12 High-Paying Allied Health Careers

If you want to work in healthcare but don’t have the time or money for medical school, consider one of these secure and lucrative fields

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2011

Highest Paying Allied Health Professions
Highest Paying Allied Health Professions

The allied health field includes a large group of generally fast-growing and well-paying careers. Credentials in this area prepare you to work in healthcare professions outside the core fields of dentistry, medicine and nursing. But which ones are your best bets?

Here are 12 of today’s top allied health careers:

1. Pharmacy. Pharmacy professionals dispense critical medication prescribed to patients by their doctors. Pharmacy technicians typically pursue pharmacy certificates or associate’s degrees. Pharmacists first earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field – such as biology or chemistry – and then complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree program. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require that pharmacists obtain licensure from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Find a Program for You

Get MatchedU.S. News University Directory can match you with online programs that meet your criteria in a few simple steps.

Median annual salary, pharmacist: $106,410/yr*

Median hourly wage, pharmacy technician: $13.32/hr*

[Find pharmacy degree and certificate programs now!]

2. Physician assisting. Physician assistants (often called PAs) provide diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic healthcare under the supervision of a medical doctor (MD). PA degree programs take at least two years to complete, and usually require previous education and experience in a clinical healthcare field (such as nursing) for admission. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require PAs to be licensed by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Median annual salary, physician assistant: $81,230/yr*

3. Radiation therapy. Working as part of a medical radiation oncology team, radiation therapists administer radiation treatment to patients with cancer. There are both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs that can allow you to enter this field; bachelor’s degree holders generally have more job opportunities and better chances at advancement. Most (but not all) states require radiation therapists to be licensed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Median annual salary, radiation therapist: $72,910/yr*

4. Physical therapy. Physical therapists help patients recover from diseases, injuries and age-related problems that have impaired their health. Entering this field requires a Master of Science in Physical Therapy or equivalent degree. Physical therapy assistants, who help physical therapists perform their duties, typically have to earn an associate’s degree. All states and the District of Columbia require physical therapists to be licensed, but the specific licensing standards and regulations vary from state to state.

Median annual salary, physical therapist: $72,790/yr*

Median annual salary, physical therapy assistant: $46,140/yr*

[Find physical therapy degree and certificate programs now!]

5. Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists help patients recover everyday living and working abilities lost to disease or injury. The entry point for this field is a Master of Science (MS) in Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapy assistants, who help occupational therapists perform their duties, are usually required to earn an associate’s degree. Both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants must obtain licensure, but eligibility requirements vary by state.

Median annual salary, occupational therapist: $66,780/yr*

Median annual salary, occupational therapy assistant: $48,230/yr*

[Find occupational therapy degree and certificate programs now!]

6. Nuclear medicine technology.Nuclear medicine technologists administer drugs called radiopharmaceuticals to patients, and then monitor tissues and/or organs in which the drugs localize. This allows them to determine the presence of disease on the basis of metabolic changes. Entering this field without prior healthcare experience requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Professionals from other diagnostic imaging fields can generally complete a one-year certificate program to add nuclear medicine to their skill set. Licensing standards vary from state to state, and many states do not require licenses at all.

Median annual salary, nuclear medicine technologist: $66,660/yr*

7. Audiology. Audiologists help people who have ear defects, diseases and injuries that lead to hearing loss, balance problems and related difficulties. Entering this field generally requires earning a Master’s degree in Audiology or Doctorate in Audiology. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require professionals in this field to maintain an active license, which means continuing education classes, and some also have separate licensing rules for audiologists who want to dispense hearing aids.

Median annual salary, audiologist: $62,030/yr*

[Find audiology degree programs now!]

8. Diagnostic medical sonography. Diagnostic medical sonographers help diagnose and treat ailments with machines that generate high-frequency sound waves. This technology has many applications, but is most common in the field of obstetrics. An associate’s degree in generally required to enter this field, but there are currently no licensing requirements for diagnostic medical sonographers.

Median annual salary, diagnostic medical sonographer: $61,980/yr*

9. Medical laboratory technology. Medical laboratory technologists use a wide variety of tests to assist in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. A Bachelor’s in Medical Technology or equivalent degree in typically necessary to enter this field. Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered, but the standards vary.

Median annual salary, medical laboratory technologist: $53,500/yr*

10. Respiratory therapy. Respiratory therapists diagnose and treat patients with a variety of breathing disorders. They frequently work under the supervision of a physician and oversee respiratory technicians. An Associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy is required to enter this field, and licensure is required in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.

Median annual salary, respiratory therapist: $52,200/yr*

11. Radiologic technology. Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The education requirements for radiologic technologists can be met at the certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree level (associate’s programs are the most prevalent). State licensure, where required, is often done through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Median annual salary, radiologic technologist: $52,210/yr*

[Find radiologic technology degree and certificate programs now!]

12. Nutrition and dietetics. Dieticians and nutritionists care for people by helping them maintain a healthy diet. A dietetics and nutrition bachelor’s degree is typically considered the start of professional practice in this field and is often required for licensure. Many states require licensure or statutory certification to practice nutrition and dietetics, but standards and regulations vary.

Median annual salary, dieticians and nutritionists: $50,590/yr*

[Find nutrition and dietetics degree programs now!]

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011

Featured Schools Offering Degrees in Health Informatics

We recommend