10 Fastest Growing Allied Health Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the healthcare industry is the biggest industry in the United States, with more than 13 million workers. 10 of the 20 most rapidly growing industries are currently located in this field. In fact, it’s estimated that 20 percent of new jobs through 2014 will be located in the medical industry, and the majority of these positions will be filled by individuals with 4 years or less of training.

Many new healthcare jobs will be located in the field of Allied Health. This term is used to classify up to 100 different healthcare careers, excluding doctors and nurses. What allied health professions are anticipated to grow fastest? While every career in the allied health field should grow through the near future, the following 10 careers are projected to grow by more than 25 percent a year. In other words, these careers offer the best future job security. The following list provides information about educational requirements and average annual earnings.

1. Medical Assistants

A rapidly growing profession, these specialists perform clinical and administrative duties at the offices of doctors, surgeons, chiropractors, and other medical specialists. Their duties vary by clinic and are affected by clinic size and the specialty of their employer. The following is a partial list of their duties: answering phones, greeting patients, maintaining medical records, completing insurance paperwork, drafting letters, scheduling patient appointments, setting up laboratory tests and hospital stays, and maintaining books and handling patient billing.

As the medical field grows because of technological improvements and expanding populations of elderly individuals, medical assistants will be in greater demand. Moreover, this profession is expected to be the most rapidly growing medical job until 2014.

Education Requirements: Medical assistants typically complete post-high school certificate or associate’s programs lasting between 1-2 years.

Salary: Medical assistants earn salaries averaging $24,610 annually.

2. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

An interesting and rapidly growing allied health profession, these specialists help doctors diagnose and treat heart and peripheral vascular problems. Cardiovascular technologists often specialize in vascular, echocardiography, and cardiology technology. Cardiovascular technologists with expertise in invasive procedures are known as cardiology technologists. They get patients ready for balloon angioplasties and cardiac catheterizations. While administering these procedures, cardiology technologists monitor heart rate and blood pressure and notify doctors after detecting abnormalities. Technologists often also get patients ready for open-heart surgery and monitor them while stents or pacemakers are inserted into patients with clogged arteries.

Rapid job growth for cardiovascular technologists has been projected since more doctors now utilize diagnostic technology and the aging population has higher rates of heart disease. Job growth for vascular technologists and echocardiographers is projected because more doctors now utilize sonography and vascular technology to reduce the need to perform invasive heart surgeries.

Education Requirements: Most cardiovascular technologists earn associate’s degrees at community colleges or bachelor’s degrees at colleges and universities.

Salary: Cardiovascular technologists earn salaries averaging $38,690 annually.

3. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

also referred to as ultrasound technicians or ultrasonographers, these specialists utilize sophisticated high frequency sound wave technology to take internal images of the body. These images are photographed, videotaped, and transmitted to doctors to make medical diagnoses. These specialists are currently in demand, making this a rapidly growing profession.

As the American population continues to age, increasing the need to administer diagnostic imaging tests, job growth for diagnostic medical sonographers will increase at high rates. Likewise, sonography has become appealing to many patients desiring to avoid radiologic procedures that can be unsafe.

Education Requirements: Most universities and colleges offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography. Medical sonographers typically hold associate’s degrees.

Salary: The average salary for diagnostic medical sonographers is $52,490.

4. Physician Assistants

Physician assistants offer medical services under the direction of licensed doctors. This profession is currently understaffed nationwide. Physician assistants are trained to administer supervised preventative health, therapeutic, and diagnostic services. Working with other healthcare specialists, they record medical histories, evaluate and treat patients, set up and review x rays and other laboratory tests, and diagnose medical problems. Physician assistants are often the primary medical providers in inner city or rural facilities where doctors cannot always be present. This is a stable career.

Job growth for physician assistants is projected to increase quicker than average, making this profession a rapidly growing job. Growth can be attributed to growth in healthcare services nationwide, greater reliance on these specialists, and organizational efforts to reduce expenses.

Education Requirements: Physician assistants are required to complete accredited training programs and pass the national certification exam. It typically takes 2 years studying full-time to complete a physician assistant training program.

Salary: Physician assistants practicing clinically on a full-time basis average $74,264 annually, one of the highest annual salaries for medical professionals.

5. Respiratory Therapists and Respiratory

This is another great profession in the healthcare industry. These specialists, also referred to as respiratory care practitioners, assess, treat, and assist patients with cardiopulmonary and other breathing problems. Respiratory therapists are responsible for overseeing respiratory therapy technicians, administering diagnostic tests, and providing therapy. Respiratory therapy technicians must adhere to specific respiratory care treatments under the supervision of doctors or respiratory therapists.

Career opportunities for these specialists are projected to be excellent through the near future, particularly for respiratory therapists trained to treat infants or administer cardiopulmonary treatments. Job growth for all types of respiratory therapists should be high since aging populations require care for cardiopulmonary disease and emphasis is being placed on preventing pulmonary problems.

