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15 Types of Allied Health Professionals and What They Do
February 15, 2021

15 Types of Allied Health Professionals and What They Do

Any soccer or basketball fan will tell you it takes more than a few star athletes to make a complete team. The same is true in the health-care world. While physicians, pharmacists and nurses are essential providers, they aren’t the only players on the field. Allied health professionals are also critical, and some sources estimate they account for nearly 60 percent of the health-care workforce.

If you’re considering an eventual career in health care, you might want to take a closer look at some of these allied health roles. This overview can help give you a better understanding of what opportunities are out there for you.  

15 different types of allied health professionals

There are a lot of careers that fall under the umbrella of allied health professionals, so think about where your passions lie as you peruse this list of potential career paths.

1. Anesthesiologist assistant

Anesthesiologist assistants work with physicians to provide high-quality anesthetic care to patients.  Because they need a solid background in biological sciences and a firm understanding of numerous medications, anesthesiologist assistants need to obtain a master’s degree and proper certification. While nurse anesthetists perform similar functions, their education and training pathway is notably different.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for anesthesiologist assistants in 2019 was $112,260.

2. Athletic trainer

Whether they’re taping a sprained ankle or developing an injury prevention plan, these allied health professionals work to manage injuries and illnesses common among people who play competitive sports. Athletic trainers collaborate with other health care providers, but they’re often first on the scene when an athlete gets injured. To become an athletic trainer, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree as well as the appropriate certification.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for athletic trainers in 2019 was $48,440.

3. Audiologist

Diagnosing and treating hearing problems only scratch the surface of what audiologists do. They work with patients who have balance problems, fit people for cochlear implants and recommend strategies like lipreading for patients with extensive hearing loss. Audiologists must have a doctoral degree in audiology to obtain licensure.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for audiologists in 2019 was $77,600.

4. Cardiovascular technologist

Physicians need diagnostic tests to assess conditions that affect the heart and lungs, which is why cardiovascular technologists are so vital. These providers take a patient’s medical history, maintain and operate sophisticated imaging equipment, conduct tests like electrocardiograms (EKGs) and record results. You’ll likely need at least an associate’s degree to qualify for this role.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for cardiovascular technologists in 2019 was $57,720.

5. Cytotechnologist

Any time a blood or tissue sample is collected from a patient, it needs to be analyzed by professionals who can identify abnormalities that may lead to a diagnosis. Cytotechnologists play an important role in this process by preparing and viewing slides under a microscope, recording their findings and communicating relevant information to a pathologist for the final diagnosis. Most laboratory technologists are expected to have a bachelor’s degree, but requirements vary both by state and employer.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for cytotechnologists in 2019 was $53,120.

6. Diagnostic medical sonographer

You’re familiar with ultrasounds being used during prenatal care, but they’re also used to help guide needles during a biopsy and diagnose a variety of conditions that affect internal organs. Diagnostic medical sonographers prepare, maintain and operate the equipment during diagnostic tests. They’re also responsible for analyzing the information they collect and providing a summary for the physician. You’ll need at least a postsecondary certificate to pursue this profession.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers in 2019 was $74,320.

7. Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists are experts in oral health. They clean teeth, take X-rays, apply sealants and more. They work closely with dentists and provide patient education. Most dental hygienists complete a three-year associate degree program prior to obtaining mandatory licensure.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for dental hygienists in 2019 was $76,220.

8. Dietitian

Being a dietitian is much more than delivering set meal plans to clients. It all starts with assessing a patient’s nutritional and health needs, and can include providing education on healthy eating habits, documenting progress and helping clients overcome barriers that may be preventing them from eating well. Many dieticians also promote better health by speaking to groups about diet and nutritional issues. While certification requirements vary by location, a bachelor’s degree is typically preferred, and many employers prefer candidates with the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for dietitians in 2019 was $61,270.

9. Emergency medical technician

Often referred to as EMTs, emergency medical technicians respond to 911 calls to provide urgent medical care and ensure safe transport of patients via ambulance, or helicopter when needed. They must act quickly to assess a patient’s condition and immediately respond with the proper treatments, which could include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or administering intravenous fluids. While a postsecondary degree isn’t required to become an EMT, you will need to obtain a number of certifications.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for emergency medical technicians in 2019 was $35,400.

10. Lactation consultant

New mothers sometimes experience pain when nursing or find they’re not producing enough milk to support their growing baby. Lactation consultants are specifically trained to help families work through these types of problems. These health educators are often employed at hospitals, clinics or birthing centers. Education requirements vary, but you may choose to obtain certification through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

Earning potential: The median annual salary for health educators, the category the U.S. Department of Labor assigns to lactation consultants, in 2019 was $55,220.

11. Nuclear medicine technologist

These allied health professionals are usually the ones who work closest with patients during imaging procedures like positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Nuclear medicine technologists educate patients on what to expect, administer radiopharmaceutical injections, operate the medical equipment and maintain detailed records. You’ll need to obtain at least an associate degree to pursue this profession.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists in 2018 was $77,950.

12. Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists are allied health professionals who help individuals with disability or illness perform tasks and improve skills that are vital to their everyday lifestyle. They might, for example, instruct a patient with a permanent disability on how to use adaptive equipment like leg braces or wheelchairs. This role requires a minimum of a master’s degree and proper licensure while some therapists have a doctoral degree.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for occupational therapists in 2019 was $84,950.

13. Physician assistant

There’s some debate about whether physician assistants (PAs) are considered allied health professionals, but the career is definitely worth covering. These medical professionals conduct patient exams, order lab tests, make diagnoses, treat certain conditions, prescribe medications and collaborate with physicians and nurses as needed. They can also choose to work in a variety of specialties. Physician assistants must complete a graduate-level PA program and obtain state licensure to practice.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for physician assistants in 2019 was $112,260.

14. Physical therapist

Whether due to injury, illness or something else, patients can find themselves facing functional problems that can cause pain or discomfort. Physical therapists (PTs) are highly trained medical experts who diagnose issues and develop plans to improve mobility and prevent future issues.  Treatment can include stretching, specialized exercises, hands-on techniques and more. To become a physical therapist, you need to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and obtain a license.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for physical therapists in 2019 was $89,440.

15. Speech-language pathologist

Speech-language pathologists work with individuals to treat or prevent speech, language and swallowing disorders. While that might sound very specific, everything from hearing loss to Parkinson’s disease can lead to these types of issues. Speech-language pathologists conduct assessments and create individualized treatment plans based on the patient’s needs. To pursue this field, you’ll need at least a master’s degree and appropriate licensure.

Earning potential: The median annual salary for speech-language pathologists in 2019 was $79,120.

Start your ascent to an allied health career

One of the great things about health care is there are so many rewarding career options, and this list is hardly exhaustive. If you’re feeling certain that a career as an allied health professional is right for you, keep in mind that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is often a good idea. It’s certainly required for the highest-paying positions.

With that in mind, it might be time to think about obtaining the high-quality education those roles require. Berry College, for instance, provides professional networking opportunities with numerous providers and hands-on learning experiences. To learn more about how you can build the foundation for a successful health care career, visit our Pre-Medical Studies and Allied Health Programs page.

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