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10 Fastest Growing Allied Health Careers

A recent survey published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the healthcare industry is quickly becoming the largest employment sector in the United States – projected to pass both the government and business sectors in terms of total number of people employed by 2024. It's estimated that over 5 million new jobs will be added in healthcare over the next 8 years alone and that over the same period 1 in 5 new jobs created will be in healthcare and medicine. For those looking to the future, a career in healthcare offers a breadth of opportunity.

Of the new jobs created, many will be in the field of Allied Health. Allied Health is the "service" segment of the health care field. Allied health professionals are involved in the identification, diagnosis, evaluation and prevention of health disorders and disease; patient rehabilitation; nutrition and dietary services; and management of vital health systems. Within allied health, there are over 100 individual health occupations (exclusing physicians and nurses).

While every allied health occupation will experience rapid growth over the next decade, there are a few allied health professions that are projected to grow faster than all the rest. The following 10 allied health careers are anticipated to grow by more than 25 percent through 2024. In other words, these careers will likely provide the best future career opportunity and job security. Below we'll explore each career, its earning potential and entry-level education requirements.

1. Medical Assistants

As the overall demand for health care services and medical treatments grows, so does the need for medical assistants. These health specialists often work behind the scences performing mission critical duties that are often administrative in nature. The duties of a medical assistant will vary from one healthcare sector to the next and from employer to employer. However, most medical assistants will perform one or more of the following duties on a regular basis as part of their job description: answer phones, maintain medical records, greet patients, complete insurance paperwork, draft letters, set up laboratory tests and hospital stays, schedule patient appointments, maintain books and handle patient billing.

Through 2024, the profession of medical assistant is projected to be among the top fastest growing health care jobs in the nation.

Education Requirements: Medical assistants are typically required to complete a post-high school certificate or 1-2 associate’s degree program.

Salary: The average annual salary for medical assistants is $22,870 to $45,310.

2. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Cardiovascular technology is one of the fastest growing segments of field of allied health. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians help physcians and healthcare specialists diagnose and treat conditions of the heart nd peripheral vascular system. Cardiovascular technologists often choose to specialize in vascular, echocardiography, or cardiology technology. A subset of cardiovascular technologists, cardiology technologists, specialize in invasive procedures including balloon angioplasties and cardiac catheterizations. After administering these procedures, cardiology technologists monitor patients' vitals including blood pressure and hear rate. They report any abnormalities the find to the attending physcian. Technologists often prep patients for open-heart surgery. While the surgeon is inserting stents to open clogged arteries or pacemakers, technologists will monitor a patient's vitals.

New and better diagnostic technology, combined with an aging population with higher rates of heart desease, is leading to an increase in procedures and surgeries aimed at improving heart health and function. To keep up with the demand, more heart doctors and cardiovascular technologists and technicians are needed. Employment opportunities for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is projected to grow by double digits through 2024. Vascular technologists and technicians will be in particularly high demand as doctors continue to utilize sonography and new vascular technology to reduce the need for invasive heart surgeries.

Education Requirements: The entry-level educational requirement for most cardiovascular technologist or technician positions is a relevant 2-year associates degree from an accredited community college or a 4-year bachelor's degree from a college or university.

Salary: Cardiovascular technologists earn between $28,650 and $89,450 a year.

3. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, more commonly known at ultrasonographers or ultrasound technicians, use high frequency sound wave technology to scan and take images of the inside of the human body. The images that sonographers create are used by physicians, surgeons and health specialists to diagnose and treat various medical conditions. The field off diagnostic medical sonography is one of the fastest growing of the healthcare industry. Diagnostic medical sonographers are in high demand.

Growth in this field is due in part to an aging populations of Americans who require regular diagnostic image testing. Sonography is also considered a viable alternative to various radiologic procedures that have potential health risks.

Education Requirements: To become a diagnostic medical sonographer requires specialized training. Many colleges, universities and vocational schools offer associate and bachelor degree programs in sonography that can prepare you for a career in this field. The most common path to becoming a medical sonographer is to earn a 2-year associate degree in sonography from an accredited vocational or technical training program.

Salary: Pay for diagnostic medical sonographers ranges from $48,660 to $99,100 a year.

