Allied health degrees and allied health certificates prepare you for careers in allied health, one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the U.S. economy. The dozens of occupations within allied health include jobs outside the occupations of doctor, nurse and dentist. Some of the fastest-growing jobs are within allied health, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, including medical assistants, cardiovascular technologists, diagnostic medical sonographers, respiratory therapists and athletic trainers. Explore individual allied health careers and degree and certification programs below.
Medical records and health information technicians work with medical coding and billing, ensuring patient records are kept up-to-date and accurate. With most healthcare providers shifting to electronic healthcare records systems, those working in medical coding and medical billing are typically required to be proficient in the operation of such systems, which are at the heart of most medical operations.
Employers in the expanding healthcare industry are looking to hire more medical assistants to handle administrative and clinical duties. Medical assisting can include a wide range of jobs, from recording patient history and vital signs to scheduling appointments. Medical assistants may perform clinical duties such as preparing blood for laboratory testing. It’s a fast-growing profession: the number of medical assistants is expected to grow 31% this decade.
Medical and health services managers are tasked with the complicated and crucial job of overseeing operations at healthcare facilities. Working in healthcare management can lead to jobs as varied as overseeing a group of physician clinics to managing an entire hospital or research facility, often in highly-competitive business environments. As the number of such healthcare operations grow, the demand for healthcare administrators is expected to remain high.
Respiratory therapists work with those who have difficulty breathing, including those who suffer from conditions such as asthma and emphysema. They also work in hospitals, helping those who have experienced some type of trauma, such as heart attack or stroke, to recover the ability to breath normally. Federal projections call for job growth in this field of 28% by 2020, much faster than the average of all jobs nationwide.
Physical therapists better the lives of patients who have suffered loss of movement or who are experiencing pain by teaching them the benefits of therapeutic exercise. Physical therapists help people manage pain and regain movement through the use of treatments that address conditions such as neck and back strain, sprains, bone breaks and fractures. This in-demand profession is expected to grow 39% by 2020, according to federal government projections.
Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized equipment to produce images from inside a patient’s body that are used by doctors to diagnose medical conditions. They typically use ultrasound, sonogram and echocardiogram equipment and specialize on imaging specific parts of the body, including the abdomen (most often with pregnant women), breasts, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and the brain.
Dietitians and Nutritionists advise patients on the proper food to eat for a health lifestyle, as well as devising meal plans to help patients reach their health goals. A dietitian or nutritionist also promotes healthy living by giving presentations about food, nutrition and the relationship between the food you eat and how your body functions.
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics work in the field with patients who have been in accidents and disasters or who have been the victims of violent crime or suffered medical emergencies such as heart attack or stroke. Often, the work done by an emergency medical technician or paramedic is the difference between life and death for a patient as they are transported to a hospital.
Clinical Laboratory Technologists specialize in the collection and testing of bodily substances, such as blood, urine or cells. Working under the guidance of physicians, they carry out complex tests to detect abnormalities in test samples. Clinical laboratory technologists can work in a variety of areas, including as blood bank technologists, chemistry technologists, cytotechnologists and microbiology technologists.
Pharmacists work to properly fill prescriptions as directed by physicians, as well as offering advice on how to properly and safely use medications. While some pharmacists become instructors, the vast majority work in a retail environment dispensing medication or as a clinical pharmacist developing treatment plans for individual patients.
Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of pharmacists, filling prescriptions as ordered by physicians, fielding customer’s calls and performing other administrative duties such as processing insurance claims and taking customer phone calls. There are both full-time and part-time positions available in this field, which is one of the fastest-growing professions in the allied health industry.
Medical scientists strive to improve human health by conducting experiments and research to understand how the human body works and ways to fight disease and illness. Much of a medical scientist’s time is spent in the laboratory, designing and conducting complex research experiments in various areas, including developing medical applications and studying medical samples.
