What is Allied Health?

The health care industry is the largest and fastest growing industry in the United States. Allied health is a field of health care distinct from medicine, dentistry and nursing and it comprises more than sixty percent of the health care workers in the United States. Generally, allied health professionals are administrative and health care workers that supply diagnostic, technical, therapeutic and direct patient care and support services to the industry. The allied health industry exploded in popularity following the Second World War. After the war, highly complex and advanced medical practices emerged in the States and there was an immediate shift from treating patients in a hospital to more specialized private practices. Also, with these more advanced practices came an increase in health care costs. These two factors created a need for trained health care professionals that could deliver specialized services, generally in out-patient settings.

Careers in allied health are vast and varied. They can include therapeutic careers, like athletic trainers, kinesiologists, physical therapists, musical therapists, and recreational therapists. They can also include more technical positions like phlebotomists, radiologist, optometrist, ultrasound technician and more. Studies have shown that in the coming years there will be an increased shortage of allied health professionals. With the American population growing, Baby Boomers growing older, and more health care professionals reaching retirement age, there simply aren’t enough workers to meet this growing need.

Because the scope of allied health professions is so varied, education, training and certification in these fields are also varied. Depending on the career you choose, you may only be required to obtain a certificate in that field or simply receive on the job training from your employer. Conversely, some careers might require you to earn an advanced degree as well as be subjected to licensing exams. This is something to be aware of before you choose which career path to follow in allied health.

Also, to better understand which of these many careers would be right for you, consider shadowing an allied health professional for a day, subscribe to the Journal of Allied Health or attend a health care career fair. Also, college guidance counselors and professors can offer further insight into the various allied health fields. These are all great resources you can use when you are deciding which field of allied health you are interested in pursuing.

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