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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
Does this role require certifications? Are you committed to completing them and keeping them up to date?
Does the salary feel fair for the work? Will the salary support your lifestyle or cost of living? Family needs, etc?
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)?
Are you interested in seeing, discussing, and treating patients with the most common diagnoses seen in this role?
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?
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.
Cath lab techs are also called cath lab technicians or cardiac catheterization technologists. These allied health professionals work in healthcare facilities where patients undergo tests aimed at uncovering heart conditions.
A cytotechnologist is a laboratory professional who studies cell samples obtained from various parts of the body and prepare them on slides in order to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
A Dosimetrist is a crucial member of the radiation oncology team, responsible for ensuring accurate radiation doses are given to patients undergoing radiation therapy.
Histotechnologists are specialized lab professionals who meticulously prepare bloodwork and other tissue samples onto a microscopic slide for evaluation by a pathologist.
A laboratory technician, otherwise known as a lab tech, is a medical professional who works in a laboratory, studying and testing samples from patients.
Laboratory technologists, or lab scientists, are medical professionals who work behind the scenes in a lab, processing biological specimens to aid in diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions.
Neurodiagnostic techs are allied health professionals who specialize in the testing and analysis of the electrical activity of the central, autonomic, and peripheral nervous systems. They utilize various diagnostic tests to record electrical patterns and help identify areas of neurological dysfunction that may be contributing to health problems.
Occupational Therapy is a branch of rehabilitative medicine that uses interventions to help patients with a variety of physical and cognitive impairments. It focuses on developing and maintaining the skills needed to perform daily activities at home, work, and school that leads to a more independent life.
Phlebotomists are responsible for collecting blood samples from patients, sending those blood samples to the lab for testing, and educating patients about the lab draw procedure along the way.
A Physical Therapist (PT) is a movement expert who works with patients during their recovery following surgery or injury. On occasion, they may also support individuals living with physical disabilities. PTs help patients regain mobility through strength, stretching, and manual therapy techniques.
Radiologic technology is the art and science of taking images using radiation. A radiologic tech is the health professional who's responsible for taking those images. This role is sometimes referred to as an X-ray tech.
A Respiratory Therapist (RT) is a specialized medical professional who monitors and treats respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. RTs work under the supervision of a doctor to assist with examining, diagnosing, monitoring, and treating anyone with lung issues.
A sonographer is a medical professional who uses ultrasound imaging equipment to acquire and analyze images that are used to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions.
Speech-language pathologists (SLP) are experts in communication. SLPs work with a broad range of physical and cognitive communication disorders. These can be a result of many different causes such as autism, stroke, hearing loss, brain injury, and a cleft palate.
Sterile processing technicians (SPTs) are skilled professionals responsible for organizing and preparing surgical instruments and other equipment used in healthcare settings. They are tasked with cleaning, inspecting, sterilizing, storing, testing, and delivering medical devices used in surgery and other procedures.
A surgical technician is a medical professional who is part of an operating room medical team. A profession that originally resulted from the lack of healthcare personnel available to assist with surgeries during WWII, surgical technicians are now a vital part of the healthcare system.