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Allied Health - Career Information

Allied Health picture    Allied Health image

The healthcare industry is expected to provide the most new jobs from 2012 to 2022, accounting for the employment of 15.6 million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact, of the 30 top jobs expected to have the largest job growth during that specific decade, 14 of them fall into healthcare, shows the BLS. This is due, in part, to a growing demand for healthcare workers to help address the needs of an aging Baby Boomer population in the U.S. More than 6 million people in the U.S. are employed as allied healthcare workers, reports the Health Professions Network. These allied health care occupations are completely distinct from the medical and nursing occupations, although they all fall under the same umbrella of health care. Allied health professionals are, in fact, clinical healthcare workers who may practice independently or work as part of a team providing evaluation and assessment of patient needs under the direction of a more experienced professional. They may play an important role of keeping attending clinicians informed of a patient's progress and response to treatment.

While some allied health professions, like those for an EMT or paramedic, focus on direct patient care, others are more inherently technical in nature. Despite this, all allied healthcare professionals need to be proficient in a variety of skills. Often, they must be familiar with the fundamentals of medical law and ethics, medical terminology, and the documentation of health care notations and records, since electronic medical records (EMRs) are growing in popularity and use.

Allied health professionals typically are trained as one of two types of workers: either technicians (assistants) or therapists/technologists. Technicians often have an educational background of often less than two years and may be trained to perform specific procedures, but typically under the supervision of technologists or therapists. Workers in this category include medical laboratory technicians, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants, radiological technicians, recreation therapy assistants, and respiratory therapy technicians.

The educational process for therapists or technologists is more extensive, often requiring at least two years, and may include acquiring a number of different procedural skills. In addition, therapist or technologist students learn how to assist other professionals in the field, such as nurses and physicians.

Top Careers in Allied Health

It is reported that there are more than 200 different allied healthcare professions, some of which include:

  • Cardiovascular Techs and Vascular Technologist
  • Dental Assistants
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dental Laboratory Technicians
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • EMTs and Paramedics
  • Health Technologists and Technicians
  • Home Health and Personal Care Aides
  • Medical Assistants
  • Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
  • Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists
  • Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
  • Occupational Health and Safety Technicians
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
  • Pharmacy Aides
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Phlebotomists
  • Radiation Therapists
  • Radiologic and MRI Technologists
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Respiratory Therapy Technicians
  • Surgical Technologists

Here is a brief description of some of these specialties using data from the BLS:

Career TypeWhat they DoNumber Employed in the U.S., as of 2013Where they Usually Work
Cardiovascular TechnologistUtilizes special machinery to help with the diagnosis and treating of cardiovascular ailments.51,010Hospitals, physician's offices or laboratories
Dental AssistantTakes X-rays, provides patient care and schedules appointments.309,540Dental offices
Dental HygienistCleans teeth and examines the mouth for signs of oral disease.192,330Dental offices
Diagnostic Medical SonographerOperates diagnostic equipment to produce images of the organs or tissues.58,250Hospitals or other healthcare settings
EMT and ParamedicResponds to calls for emergency services and cares for the sick and injured in emergency settings.237,660Ambulance services
Home Health AideHelps those who are disabled, ill or have an impairment.806,710Home healthcare services and residential facilities
Medical AssistantCompletes both administrative and clinical tasks, such as taking vital signs.571,690Physician offices, other healthcare facilities
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistUtilizes a scanner to take images of a patient's body.20,020Hospitals
Occupational Health and Safety TechnicianCollects data on the health conditions and safety of workplaces.13,660Variety of settings, including offices, factories and mines
Occupational Therapy AssistantHelps patients to develop the skills needed for living and working.30,450Occupational therapy offices, hospitals or nursing care facilities
Pharmacy TechAssists licensed pharmacists in the dispensing of medications.355,300Pharmacies
PhlebotomistDoes blood draws for tests, transfusions, donations and research.108,210Hospitals, doctors offices, donor centers, laboratories
Radiation TherapistAdministers radiation treatments to patients.16,950Hospital, doctors offices and outpatient settings
Respiratory TherapistHelps provide care for a patient who has trouble breathing.118,640Hospitals, nursing care facilities
Surgical TechnologistPrepares operation rooms and assists in surgical procedures.97,930Hospitals

Allied Health Career Training & Schools

Students interested in a career in an allied health field can typically complete a program leading to a diploma or certificate. A formal education, such as for employment as a home health aide, may not be required, but may be helpful. In some cases, an Associate degree may be needed, but these types of programs can often be completed in two years. In a few cases, a Bachelor's degree may be necessary. Here is a breakdown of the types of education levels required for various allied health careers.

Type of ProgramTypical Number of Years to CompleteTypes of Careers that Require This
DiplomaSix months or moreDental assisting, medical assisting, pharmacy tech, phlebotomy
CertificateNine months to two yearsDental assisting, medical assisting, phlebotomy
Associate DegreeTwo yearsDental hygienist, nuclear medicine technologist, radiation therapist, respiratory therapy, surgical technologist
Bachelor's degreeFour yearsMedical and clinical laboratory technologists

Sources

"Choose an Allied Health Profession," Health Professions Network, http://www.healthpronet.org/docs/1343_AH_K12BrochUpdate_06.pdf

"Economic News Release," Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm

Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/

Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Schools for Allied Health are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.


Allied Health

OccupationJobs
(2016)
Median Pay
(2016)
% Growth
2014-2024
Anesthesiologists30,590     >$208,000     17.8%
AudiologistsN/A     N/A     N/A
Cardiovascular Techs and Vascular Technologists56,130     $55,270     9.9%
Dental Assistants337,160     $37,630     19.5%
Dental Hygienists211,600     $74,070     19.6%
Dental Laboratory Technicians35,630     $38,670     14.5%
Dentists110,400     $151,440     17.5%
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers68,750     $71,410     23.2%
EMT and Paramedics251,860     $33,380     15.1%
Genetic Counselors2,660     $77,480     28.3%
Health Technologists and Technicians124,390     $41,800     19.4%
Home Health and Personal Care Aides820,960     $23,210     46.7%
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechniciansN/A     N/A     14.0%
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsN/A     N/A     11.5%
Medical Assistants646,320     $32,480     29.1%
Nuclear Medicine Technologists18,930     $75,660     9.8%
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists81,330     $71,780     7.6%
Occupational Health and Safety Technicians17,490     $49,960     9.5%
Occupational Therapists126,050     $83,200     21.2%
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides188,850     $50,510     29.7%
Opticians, Dispensing75,450     $36,250     14.5%
Optometrists37,240     $110,300     17.3%
Orthotists and Prosthetists7,840     $66,240     21.9%
Pharmacists309,330     $124,170     5.6%
Pharmacy Aides35,960     $26,120     -4.8%
Pharmacy Technicians417,720     $31,750     11.8%
Phlebotomists122,550     $33,670     24.4%
Physician Assistants109,220     $104,860     37.4%
Radiation Therapists17,250     $80,570     11.9%
Radiologic and MRI Technologists201,200     $58,440     12.3%
Respiratory Therapists128,250     $59,710     23.4%
Respiratory Therapy Technicians9,600     $50,350     -56.3%
Speech-Language Pathologists142,360     $76,610     17.5%
Surgical Technologists106,470     $46,310     11.7%

Selected Schools for Allied Health (including any online schools)

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