4. Physician Assistants

Physicians assistants work under the supervision of a licensed physician. Notwithstanding, they often offer many of the same diagnostic, evaluation, preventative care, therapeutic, and medical services as a physician. Physician assistants often work hand in hand with other health specialists to evaluate and diagnose patients, record medical histories, review lab tests and x-rays, and develop treatment plans. In more rural areas of the United States and in inner cities, physician assistants are often the primary provider of medical services. The demand for physician assistants is strong and growing.

Employment of physician assistants is projected to grow much faster than the average for all other occupations through 2024, making this career one of fastest growing in the nation. Growth in this field can be attributed to the growing demand in healthcare services in general, greater reliance on physician assistants over doctors, and efforts by health organizations to reduce the expense associated with hiring only licensed physicians to treat patients.

Education Requirements: The minimum requirement to become a physician assistant is (1) the completion of an accredited training program and (2) passing a national certification exam. Most physician assistant training programs take at least 2 years to complete.

Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average annual pay for physician assistants is between $65,620 and $142,210 a year. Physician assistants are among the top paid allied health professionals.

5. Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapy is another segment of the healthcare services industry that is growing at an unprecedented rate. Respiratory therapists, sometimes referred to as respiratory care practitioners, evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients experiencing respiratory, cardiopulmonary and other breathing disorders. In addition to providing direct patient care, respiratory therapists oversee respiratory therapy technicians who assist in the treatment and care of patients. Respiratory technicians assist therapists and doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of various respiratory conditions and diseases.

Employment opportunities for respiratory therapists are projected to be strong through 2024. Job opportunities will be particularly plentiful for therapists who are trained and qualified to treat cardiopulmonary disorders and infants. Emphasis on preventing pulmonary problems and an aging population of people who require treatment of cardiopulmonary disease are driving job growth in this segment of the healthcare industry.

Educational Requirements: The minimum entry-level requiremet for a career as a respiratory therapist is a 2-year associate's degree. However, most employers prefer applicants with at least a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy. Licensing is also required in all state except Alaska. Two levels of certification are offered through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Salary: The average annual salary for respiratory therapists in the United States is between $42,490 and $81,550. The median annual pay is $58,670.

6. Athletic Trainers

More Americans are turning to the gym and the services of athletic trainers as the become of conscious of their health, seek assistance recovering from injury, and desire to improve the quality of their lives. Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals that help people condition their bodies, recover from injury and learn how to improve their musculature to avoid injury. They work with individuals from all backgrounds, from professional athletes to the elderly. Many individuals who seek the services of an athletic trainer do so in response to having experienced an injury. Hence, athletic trainers must be trained to recognize, assess, and treat injuries.

The employment market for athletic trainers is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Job opportunities will be best at private medical clinics, hospitals, and ambulatory service providers. The retiring generation of babyboomers will also seek the services of athletic trainers to help them improve their bodies and their quality of live as the grow older.

Educational Requirements: The minimum entry-level educational requirement to become an athletic trainer is typically a bachelor's degree from a college or university that offers an accredited program in athletic training.

Salary: Athletic trainers on average earn between $30,300 and $69,140 a year. Their pay is influenced by work experience, job description, employer and geographic location.

7. Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, sometimes referred to as surgical technicians, are the members of specialized medical teams that work in the operating room. Surgical technologists may include surgeons, anesthesiologists and operating room nurses. However, typically surgical technologists work under the supervision of the head operating room surgeon and fill a support role. The main role of surgical technologists is to prepare the operating room for surgery and assist the surgeons performing the surgery. Surgical technologists and technicians make sure necessary supplies are present for surgery and that operating instruments and equipment are sterile. Surgical technologists and technicians also move patients into and out of the operating room and prep them for surgery. Surgical technologists often monitor vital signs during surgery, review charts, and generally support the other members of the operating room team.

Demand for surgical procedures is projected to grow as an aging population of American citizens face a myriad of age-related health and medical conditions. As the number of surgical procedures grows the demand for surgical technologists will increase and job opportunities will be plentiful.

Educational Requirements: There are a number of organizations that offer training for surgical technologists, including universities, community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals and the military. The minimum entry-level requirement for becoming a surgical technologist is usually a 2-year associate degree but some schools provide 1-year certificates in surgical technology.

