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Career Opportunities in Allied Healthcare

If you are thinking about starting a career in healthcare, you have many different training and employment opportunities available to you, in many different specialties, ranging from dental assistants to healthcare professionals.

This page lists some of the most popular careers in health care, and provides an overview of the positions, educational requirements, and employment opportunities in each field.

Cardiovascular Technology

Cardiovascular technologists assist doctors of cardiology with tests, lab work, and patient care and communication. Cardiovascular technology is a medical specialty dealing with diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

  • Cardiovascular technologists are often known as EKG technicians or cardiographic technicians. 
  • Becoming a cardiovascular technician usually involves a formal education, followed by some on-the-job training. 
  • The need for cardiovascular technologists, particularly for those with advanced training in areas such as stress testing and Holter monitoring, is expected to be greater than average over the next five to 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2010).
  • Learn more about the cardiovascular technologist or EKG technician career, job duties, educational requirements and employment outlook.


Counselors assist people in overcoming a variety of difficulties relating to mental health, physical disabilities, and diseases. They also provide advice to people in special situations, including students and individuals changing careers.

  • There are several different types of career paths available for counselors.
  • If you're thinking about working as a counselor, you will need the appropriate education and certification for your specialty. 
  • Many counselors are employed by government agencies and healthcare providers, while a growing number are self-employed. The demand for trained counselors is expected to exceed the number of people entering the field (bls.gov, 2010).

Dental Assistants

Dental assisting can be a rewarding career that involves both technical and people skills. Dental assistants are a vital part of the dental operatory. In fact the term "four handed dentistry" refers to the interaction between the dentist and his assistant.

  • If you're thinking about learning to become a dental assistant, make sure to familiarize yourself with the educational and certification requirements. In addition to general requirements, many states have specific regulations.
  • If you're looking at dental assisting as a career, it could be a smart move. Learn why in the employment outlook for dental assistants.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or Ultrasound, is the technology that allows an expectant mother to determine the gender of her new baby. Sonography allows doctors to diagnose diseases that traditional X Ray radiography would miss or would be too dangerous to use safely.

  • Ultrasound technicians assist doctors by working with patients, creating ultrasound images, and preparing initial reports for the physician's use. The diagnostic medical sonographer career overview describes a typical workday.
  • Most ultrasonogaphers take an accredited two or four year training program. While most states don't require any type of formal licensing to become a sonographer, many employers prefer to hire people that are certified ultrasound technicians. Learn more about the training and educational requirements for medical sonographers.
  • Because sonography is seen as a safer option than traditional radiography, demand for sonography and ultrasound technicians is expected to grow rapidly through the end of the decade (bls.gov, 2009). The medical sonographer employment outlook also describes the salary potential in the field.

Healthcare Administrators

Health care administrators and managers are responsible for the business side of healthcare. They manage everything from facilities to purchasing to finance. As the health delivery system grows, and the pressure to provide additional services at reduced costs grows, the role of the professional administrator, even in clinics, is expected to grow.

  • Read our overview of the healthcare administration career, which describes the role of the health care manager in differing sized facilities.
  • Medical administrators need to know business management practices, along with the unique requirements and operations of a health care facility. Learn about the training and educational requirements for healthcare management.
  • Where will the jobs be in the future? Find out in the Healthcare administration employment outlook.

Massage Therapist

A career on massage therapy and bodywork can be extremely rewarding. With many people wanting to relieve stress and gain relief from sports injuries, the opportunities for massage therapists are expanding. Because many massage therapists are self-employed, this career brings plenty of flexibility, and offers the opportunity to 'be your own boss'.

  • The massage therapist career overview describes the role of the massage therapist, and some of the rewards and challenges of this career.
  • Many states require massage therapists to be licensed, and to have completed a certain amount of training. Learn about educational requirements and certification options for massage therapists.
  • While many massage therapists enter private practice, there are also career opportunities in health spas, chiropractic offices, and sports centers. Learn more about the career advancement and salary potential for massage therapists.

Medical Assistants

The field of medical assisting is expected to grow over the next few years (bls.gov, 2010). Medical assistants work in physicians offices or clinics, helping doctors and patients with a variety of examination and laboratory duties.

  • Read the medical assistant career overview to find out more about what medical assistants do.
  • Do you require formal training in order to start your career? Find out the training and educational opportunities available.
  • Discover where medical assistants work, and how much money do they make in the medical assisting employment outlook.

Medical Information Management

Keeping accurate records on treatments given to patients is extremely important. Doctors use information on past illnesses when considering how to treat a patient, and insurers use this information to accurately reimburse insurance claims.

