Allied health careers are an essential part of the healthcare industry. These professionals work alongside doctors and nurses to provide critical support and services to patients. If you are considering a career in healthcare but don’t want to become a doctor or nurse, allied health careers may be the perfect fit for you. Below, we will discuss some of the different types of allied health careers available.
Types of Allied Health Careers
Each of these allied health careers plays a crucial role in providing specialized care and support to patients, making a significant impact on their health and well-being.
1. Medical Laboratory Technologist
Medical laboratory technologists, also known as clinical laboratory scientists, perform tests on patient samples to help diagnose diseases and conditions. They are responsible for analyzing samples, operating laboratory equipment, and reporting their findings to doctors and other healthcare professionals .
2. Radiologic Technologist
Radiologic technologists use medical imaging equipment, such as x-ray machines, to create images of a patient’s body. These images are then used by doctors to diagnose and treat medical conditions. Radiologic technologists must have a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology to accurately position patients and ensure high-quality images .
3. Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory therapists treat patients with breathing disorders, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They work closely with doctors to develop treatment plans and provide respiratory care, including administering medication and performing diagnostic tests .
4. Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of physical therapists to help patients recover from injuries or manage chronic conditions. They assist with exercises and treatments, document patient progress, and educate patients and their families on proper techniques for at-home care .
5. Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists help patients regain and develop skills necessary for daily living and work activities. They work with patients who have physical, mental, or developmental conditions to improve their independence and quality of life. Occupational therapists may also recommend and provide assistive devices for patients to use in their daily activities .
6. Speech-Language Pathologist
Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, assess and treat communication and swallowing disorders. They work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, to improve their speech, language, and swallowing abilities. Speech-language pathologists may also work with patients who have cognitive or developmental disabilities .
7. Medical Sonographer
Medical sonographers use ultrasound technology to create images of a patient’s internal organs and tissues. These images are used by doctors to diagnose and monitor medical conditions. Medical sonographers must have knowledge of anatomy and physiology to accurately interpret the images and communicate their findings to physicians .
Dietitians specialize in food and nutrition and work with patients to develop individualized meal plans. They evaluate patients’ nutritional needs and provide guidance on healthy eating habits. Dietitians may work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice settings, and they often collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive proper nutrition .
These are just a few examples of the many allied health careers available. Each career requires specific education and training, but all play a vital role in the healthcare system. If you have a passion for helping others and a strong interest in healthcare, exploring allied health careers can be a rewarding path.
Exploring the Path to an Allied Health Career
While the education requirements vary for allied health careers, many require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the field. Others may only require a certification program of 1-2 years.
For example, radiologic technologists typically have an associate’s degree, while occupational therapists must have a master’s degree. Those interested should research the specific education needed for their chosen allied health career path.
Allied health professionals work in diverse settings, including:
- Physician or dental offices
- Nursing care facilities
- Home healthcare services
- Outpatient clinics
If you’re interested in an allied health career, some suggestions to begin exploring options:
- Research different allied health professions to find your best fit
- Shadow working allied health professionals when possible
- Look for relevant volunteer or internship opportunities
- Speak with your college career counseling office
- Pursue the necessary education and training for your chosen career
Pursuing an allied health career offers many advantages:
- Strong job outlook, with many allied health occupations projected to grow faster than the average over the next decade
- Opportunities to specialize in a particular healthcare field you feel passionate about
- Ability to help patients and make a real difference through one-on-one care
- Good work-life balance for many allied health professions
- Potential for career advancement into leadership, educator, or advanced clinician role
- Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. Medical laboratory scientist. Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science.
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). What do radiologic technologists do? The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 8). Respiratory therapists. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 8). Physical therapist assistants and aides. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- America Rehab Therapy. (2023, January 19). Occupational therapy: What it is and what it entails. America Rehab Therapy.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 8). Speech-language pathologists. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS. How to become a sonographer. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 7). Dietitians and nutritionists. Occupational Outlook Handbook