Allied Health Field Professions and Employment Opportunities

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As the healthcare industry exhibits ongoing employment growth, interest in allied health professions continues to rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics* (BLS) reports that millions of new healthcare jobs will be added through 20181 – more than any other industry – and many of those openings will be in the allied health field.

Allied health professionals are employed in healthcare-related roles. These positions are distinct from medicine, dentistry or nursing careers; however, they involve providing support to physicians, dentists, nurses and others. Examples of allied health professions include pharmacy technicians, dental assistants, nursing assistants, medical billers and coders, and X-ray technicians.

These skilled healthcare workers are specialist in their fields. They may work as part of a team or independently, and they typically play an important role in patient care or information management. Allied health professionals can have direct or indirect involvement with patients; they may be responsible for preparing and operating equipment, recording and reporting on response to treatments, assessing patient needs or analyzing data.

While advanced post-secondary education is necessary for medical and dental careers, many allied health careers require only an associate’s degree or diploma in a specialized field. Whether you’re graduating from high school or contemplating a mid-career change, you can enroll in a healthcare training program and join the ranks of allied health professionals in a matter of months.

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Allied Health Employment

About three-quarters of healthcare jobs are found in hospitals, nursing care facilities and physicians’ offices.1 Other employers include dentists’ offices and other health practitioners’ offices, home healthcare services and outpatient care services. Each setting employs a variety of allied health professionals:

Hospitals: Public and private hospitals employ a large percentage of our nation’s allied health professionals. From office and administrative support personnel, to health services managers, to X-ray technicians, these healthcare workers play a vital role in day-to-day operations.

Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: Many allied health professionals – including patient care technicians, medical billers and coders, and nursing assistants – are employed by nursing and residential care facilities in cities and towns across America.

Physicians’ Offices: About 37% of jobs in physicians’ offices are office and administrative positions.1 These types of occupations include medical administrative assistants, health information technicians, and medical office and billing specialists.

Dentists’ Offices: Service occupations – including dental assistants – account for approximately 35% of jobs in dentists’ offices.1 These professionals support dentists and dental hygienists with patient care, office and lab duties.

Other Healthcare Services: Allied health professionals can also pursue promising career opportunities with a variety of other service providers. Among the many options are physical therapy practices, home healthcare services, ambulatory healthcare services, pharmacies and outpatient care centers, to name but a few.

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Healthcare Training and Advancement

In contrast to medical careers, which may require years of schooling and advanced degrees, allied health professions offer relative ease of entry. They also offer opportunities for advancement to individuals with relevant training and experience. While some healthcare employers may accept applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent, allied health professionals with an associate’s degree, specialized healthcare diploma and/or industry certification often have an advantage. Individuals with formal healthcare training can apply for more challenging positions with greater responsibility, and may be eligible for higher pay.

Depending on your program of study and whether you are pursuing a diploma or associate’s degree, your healthcare training may take less than two months or up to a year and a half. For example:

Diploma and Associate Programs

Approximate Time for Completion

Nursing Assistant

7 weeks

Phlebotomy Technician

7 weeks

Pharmacy Technician

Less than 1 year

Basic X-Ray Technician

Less than 1 year

Dental Assistant

Less than 1 year

Medical Assistant

Less than 1 year

Health Information Technology

18 months

Opportunities for advancement will vary based on occupation, experience and education. Allied health professionals can parlay relevant experience and advanced training into positions with increased responsibility and earnings. For example, a nursing assistant may have better chances of getting accepted into a registered nursing program than someone without relevant experience; while a health information technician who acquires management skills may be able to advance into an administrative position.

Whether you are currently working in healthcare or looking to enter into the allied health field, a healthcare training diploma or degree program can help you develop in-demand skills and result in better employment prospects.

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Allied Healthcare Career Outlook

The healthcare sector has been expanding rapidly in recent years. In fact, the BLS predicts some 3.2 million new healthcare jobs will be created between 2008 and 2018.1 Rising demand for qualified allied health professionals may result in worker shortages in some fields – which is why individuals employed in allied health professions may enjoy greater job stability and earnings than those in other fields.

The BLS expects particularly rapid growth in the following allied health fields:

Job Field

Projected Employment Change

Dental Assistants

36%2

Medical Assistants

34%3

Pharmacy Technician

31%4

Health Information Technicians

20%5

Nursing Aides/Nursing Assistants

19%6

Radiologic (X-Ray) Technicians

17%7

Clinical Laboratory Technicians
(Including Phlebotomy Technician)

16%8

According to the BLS, job prospects in the allied health fields will remain strong due to advancements in medical technology and an aging population’s increasing demand for healthcare, among other factors. In the dental field, greater awareness of the importance of oral care, as well as the increased retention of natural teeth among baby boomers, will likely create heavier workloads for dentists, who will subsequently require the services of more dental assistants.

Allied health professionals at all levels – from X-ray technicians, to medical assistants, to health information technicians – should continue to be in demand; and those with specialized allied health training are likely to enjoy improved job prospects.

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Earnings Forecast for Allied Health Professionals

The BLS analyzes salaries for employees with varying degrees of experience and education across a wide range of career fields. For nonsupervisory workers in allied health professions, the BLS reports the following median incomes:

Job Field

Median Hourly Earnings

Medical/Clinical Laboratory Technicians
(Including Phlebotomy Technicians)

$17.4410

Dental Assistants

$16.0911

Health Information Technicians

$15.5512

Medical Assistants and Medical Secretaries

$15.3013

Pharmacy Technicians

$13.6514

Nursing Aides/Nursing Assistants

$11.5415

It is important to note that salaries among allied health professionals can vary significantly according to education, experience, specific job duties and level of responsibility. Recent graduates of healthcare training programs will typically begin their careers at entry-level salaries that are lower than the median wages listed here. However, further experience and education can lead to correspondingly higher earnings. Many allied health professionals invest in short-term healthcare training to secure an entry-level position, and then leverage their employer’s continuing education benefits to pursue further training or an advanced degree.

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Explore the Wide Array of Allied Health Professions and Find Your Perfect Fit

If you’re in search of exciting job opportunities in a high-growth industry, allied health professions offer a promising career path. Take the time to evaluate where your skills and interests lie, then explore the healthcare degree and training options available to you. Whether you enroll in a seven-week diploma program or pursue an 18-month associate degree, you can soon be on your way to a rewarding healthcare career among the ranks of America’s allied health professionals!

footnote: * All employment projections and salary statistics were excerpted from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Guide to Industries, 2010-2011; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition; and Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010. Salary figures represent an average for professionals with varying levels of experience and education, and are not reflective of the entry-level salaries typically earned by new graduates of an associate degree or diploma program. Specific page references appear below:
 
1 Career Guide to Industries, 2010-2011. “Healthcare.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs035.htm>
 
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition.
2 “Dental Assistants.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos163.htm>
3 “Medical Assistants.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos164.htm>
4 “Pharmacy Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos325.htm>
5 “Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.”
5 “Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos103.htm>
6 “Nursing and Psychiatric Aides.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos327.htm>
7 “Radiologic Technologists and Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos105.htm>
8 “Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos096.htm>
 
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010.
9 “Radiologic Technicians.” < http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/29-2034.02>
10 “Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292012.htm>
11 “Dental Assistants.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319091.htm>
12 “Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292071.htm>
13 “Medical Assistants.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436013.htm>
14 “Pharmacy Technicians.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm>
15 “Nursing Assistants.” <http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311012.htm>

For information on student graduation rates, retention and placement rates, and student financial obligations visit www.ultimatemedical.edu/consumerinfo

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