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Allied Health Professions Overview

Overview

For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions defines allied health as the segment of the health care field “that delivers services involving the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; and rehabilitation and health systems management.”

There are five million allied health care providers in the United States, who work in more than 80 different professions and represent approximately 60% of all health care providers. The number of allied health care providers is likely to grow as jobs in the health care industry will grow from 15.6 million to 19.8 million between 2010 and 2020. An increasing number of those jobs will require people with bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

Some allied health care providers work collaboratively with other providers, including physicians, nurses, dentists and pharmacists. They may play roles in evaluating and assessing a patient’s needs, keeping the physician and others informed of the patient’s progress and caring for the patient. Others work independently as specialists in exercise, nutrition, health education, speech and daily function.

The allied health professions fall into two broad categories: technicians (assistants) and therapists/technologists. Technicians are trained to perform procedures, and their education lasts less than two years. They are required to work under the supervision of technologists or therapists. This part of the allied health field includes physical therapy assistants, medical laboratory technicians, radiological technicians, occupational therapy assistants, recreation therapy assistants and respiratory therapy technicians.

The educational process for therapists or technologists is more intensive and includes acquiring procedural skills. In addition, students learn to evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, develop treatment plans and understand the rationale behind various treatments in order to judge their appropriateness and potential side effects. Educational curricula teach students to evaluate patients’ responses to therapy and make appropriate decisions about continued treatment or modification of treatment plans.

The following professions are included in allied health: