytogenetic technologist Exercise Science Orthoptist
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Diagnostic molecular scientist Genetic counselor Orthotist and prosthetist
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Histologic technician / histotechnologist Health Education Poetry Therapy
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - PathologistsҠassistant Health information administrator Polysomnographic Technology
Clinical laboratory science / medical technology - Phlebotomist Health information technician Radiologic technology - Magnetic resonance technologist
Counseling professions - Career counselor Histotechnology Radiologic technology - Medical Dosimetrist
Counseling professions - College counselor Interventional Radiology Radiologic technology - Radiographer
Counseling professions - Community counselors Kinesiotherapist Radiologic technology - Radiologist Assistant
Counseling professions - Counselor educator Magnetic Resonance Technology Radiologic technology - Radiology Administrators
Counseling professions - Gerontological counselor Massage therapist Recreational Therapy
Counseling professions - Marital, couple and family counselor Medical assistant Surgical Neurophysiology
Counseling professions - Mental health counselor Medical librarian Veterinary Medical Technology Program

Sources: The American Medical Association and The Health Professions Network

Educational Requirements for Allied Health Professions

The educational requirements vary significantly from profession to profession within allied health. As has already been stated, all require at least high school diploma or GED equivalent. All also require specialized study beyond high school. A common credential in allied health is an associate degree, and beyond that many workers get additional certifications or licenses related to their specialized field. Many jobs may also require bachelor and/or advanced degrees. Education in allied health disciplines typically includes both classroom and clinical study.

Career, vocational and technical education schools typically provide allied health education programs for professions that require less than a bachelor's degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Occupational Outlook Handbook", career schools (vocational and technical education schools) play a substantial role providing education for allied health professions that require an associate degree or less. Most of these programs provided by career schools last from 12 to 24 months and provide certificates, diplomas, or associate degrees.

It is very important when evaluating the educational institution and program of study to assess the accreditation status of both the institution and the program of study.

Licensing and Certification Requirements for Allied Health

Because there are so many allied health professions, the licensing and certification requirements vary significantly from profession to profession. There are, however, some similarities from one allied health career to another. These include

  1. Most require that an individual pass a proficiency examination for the chosen career
  2. Many require certification in that career
  3. Many require state licensing

It is important for an individual to understand these requirements when they are evaluating a specific allied health career.

Allied Health Resources


  1. "Who is under the allied health umbrella?" Anne Federwisch, Nurseweek, http://www.nurseweek.com/features/98-10/identity.html
  2. The Health Professions Network (HPN), http://www.healthpronet.org/
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