Top 5 Allied Health Professions
Allied health - healthcare industry jobs outside the three core occupations of doctor, nurse and dentist – includes some of the nation’s fastest-growing professions, according to federal government projections.
That's due in part to large numbers of Baby Boomers entering their senior years and requiring more health services. For example, positions for physical therapists are expected to grow 39% in the next seven years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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“Options within healthcare are increasing,” Mary Ann Holt, a registered nurse and partner with IMA Consulting, told Healthcare Finance News. “There are a lot of positions available for allied health professionals who continue to have a large area of opportunity as well as for people without a degree, such as home health aides and medical assistants.”
Here are five of the fastest growing allied health professions, along with their requirements and salaries.
Home Health Aide
Home health aides assist the elderly, the chronically ill and disabled with bathing and dressing. In some states, home health aides may administer medication or check vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other health care practitioners.
It's not a high-paying profession: median annual salary in 2010 was $20,170. However, there are no formal education requirements. Aides are trained and must pass a standardized test. The demand is great, though, with projected growth of 69% by 2020, according to the BLS.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers perform sonograms, echocardiograms and ultrasounds, using imaging equipment to assess and diagnose medical conditions.
An associate's degree or postsecondary certificate is typically required to become a sonographer, and many employers require professional certification. In 2010, the median salary for this occupation was $64,380. It's a fast-growing field, with demand expected to increase 44% by 2020.
Occupational therapists work with ill, injured and disabled patients, from accident victims and the autistic to Alzheimer's patients. Treatment focuses on engaging patients in meaningful, every day activities.
A master's degree in occupational therapy is required, as is a state license. Median pay for an occupational therapist in 2010 was $72,320, according to the BLS, and demand is growing rapidly, expected to reach 33% in 2020.
Athletic trainers don't work solely in the locker room. They diagnose and treat muscle injuries and illnesses in patients of all ages and skills. Work environments can range from professional and college sports settings to physician's offices and public schools.
A bachelor's degree is required although master's degrees are common. Most states also require certification to practice.
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The median annual salary for an athletic trainer in 2010 was $41,600, according to the BLS. Demand is growing and should rise 30% by the end of the decade, thanks to both the increasing number of elderly patients as well as greater awareness of youth sports-related injuries.
As more doctors enter specialty fields, physician assistants, or PAs, are becoming the primary healthcare providers for many patients. They perform examinations, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment under the direction of a physician or surgeon.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, a physician assistant program must be completed. The program typically takes two years as a full-time student and most often results in a master’s degree. PAs must be licensed by the state as well.
The field is expected to grow 30% by 2020, and the median salary in 2010 was $86,410, according to the BLS.