Medical secretaries work in doctor’s office and hospitals, using their knowledge of medical terminology and record-keeping to perform duties such as updating patient records and scheduling appointments. Medical secretaries now act as the central repository of information that needs to be disseminated to physicians, staff and patients.
Medical equipment preparers work to clean, install, maintain and operate equipment, as well as perform routine laboratory tasks. While they can work in laboratories or physician’s clinics, the vast majority are employed in hospitals, where the need for cleaning, sterlization and maintenance of equipment is the highest.
Physician assistants practice medicine under the supervision of physicians, and are trained to examine patients and aide physicians in making a patient diagnosis and developing a treatment plan. More than half of all physician assistants work in a physician’s offices, with the rest working in hospitals, outpatient treatment centers or colleges and universities.
Medical equipment repairers install, maintain and repair medical equipment in healthcare facilities, ensuring that equipment functions properly when needed for patient care. With the number of medical facilities expanding due to an aging population, the need for medical equipment repairers also continues to grow.
Radiation therapists treat patients, most often cancer patients, who can be helped by receiving radiation treatments through the use of special medical equipment. The machine most often used is a linear accelerator, which directs x-rays at specific cancer cells in order to shrink or eliminate them.
Occupational therapists work to improve the lives of patients with physical and cognitive issues by developing treatment plans that help them recover the ability to handle daily tasks required of them at home or in the workplace. Occupational therapists work in hospitals and clinics and also are now frequently hired at schools and nursing homes.
Dietetic technician work with patients, implementing meal plans designed by dietitians and nutritionists as well as teaching how healthy food choices can help people attain health goals. They assist dietitians and nutritionists in developing health plans for patients after assessing their diet needs and health goals.
Occupational therapist assistants work under the direction of occupational therapists, aiding patients with diseases, illnesses and disabilities to lead healthy and satisfying lives. Their job duties can range from setting up therapeutic exercise equipment and transporting patients to and from exercise areas to working with occupational therapists on developing treatment plans.
Dental hygienists work in dental offices, typically performing routine dental care procedures such as cleanings and taking X-rays. Dental hygienists also teach patients about proper dental care practices at home, helping people to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Under the guidance of dentists, dental hygienists also may keep track of patient care and treatment plans.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians work with imaging technology, assisting physicians in the diagnosis of heart and blood vessel ailments. They also help physicians come up with treatment plans for cardiovascular-related issues, such as blood clots, and track patient treatment records.
Audiologists work to detect and treat hearing problems using audiometers, computers and other medical equipment. They work with both the young and the old — detecting hearing problems as early as possible in children and also working with an aging population who are experiencing hearing difficulties.
Nurse-Midwives work with expectant mothers in all phases of pre-natal and post-natal care, as well as often assisting during childbirth. One estimate projects that one in 10 births in America will soon be performed by nurse-widwives, a jump for 3% last decade. A reduction in the number of Caesarian births is part of the reason for the increase in the number of births overseen by nurse-midwives.
Phlebotomists work in physician’s offices, drawing blood from patients for use in testing for overall health. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects strong growth in the field by 2020, with 15% more phlebotomists and other medical laboratory technicians finding employment. Because so many patients are ill at ease having blood drawn, people skills are as important for phlebotomists as skills in collecting blood samples.
Home health aides work with patients who are chronically ill, disabled or cognitively impaired, providing care in the patient’s home. In some cases, home health aides may also administer medication and take patient vital signs under the supervision of a nurse or other licensed healthcare provider. As the nation’s population ages, the demand for home health aides is rising quickly.
Start Your Journey Toward a Secure Allied Health Profession
Almost all of these allied health careers and health professions are projected to experience average to above-average growth this decade as the healthcare industry expands with new technology and an aging population demands more services. There are jobs within allied health for people of all education levels, from those with certifications and associate’s degrees to those who earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Choosing a school and degree program can be the first step on a journey toward a career in the secure, fast-growing field of allied health.