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Allied Health Training Programs

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Allied health professionals support physicians and other medical professionals with patients who have diseases and disorders and who need dietary, rehabilitation and nutrition services. Being such a broad field of study, allied health programs cover a wide array of majors at many degree levels, ranging from an Associate of Science in Health Information Technology to a Master of Health Science in Health Care Education.

Some allied health careers include: nurse practitioner, speech language pathologist, registered nurse, physical therapist, physician assistant, medical assistant, occupational therapy assistant and diagnostic medical sonographers.

Allied Health Education Programs

Allied health schools and programs cover many different professions; due to the breadth of the field, allied health education programs vary in terms of degree level and course content. While an associate degree in allied health may prepare a student for a variety of medical careers, there are also plenty of specific allied health programs that may prepare a student for a career in a specialized field.

Regardless of the program, students of allied health may take the following core curriculum courses:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology: The study of human body systems, including the skeletal, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. Also typically covers cell biology, chemistry, and the study of different tissues.
  • Introduction to Psychology: A scientific study of behavior, covering topics such as memory, learning, the nervous system, motivation, perception, social interaction and much more. This course may give allied health professionals a broad view of human behavior, which could be helpful in dealing with patients who display a variety of behaviors.
  • Business Math: A course designed to prepare students for the mathematical concepts used in the everyday business environment. Some allied health careers may require mathematical skills, making this a useful and possibly required course for allied health students.

Certification and Licensure

There's no single certification and licensure requirement for all allied health professionals. But to get an idea of some of the certification and licensure requirements for a few allied health careers, here are three examples:

  • Medical assistant: Medical assistants don't require certification, although many employers prefer certified medical assistants. To apply for certification, one must either pass an exam or graduate from an accredited program, and then go through a certifying agency.
  • Diagnostic medical sonographer: Becoming a certified sonographer is not necessarily required but most employers prefer it. To become certified, one must pass an exam and graduate from an accredited program in the field. Some states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed.
  • Occupational therapy assistant: Most states require occupational therapy assistants to acquire licensure, which can usually be done by completing an accredited occupational therapy assistant program and passing an exam. Some states require further education.

Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities

The work environment and responsibilities of an allied health professional vary by position. Some allied health professionals work in hospital environments, whereas others work in offices or pharmacies.

Here are two examples of allied health professionals and some of their responsibilities:

  • Medical assistant: Measure vital signs, take patient history, prepare blood for lab tests, give injections under the supervision of a physician, assist with patient exams and schedule patient appointments.
  • Health educator: Put together and present educational programs and materials on health, such as school and community presentations, conferences, training workshops, bulletins and reports. Collaborate with health specialists to determine community health needs. Assess the performance of health education programs.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Salary and employment outlook differs among professions within allied health. Here is the salary and employment outlook of two common allied health careers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/oes, 2013; bls.gov/ooh, 2012):

  • Medical assistant: A national mean hourly wage of $14.69 and a national mean annual wage of $30,550 in May 2012. Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020.
  • Registered nurse: In May 2012 a registered nurse earned a national mean hourly wage of $32.66 and a national mean annual wage of $67,930. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition: Medical Assistants
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition: Registered Nurses
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
O*Net Online: Health educators
Glen Oaks Community College: Allied health
Washburn University: Allied Health
Wake Forest University: Allied health
Austin Peay State University: Allied Health Science Degree Programs
The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP)


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