At a high level, allied health is an umbrella term that refers to a diverse group of healthcare professionals who play a vital role in medical and educational systems. Professionals in allied health careers often work alongside physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to provide care to patients and students in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and schools. Some people make a distinction between “rehab therapy” and “allied health,” reserving the latter term for medical imaging professionals and other, non-therapy disciplines.
What Are Career Options Within Allied Health?
One of the most exciting things about allied health is the wide variety of career options it offers. Some of the most common allied health professions include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, medical laboratory personnel, and medical imaging technicians. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg–there are over 80 different types of allied health professions!
Physical therapists, for example, help patients recover from injuries or surgeries by developing and implementing exercise programs that help them regain strength, flexibility, and mobility. Occupational therapists, on the other hand, work with patients to help them regain the ability to perform daily activities, such as dressing, cooking, and using the bathroom. Speech-language pathologists help patients who have difficulty speaking, communicating effectively, or swallowing. Medical laboratory workers are responsible for performing tests on samples of blood, tissue, and other bodily fluids to help diagnose and treat diseases. And medical imaging techs work in the field of Radiology, which includes various medical imaging modalities to diagnose diseases and injuries with the body, and guide their treatment.
What Is the Outlook for Careers in Allied Health?
Another great thing about allied health is that, on the whole, it is a rapidly growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in allied health is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. This partially due to the aging population, as well as an increasing demand for healthcare services in general. In addition to permanent jobs, there is also the opportunity to work allied travel assignments, which are contract stints in a variety of locations that typically pay considerably more. For many allied disciplines, per diem work is also available, which offers greater flexibility.
Are Allied Health Careers Rewarding?
One of the most rewarding aspects of a career in allied health is the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Allied health professionals help patients regain their independence, improve their quality of life, and often play a crucial role in their recovery. Many allied disciplines also have the opportunity to work with patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, which can be a very fulfilling and diverse experience. And some allied professions also work in schools, which offers the chance to help make a difference in the lives of their students.
What Are the Primary Allied Health Settings?
Many allied health professionals also have the opportunity to work in a wide variety of settings. Some may work in hospitals, while others may work in clinics, nursing homes, or private practices. Certain allied health disciplines also have the option to work in schools, with sports teams, or in other community organizations. Each setting offers a distinct environment, type of treatments/services performed, and the patient cohorts addressed.
How to Get Started in Allied Health
If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in allied health, you’re in luck! There are many educational programs available to help you get started. Some programs, like physical therapy and occupational therapy, require a master’s degree, while others, like certain laboratory or imaging techs, may only require an associate degree. You will often need to become certified and obtain a license to practice in your state.
A Final Word on Allied Health Careers
Allied health is a diverse and dynamic field that offers a wide range of career opportunities, growth potential, and the chance to make a real difference in people’s lives. This broad field is essential to the healthcare system and offers a chance to be a part of an important and fulfilling profession. If you’re passionate about healthcare and want to help people, allied health may be the perfect career path for you!