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:
Here is a brief description of some of these specialties using data from the BLS:
|Career Type||What they Do||Number Employed in the U.S., as of 2013||Where they Usually Work|
|Cardiovascular Technologist||Utilizes special machinery to help with the diagnosis and treating of cardiovascular ailments.||51,010||Hospitals, physician's offices or laboratories|
|Dental Assistant||Takes X-rays, provides patient care and schedules appointments.||309,540||Dental offices|
|Dental Hygienist||Cleans teeth and examines the mouth for signs of oral disease.||192,330||Dental offices|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||Operates diagnostic equipment to produce images of the organs or tissues.||58,250||Hospitals or other healthcare settings|
|EMT and Paramedic||Responds to calls for emergency services and cares for the sick and injured in emergency settings.||237,660||Ambulance services|
|Home Health Aide||Helps those who are disabled, ill or have an impairment.||806,710||Home healthcare services and residential facilities|
|Medical Assistant||Completes both administrative and clinical tasks, such as taking vital signs.||571,690||Physician offices, other healthcare facilities|
|Nuclear Medicine Technologist||Utilizes a scanner to take images of a patient's body.||20,020||Hospitals|
|Occupational Health and Safety Technician||Collects data on the health conditions and safety of workplaces.||13,660||Variety of settings, including offices, factories and mines|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||Helps patients to develop the skills needed for living and working.||30,450||Occupational therapy offices, hospitals or nursing care facilities|
|Pharmacy Tech||Assists licensed pharmacists in the dispensing of medications.||355,300||Pharmacies|
|Phlebotomist||Does blood draws for tests, transfusions, donations and research.||108,210||Hospitals, doctors offices, donor centers, laboratories|
|Radiation Therapist||Administers radiation treatments to patients.||16,950||Hospital, doctors offices and outpatient settings|
|Respiratory Therapist||Helps provide care for a patient who has trouble breathing.||118,640||Hospitals, nursing care facilities|
|Surgical Technologist||Prepares operation rooms and assists in surgical procedures.||97,930||Hospitals|
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 Program||Typical Number of Years to Complete||Types of Careers that Require This|
|Diploma||Six months or more||Dental assisting, medical assisting, pharmacy tech, phlebotomy|
|Certificate||Nine months to two years||Dental assisting, medical assisting, phlebotomy|
|Associate Degree||Two years||Dental hygienist, nuclear medicine technologist, radiation therapist, respiratory therapy, surgical technologist|
|Bachelor's degree||Four years||Medical and clinical laboratory technologists|
"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.
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.
|Cardiovascular Techs and Vascular Technologists||56,560|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||34,480|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||71,130|
|EMT and Paramedics||257,210|
|Health Technologists and Technicians||125,270|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||797,670|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||N/A|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||N/A|
|Nuclear Medicine Technologists||18,810|
|Occupational Health and Safety Specialists||88,390|
|Occupational Health and Safety Technicians||18,020|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides||191,870|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||8,830|
|Radiologic and MRI Technologists||205,590|
|Respiratory Therapy Technicians||9,090|