Allied Health Career Guide

Embarking on a career in allied health is not just a commitment to enhancing the well-being of others; it’s a journey into a diverse and rewarding field, where each role offers a unique way to make a difference. The world of allied health is rich with opportunities, each profession with its own distinct path.

While each allied health role is unique, requiring specialized education, certifications, and skills, the diversity within this field means there’s a place for everyone. Whether you’re drawn to diagnostic technology, hands on care, or support roles, you’ll find a profession that resonates with you.

Choosing an allied health role is an exciting venture, involving considerations such as education, career growth, responsibilities, salary, and work environment. This guide is here to support you in navigating the opportunities in allied health, helping you discover the profession that feels right for you, and offering insights into the unique paths and requirements of each role. 

Navigating the World of Allied Health

With so many allied roles to explore, from Sonographer to Physical Therapist to Laboratory Technician and beyond, where does one start? Let’s begin by understanding the essence of allied health professions.

What is Allied Health?

Allied health is a distinct area of healthcare outside of medicine and nursing. Allied health disciplines are an essential part of quality patient care and encompass a wide range of health services. According to the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP), around 60% of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. is classified as allied health. 

An allied health professional is someone with a special health degree or certificate. They work in different settings, helping people in areas where specialization on the healthcare team is needed.
These professionals work on the front lines and behind the scenes as an integral part of the treatment team – assisting in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of diseases. 

Here’s What You Should Focus On:

In the following resources, we’ll take a look at numerous specialty resources to help you decide which one is the best fit for you. We’ll cover in depth the various components of nursing specialties to keep in mind as you browse your options.

What

Does the patient population, care setting, daily tasks, and diagnoses found within this specialty interest you? Is it something you want to learn more about?

Education Requirements

Do you have the educational requirements necessary to work in a given role? If not, are they attainable for you, and would you be interested in pursuing them?

Care Advancement

Is there opportunity for professional growth? Do you have interest in pursuing additional certifications and experience within the field? Does the experience align with your career goals?

Certifications

Does this role require certifications? Are you committed to completing them and keeping them up to date?

Salary

Does the salary feel fair for the work? Will the salary support your lifestyle or cost of living? Family needs, etc?

Specialty Responsibilities

Are you interested in the procedures, types of patient interactions, makeup of the interdisciplinary team you'd be a part of, and the tools and technologies you'd be using (or lack thereof)?

Common Diagnoses

Are you interested in seeing, discussing, and treating patients with the most common diagnoses seen in this role?

Care Setting

Where you’re working can be just as important as what you’re doing! Do you think you would thrive in a role where you see many patients in a day? Or would you rather build relationships with the same patients in the inpatient setting?

Explore Allied Health Professions

Click on the cards below to dive into comprehensive guides for each allied health profession, offering in-depth insights to help you find your ideal role.

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Explore allied health professions

What is allied health?

According to the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP), about 60% of the U.S. healthcare workforce is comprised of allied health professionals, who may hold specialized degrees or certifications.

Allied health professionals encompass a wide range of healthcare roles distinct from nursing and medicine. These skilled individuals provide essential diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and support services in the healthcare system.

How to determine the best allied health career for you

Research career requirements

Investigate what is needed to succeed in each role, from the length of study to the type of training and exams required.

Talk to a professional in the field

Reach out to working professionals through forums, networking events, or shadowing opportunities.

Consider long-term opportunities

Look into the future, some fields might offer more advancement opportunities or higher demand, affecting job stability and salary potential.

Evaluate your interests

Consider what aspects of healthcare excite you. Do you thrive on direct patient interaction, or do you prefer roles behind the scenes?

Assess your skills

Reflect on your strengths, whether they're technical skills, interpersonal communication, or detailed-oriented tasks.

Explore Allied Health Jobs

Frequently asked questions

Which allied health professionals make the most money?

Among allied health professionals, Pharmacists, Medical Dosimetrists, Physical Therapists, and Occupational Therapists are typically the highest earners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2023, here are the average annual salaries for these roles:

  • Pharmacists: $136,030
  • Medical Dosimetrists: $132,880
  • Physical Therapists: $99,710
  • Occupational Therapists: $96,370

These figures reflect the significant expertise and training required in these fields, contributing to their higher earning potential.

What is the difference between nursing and allied health?

Nursing focuses primarily on patient care, support, and advocacy, often providing direct, continuous care to patients across a variety of settings and specialties. Nurses assess patient health, administer medication, and collaborate closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to manage patient treatment plans.

Allied health, on the other hand, is a broad term that includes a wide range of healthcare professions that provide diagnostic,technical, therapeutic, and support services, as well as direct patient care. Allied health professionals, such as pharmacists, radiologists, physical therapists, and medical dosimetrists, specialize in different areas of healthcare and often perform specific tasks related to their field of expertise.

What are typical job settings for allied health professionals?

Allied health professionals work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private clinics, laboratories, and even patient homes. Some specialties, like radiology or surgical technology, are more likely to be based in hospital settings, whereas others may work in outpatient care centers or private practices.

What is the potential income for allied health professionals?

Income varies widely depending on the specific allied health career, level of education, certifications, and geographical location. Generally, specialized roles requiring higher education levels tend to offer higher salaries. We advise that you navigate to the salary guide for a specific allied profession listed above by selecting that role.

Is there a demand for allied health professionals?

Yes, there is a strong demand for allied health professionals. In fact, the demand for allied health professions is expected to grow by 21% in the next 10 years. The growth in the healthcare industry and the expanding need for healthcare services among aging populations contribute to a steady demand for qualified professionals across various allied health fields.

How long does it take to start a career in allied health?

The time it takes to start a career depends on the profession. Certificate programs can take as little as a few months, while associate degree programs typically last two years. Further education needed for more specialized roles, such as those requiring a bachelor's or master's degree, will take longer.

What are the educational requirements for a career in allied health?

The educational requirements can vary greatly depending on the specific career. Most positions require at least an associate degree, but others might need a bachelor's degree or higher, particularly for more advanced roles. Technical and assistant positions may only require a certificate or diploma. Select a specific role from the drop down at the top of this page to learn more.

What kind of certifications will I need?

Certification and licensure requirements vary by field and sometimes by state or even the individual facility. Common certifications are required for clinical laboratory scientists, respiratory therapists, and radiologic technologists, among others. Always check the specific state and professional guidelines for the career you are interested in. You can find certification guides specific to each role by selecting a profession from the list above.

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