Educational Requirements: To begin a career in this field, you must hold an associate’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are also available in respiratory therapy. Graduates of respiratory therapy programs will be well prepared for professional practice.

Salary: Respiratory therapists earn salaries averaging $43,140 annually.

6. Athletic Trainers

Athletic training is a unique and rapidly growing career in the field of allied health. Athletic trainers treat injured people and teach them how to avoid injury. They work with individuals from all types of professions, including industrial employees and professional athletes. Since athletic trainers frequently initially respond to athletic injuries, they must have the ability to recognize, assess, and treat injuries. Athletic trainers also assist patients recover from injuries.

Career opportunities for athletic trainers are projected to be excellent through the near future, and the best jobs will be available at hospitals, private clinics, and ambulatory service providers.

Educational Requirements: Most athletic trainers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree from schools with accredited programs.

Salary: Annual salaries for athletic trainers are affected by work experience, the level of job responsibilities, and geographic location. Athletic trainers earn salaries averaging $33,940 a year.

7. Surgical Technologists

To become a surgical technologist, you will only be required to complete limited training, making this a great job for individuals wanting to begin their careers immediately. Surgical technologists, also referred to as operating room or surgical technicians and scrubs, help surgeons and doctors performing surgical and other medical procedures. Prior to operations, these workers prepare rooms where surgery is performed by setting up tools, sterilizing surroundings, and performing other tasks. They also move patients to where surgery will be performed, get them ready, and sterilize surgical tools. While surgery is performed, surgical technologists observe vital signs, review charts, and help members of the surgical team.

Since demand for surgical procedures is projected to increase to accommodate the aging population, job opportunities for these specialists should be good through the near future, making this an appealing career in the healthcare industry.

Educational Requirements: Surgical technologists are trained at programs available at hospitals, universities, vocational schools, and community colleges. This is a stable career within the field of healthcare.

Salary: Surgical technologists earn salaries averaging $34,010 a year.

8. Clinical laboratory Technologists

This is an ideal career for aspiring health specialists interested in wearing a white coat daily. These professionals, commonly known as medical technologists or clinical laboratory scientists, administer laboratory tests vital in diagnosing and treating health problems. Clinical laboratory technologists review and analyze cells, tissue, and body fluids. While doing this, they pay close attention to parasites, bacteria, and other types of microorganisms, review bodily fluid content, test drug levels present in blood, and match blood for patients requiring transfusions. Technologists also count cells, get specimens ready to be analyzed, and look for cell abnormalities.

During the upcoming future, job opportunities for clinical laboratory technologists is projected to exceed qualified specialists, especially as more doctors rely on laboratory tests and laboratory technology continues to advance.

Educational Requirements: Most clinical laboratory technicians hold associate’s degrees or professional certificates from vocational schools or hospitals. To obtain an entry-level medical technology position, you will more than likely be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in a life science or medical technology.

Salary: Clinical laboratory and medical technologists earn salaries that average $45,730 a year.

9. Medical and Health Services

If you would rather complete paperwork than handle bodily fluids, a career as a medical and health service manager might be right for you. Healthcare organizations are run like other businesses, so to operate smoothly, they must be managed effectively. These specialists, also known as healthcare administrators and executives, oversee, coordinate, and direct healthcare delivery. Many of these professionals specialize. Specialists often supervise individual divisions, while generalists typically manage entire organizations. Currently, health services and medical managers are responsible for improving specific healthcare operations, such as follow up and outpatient care.

As healthcare providers continue diversifying and expanding, medical and health services manager career opportunities will be particularly excellent at surgical and general care hospitals, outpatient facilities, home healthcare companies, and doctors’ clinics.

Educational Requirements: Most medical and health services managers hold MBAs or graduate degrees in health services administration. Some entry-level jobs at small clinics and hospital departments can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, and many health information managers find jobs with bachelor’s degrees. Compared to other allied health careers, this is the most rapidly growing career field.

Salary: Medical and health services managers earn salaries averaging $67,430 a year, but many earn annual salaries exceeding $100,000.

10. Dietitians and Nutritionists

These specialists emphasize healthy lifestyles by planning and overseeing nutrition programs and initiatives. They teach people how to avoid and treat disease through good nutrition and dietary alterations. Additionally, dietitians and nutritionists supervise food service programs for organizations, which include schools and hospitals. They also encourage good nutrition through educational programs, and they conduct original research.

Public initiatives to increase awareness about the importance of good nutrition and expanding elderly populations will increase demand for the services of dieticians and nutritionists at home healthcare companies, community centers, correctional facilities, schools, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. Additionally, public concern about nutrition and increased demand for health education will create demand for these specialists, particularly for those with management experience.

Educational Requirements: Most dietitians and nutritionists hold bachelor’s or graduate degrees in food service systems management, nutrition, dietetics, or similar majors.

Salary: Dietitians and nutritionists earn annual salaries averaging $43,630.

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