Inside Allied Health Careers

Insider tips you need to know to choose and succeed in the right career

Career Background

  Allied Health Salaries

Surprising and Helpful Information

Detailed info from people on the job

Examples of likes and dislikes:


"interacting with patients…most people are grateful and let you know you have done something that's improved their lives."


"any job in health care is stressful because the stakes are high when someone's health is in question and the demand for consistently high quality work is unceasing."

Career Overview

Allied health careers refer broadly to a wide range of health care professions that deliver patient health care services, besides nursing or physicians. As many as 100 different medical jobs can be found in allied health care, with these workers making up approximately 60% of the health care work force. Individuals in allied health work alongside physicians and nurses, either directly or indirectly with patients to provide a range of diagnostic, therapeutic, and technical services in a patient’s treatment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ten of the 20 fastest growing occupations are health care related, largely due to the growing and aging population.

Career Skills

Given the broad nature of the allied health field, each career has its own set of required skills and credentials. In general, individuals interested in a career in allied health care tend to be compassionate and caring in order to be part of the patient care team. Depending on the job, individuals may need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills, a strong knowledge of medical terminology, and have a good knowledge of computers. Many careers offer flexible work schedules and part-time options, with many health care institutions requiring staff both during the day and night.

Health Care Career Options

The different allied health care career options typically fall into two broad categories: technicians, also referred to as assistants; or therapists/technologists. Technicians or assistants are trained to perform certain procedures and work under the supervision of technologists or therapists. Therapist or technologist careers tend to be more intensive and involve the diagnosis of conditions and development of treatment plans. The following are a few examples of allied health career choices:

  • Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals who perform tasks such as cleaning and polishing teeth, examining patients’ teeth and gums, taking x-rays, checking for any presence of disease or abnormalities, helping patients develop good oral hygiene, and working chair-side with dentists during dental procedures.
  • Diagnostic medical sonographers use several different technologies, such as sonography, x-ray, and magnetic resonance imaging to help in the diagnosing of patients’ ailments. Sonographers may explain the procedure to the patient, record any relevant medical history, and direct the patient in order to provide the best view for the exam, and take any images to be reviewed by the physician. Sonographers may specialize in one field, such as obstetrics and gynecology, abdominal, or neurosonography.
  • Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of a physician, and are formally trained to provide preventative, therapeutic, and diagnostic healthcare services. PAs work as members of a health care team, taking medical histories, examining and treating patients, ordering tests and x rays, and making diagnoses. They may also treat minor injuries and prescribe medications. In some practices, PAs may be the principal care providers, and can specialize in areas such as pediatrics, surgery, and emergency medicine, among other areas.
  • Physical therapy assistants assist physical therapists in providing care to patients of all ages. They assist with the treatment of injury, disability or disease through activities such as exercise, therapeutic methods like electrical stimulation, massage, and gait and balance training. They also assist with the recording of patient’s responses to treatment.


Although individual professions within the field of allied health vary greatly, the educational requirements for therapists and technologists are generally more intensive. However, most individuals interested in an allied health care career are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent, and have attended a two or four year college program leading to a degree or diploma within their specialization, such as a medical assistant or physical therapy assistant program. The majority of allied health careers require some clinical training leading to registration, certification or licensure, although some professions require no special credentials and training may be obtained on-the-job through the employer.