Salary: Surgical technologists earn salaries averaging from $31,720 on the low end to $64,800 on the high end.

8. Clinical Laboratory Technologists

If you like wearing a white coat, this is the healthcare job for you. Not only do clinical laboratory technologists wear white coats daily, they also perform a variety of mission critical, hight tech healthcare services. Clinical laboratory technologists, often referred to as medical technologists, administer and process tests required for diagnosing and treating health problems. Even though clinical laboratory technologists often work behind the scenes, they are a vital component in the healthcare process. The tests they perform are instrumental in identifying, diagnosing and treating medical conditions and disease. Without the information clinical laboratory technologists provide, physicians would be unable help their patients recovery. Specifically, clinical laboratory technologists analyze human cells, tissues, and fluids. They look for abnormalities, foreign bacteria, parasites, and other types of microorganisms that could lead to disease. They test blood for the presence of drugs, match blood for patients undergoing transfusions, and collect specimens for analysis.

For skilled clinical laboratory technologists job opportunities are plentiful. Employment prospects for clinical laboratory technologists are projected to grow much faster than the average for other occupations. As more physicians rely on laboratory testing, and technology advances, the demand for clinical laboratory technologists will grow.

Educational Requirements: A bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study is typically required to become a medical or clinical laboratory technologist. A degree in medical technology or life sciences is preferred.

Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statists (BLS) the median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists is $60,520. The lowest 10 percent of technologists earn less than $41,000. The highest 10 percent earn more than $84,300 a year.

9. Medical and Health Services

If you'd rather deal in back office paperwork and computers, than blood, tissue and bodily fluids, then a career in medical and health services might be right down your alley. Every healthcare organization has to run smoothly and in order to do so they hire medical and health services managers to oversee operations, coordinate activities and ensure proper and timely healthcare delivery. Medical and health services managers include healthcare administrators, executives, and offices managers, among others. Medical and health services managers often specialize. They may manager an entire healthcare organization, supervise an individual division, or simply manage a single office. In addition to being responsible for general management, medical and health services managers are also responsible for improving specific healthcare operations for the divisions they oversee.

As the healthcare industry continues to grow, and healthcare providers diversify and expand, medical and health services managers and specialists will continue to be in high demand. Job opportunities are projected to be especially prevalent at surgical centers, general hospitals, home health companies, outpatient facilities, and physician offices.

Medical and health services management is one of the fastest growing allied health occupations.

Educational Requirements: The educational requirements for becoming a medical or health services manager vary according to industry segment, employer and position. Many health services managers have and MBA or master's degree in health services administration. Entry-level positions can be obtained with a 4-year bachelor's degree.

Salary: Medical and health services managers earn salaries averaging over $67,000 a year, but many of these professionals earn annual salaries in excess of $100,000.

10. Dietitians and Nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists help people use food and nutrition to promote well being, develop healthy lifestyles, and reduce the risk of illness and disease. They also help people plan what to eat and what to avoid in order to achieve specific health-related objectives. Dietitions and nutritionists work with individuals and organizations. They develop health eating plans and supervise food service programs for athletes, the elderly, businesses, educational institutions, residential care facilities and hospitals. Some dietitians and nutritionists work behind the scenes conducting research designed to improve health and nutrition for the public.

In recent years, there have been numerous public initiatives designed to promote and increase awareness of the role proper nutrition plays in improving health. An expanding population of elderly and an increased awareness of the role good nutrition plays in maintaining health will spur demand for the services of dieticians and nutritionists at hospitals, schools, nursing and residential care facilities, home health companies, correctional facilities and businesses.

Between 2014 and 2024 the employment growth rate of dietitians and nutritionists is projected at 16 percent – faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations.

Educational Requirements: The best way to qualify for dietitican and nutritionist positions is to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited educational institution in nutrition, dietetics, public health nutrition, food service systems, clinical nutrition, or a closely related field of study. Many dietitians and nutritionists possess advanced degrees (ie., masters or Phd).

Salary: Dietitians and nutritionists earn salaries averaging between $35,240 and $80,950 a year. As of 2015, the median annual wage for nutritionists and dietitians was just under $58,000.

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