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Allied Healthcare Career & Education Guide

Explore Opportunities in Allied Healthcare

Quality modern healthcare relies upon a team of specially trained medical professionals. From laboratory technicians to physical therapists, diagnostic medical sonographers to phlebotomists, there is an entire team of healthcare specialists involved in the meeting all patient needs. Collectively, we call them “allied health professionals”.

What is Allied Health?

The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration defines allied health professionals as those who “are involved with the delivery of health or related services pertaining to the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; rehabilitation and health systems management, among others”.

They work in a variety of settings, from doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics to hospitals, rehabilitation centers and long term healthcare facilities.

The Future of Careers in Allied Health

For 2022 and beyond, the future of careers in allied health looks promising. As a large segment of our population continues to age, the need for quality care also continues to grow.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, health care spending in the United States grew 4.6 percent in 2019, reaching $3.8 trillion or $11,582 per person.  As a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.7 percent.

The National Academy of Sciences states that, “Allied health professionals compose 60 percent of the health care workforce, and despite this large number, laboratories nationwide are experiencing a shortage of qualified technologists.”

The U.S. Department of Labor adds that there are at least 40 different types of allied health jobs within health care, one of the country’s most active growing employment sectors.

What Allied Health Careers are in Demand?

Allied Health Career Job Outlook, 2019-29. Here are some of the top careers in allied health, along with their projected growth over the next 10 years.

CareerProjected Growth RateTypical Entry-Level Education
Medical and Health Services Managers32%Bachelor’s degree
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians8%Postsecondary nondegree award
Nuclear Medicine Technologists5%Associate’s degree
Medical Assistants19%Postsecondary nondegree award
Phlebotomists17%Postsecondary nondegree award
Pharmacy Technicians4%High school diploma or equivalent
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies8%State-approved education / high school diploma
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses9%Postsecondary nondegree award
Dental Hygienists6%Associate’s degree
Dental Assistants7%Postsecondary nondegree award

A full list of healthcare careers, job growth, and educational requirements can be found in the Healthcare Section of the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. You will find more in-depth information on the core allied health careers below.

A career in healthcare is not for everyone. The educational requirements can be rigorous, but the rewards can be extremely fulfilling.

Allied Health Education and Degree Options

Whether you’re interested in phlebotomy, medical assisting, nursing, or one of the many other allied health careers, now is the time to get started. 

There are many allied health schools across the country that offer degree programs in various allied health programs.  In some cases, such as medical billing and coding, an online degree program and training may be sufficient.  If your situation requires you to pursue an online program, we’ve compiled a list of options to choose from.

Some students find that it is helpful to compare several different career paths and learn about the degree options offered by different schools. Search and select a school from our directory, and you’ll be contacted by a representative from that school.  Be prepared with a list of questions to discuss to make sure that the program meets your objectives.

Careers and Specializations in Allied Health

Allied Health Career Guides

There is a long list of allied health careers, all which play an essential role. Here is an overview of just some of the major players who help deliver quality health care.

Each field of study in allied health offers its’ own set of rewards and challenges. Consider where you might see yourself while you explore these possible career paths. From working directly with patients, to preforming important work behind the scenes, what aspects of each career do you find yourself most drawn to?

Medical Imaging

There are several specialties that full under the medical imaging family, each of which play important roles in healthcare delivery.

Medical imaging occupations include including plain radiography, radiographic contrast studies, stress radiography, nuclear medicine imaging, MRI, CT, diagnostic ultrasound, and vascular imaging.

Below you will find an overview of the core specializations in medical imaging.

Ultrasound Technician

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (DMS) image organs and other structures inside a patient’s body using equipment that relies on sound wave technology.

The ultrasound images or scans they capture are used to diagnose and monitor medical conditions, abnormalities or diseases.

Ultrasound technicians work in concert with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors and radiologists. They also help prepare patients for procedures, maintain ultrasound equipment, record patient history and present findings to the medical team. As diagnostic medical sonographers, they help interpret ultrasound images.

Sonographers work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and outpatient clinics, both in the capacity of a permanent employee as well as one who travels around the country offering their services.

Cardiovascular Technologist

Cardiovascular technologists or technicians assist physicians in diagnosing and treating problems associated with the cardiovascular system (the heart and peripheral blood vessels throughout the whole body).

A cardiovascular technologist may perform invasive duties (such as inserting a catheter through a patient’s artery) or non-invasive duties, such as performing an ultrasound on the heart (echocardiogram).

Radiologic Technologists

A radiology career involves making diagnoses using various imaging procedures, namely radiation (ionizing and non-ionizing) procedures. Radiology techs and their associates carry out an essential role, from detecting potentially fatal diseases and complications early on to guiding treatments.

Radiology technologists (also referred to as radiology techs, radiologic technologists, radiology technicians or “rad techs”) work closely with radiologists (doctors specialized in radiology) and other physicians, particularly in a hospital environment.

There are at least five different modalities within the field of radiology. The three most normally associated with radiologic technicians are standard diagnostic X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Some radiology techs also perform ultrasounds and/or nuclear medicine imaging tests.

Computed Tomography

Computed tomography (CT), also known as computed axial tomography (CAT), is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses X-rays (ionizing radiation) to capture images of internal portions of the body.

Numerous computed tomography schools offer CT certificate programs for those who already have education and/or experience in radiologic technology. Generally these programs are one or two semesters long and provide coursework related to the operation of CT scanners and how they apply to anatomy, pathology and patient care.

When researching computed tomography schools, look for a program that provides clinical experience and that may make you eligible to sit for ARRT’s CT certification exam.

MRI Technician

An MRI Technician (also called an MRI technologist or MRI tech) is a radiologic technologist specialized at performing magnetic resonance imaging scans. MRI technology does not rely on radioactive isotopes but combines magnetism with radio waves. It is used to capture cross-sectional images of internal structures like the brain, spinal chord, heart, blood vessels, breasts, bones and joints.

MRI technologists work closely with physicians (they perform MRIs upon the order of lead physicians) in hospitals, doctors’ offices, diagnostic centers and other healthcare facilities. They tend to work 40 hour weeks but in emergency situations may be called upon to work on-call, evenings or weekends. MRI techs also help patients prepare for the scans and answer any questions they may have.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine is a non-invasive imaging technique to diagnose disease and other complications inside the body. Nuclear medicine technologists administer radiopharmaceuticals (small and safe doses) which help identify abnormal areas in the body.

The techs employ cameras that are able to detect the pharmaceutical compounds and capture images of the organs or internal structures (like bones or tissues) of focus.

Unlike other imaging procedures, nuclear medicine technology detects disease or complications based on metabolic or biological changes rather than anatomical or physical changes. In therapeutic cases, a nuclear medicine tech sends appropriate radiopharmaceuticals directly to an infected or diseased organ, tissue or other internal structure.

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