  • Job titles in the medical information management field include Medical Coders, Medical Billers, and Medical Records Technicians. The health information technology career overview provides more detail on these positions.
  • Working in the medical records field demands some knowledge of computers and the coding systems used to describe diseases and treatments. How much you can learn while working, and how much requires formal schooling is the subject of the educational and training requirements for medical coders, billers and medical records technicians.
  • The increasing use of computerized health records, especially in small practices, means the career outlook for the medical records technology field is bright. The medical records employment outlook describes some of the opportunities.

Medical Lab Technicians and Phlebotomists

Lab technicians conduct a wide variety of tests on patients, examining and analyzing blood, fluid and tissue samples in an effort to identify the presence of diseases. Some lab technicians specialize in certain types of tests. For example, phlebotomists specialize in the drawing of blood, and histotechnicians prepare tissue samples for microscopic examination.

  • Lab technicians typically work with patients in a clinic or hospital, or work in the laboratory, analyzing specimens that have been collected from patients. Learn more about some of the duties and job titles in the lab technician career overview.
  • While a good sense for numbers and the ability to pay attention to detail are important skills for laboratory technicians, the highly technical work they do in most cases requires a degree or certificate. In addition, many employers require certification prior to hiring. The section on Educational Requirements for Lab Technicians and phlebotomists has more information.
  • Because doctors want to spend as much time as they can with patients, the demand for lab technicians is expected to grow in the next five to ten years (bls.gov, 2010). This projected increased demand means that there may be a growing advancement opportunities for laboratory technicians during that timeframe.

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists convert information dictated by physicians to written format. This information included examination results and surgical histories. Read the pages below for more information.

  • The medical transcriptionist career overview describes the work duties and working environment.
  • The best job opportunities for medical stenographers and transcriptionists will go to those with formal training. Read more about the educational and training requirements.
  • The employment outlook for medical transcriptionists is expected to be higher than average for the next few years.

Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy technicians work with registered pharmacists to prepare prescriptions, keep records, and interact with patients needing medications.

  • Being a pharmacy technician involves attention to detail and the ability to interact with people. The pharmacy technician career overview describes the role of the pharmacy tech and life on the job.
  • While it's possible to learn on the job, by going to school and becoming certified, you may be able to get ahead faster. Find out more about the educational and training requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician.
  • Learn about what it's like to be a pharmacy technician from our pharmacy technician profile.

Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants

Physical therapy aides and assistants work under the supervision of licensed physical therapists, providing care and rehabilitative training for patients with disabilities.

  • The physical therapist assistant career overview explains the difference between physical therapy assistants, sometimes called rehab technicians, and physical therapist aides.
  • This field is projected to grow (bls.gov,2010), and many job seekers will need an associate degree to become a physical therapist assistant. They may also need to become certified, but regulations vary between states and cities. 
  • Most of the people in this career field work in hospitals or physical therapists' offices. Job growth is expected to be better than average (bls.gov, 2010) as the population ages, and physical therapists delegate additional responsibilities to their assistants. Learn more about the working conditions, employment outlook, and salary potential for physical therapist assistants and aides.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses provide patient care in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and public health settings.

  • Registered nurses can perform different activities, and have different responsibilities, depending on where they are employed. 
  • While all registered nurses must be licensed, their education can range from a diploma to an advanced degree. Learn more about the educational and training requirements.
  • The registered nurse employment outlook shows job growth beyond hospitals, which traditionally have employed the most RNs.
  • Learn more about registered nurses through our profile of a registered nurse.

Respiratory Therapists and Respiratory Therapy Technicians

Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians work with patients with breathing difficulties or cardiopulmonary diseases, including people with asthma, or premature infants.

  • While respiratory therapy technicians and respiratory therapists have similar sounding titles, they each perform a specific role in patient care. Learn how they diagnose and treat patients.
  • Learn about the educational and certification requirements for a career in respiratory therapy.
  • Most respiratory therapy positions are in hospitals. With an aging population, the employment outlook for respiratory therapists is expected to be higher than average (bls.gov, 2010).

Surgical Technologists

They are known as operating room technicians, scrubs, or surgical technicians, and they play an important role in the operating room: preparing patients for surgery, and assisting doctors during surgical procedures.

  • As a surgical technologist, you'll prepare the OR for surgery, work with patients, and most importantly, help save lives. The surgical technologist career overview describes a typical workday.
  • Becoming an operating technician requires specialized training on the equipment you'll use and the diseases and injuries you'll see. You may also wish to become certified as a surgical technologist. Find out more about the training and educational requirements for surgical technologists.
  • Learn more in the surgical technologist employment outlook.

Additional Resources for Individuals Pursuing Healthcare Degree Programs
Health Care News from FierceHealthcare
The American Health Care Association Website
2011-2012 Best U.S. Hospitals Ranking from USNews