Allied health is a wide professional category. Roles in this slice of the healthcare field aren’t nursing or medical roles. Instead, they fulfill other vital patient needs. Some promote wellness and preventative medical practices, while others provide support and administrative assistance to medical professionals.
If you’re looking to take on an allied health role, you have many options. Allied health includes paths like physical therapy, medical billing, diagnostic imaging, dental assistant, and many more.
Your salary in allied health will depend on the career path you take. However, many allied health roles are well compensated. For example, radiation therapists, who earn an annual median salary of $86,850, are listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook as among the highest paying jobs you can get with an associate degree. That’s a pretty impressive return on your educational investment.
In many cases, you don’t even need to commit to an associate degree to jump into the field of allied health. There are many roles that require only completion of a quick certification program.
In most cases, your education level will affect how much you can make in allied healthcare. Some other factors that can impact your salary include:
- Urban areas tend to pay more than rural ones.
- Large hospitals or healthcare networks are often able to pay higher salaries than small offices.
- The longer you’ve been working in a particular field, the better chance you have of making a higher salary.
- Many allied health roles allow you to earn additional credentials and certifications that can advance your career and improve your salary.
Many allied health roles are also growing rapidly and offer great job security.
“I would definitely say now is a great time to pursue an allied health career,” says David Luksenburg, partner development manager at Recovia, a functional recovery center based in Arizona that employs a number of allied healthcare workers. “This can range from management staff all the way to medical assistants and more. The need for these roles is a great one. Our healthcare system is recognizing these important roles and innovative companies that utilize allied health workers and evidence-based practices to treat our population experiencing chronic diseases, including the mental health crisis and opioid epidemic.”
Healthcare Salaries by Specialty
The field of allied health is far-reaching, with fulfilling careers that focus on direct patient care, behind-the-scenes work, and everything in between. Check out the median salaries you can earn, according to the BLS:
Dental Assistant: $41,180
What you’ll do: As a dental assistant, you’ll work in a dental office and have a range of duties, from keeping records and scheduling appointments to providing patient care. Some states allow dental assistants to perform an even broader range of tasks, so your duties will depend on where you live and the office in which you work in.
What education you’ll need: The education you need depends on your state. Some states require you to complete a certification program and earn a license. Other states allow dental assistants to train on the job. Even if your state doesn’t require licensure, you can still take an exam and apply for certification. Earning a certification can make you stand out to employers and boost your career. You can apply for certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) by either completing a certification program or by demonstrating on-the-job training and experience.
What else you should know: Dental assistant roles are predicted to grow by 7% by 2029, according to the BLS.
Environmental Scientist: $73,230
What you’ll do: As an environmental scientist, you’ll monitor and record environmental conditions and use the data you collect to protect the environment and public health.
What education you’ll need: Working as an environmental scientist is one of many roles you can get with a bachelor’s degree in health science. Other jobs you can pursue with this degree include audiology, nuclear medicine technology, occupational therapy, and more.
What else you should know: Environmental scientist roles are projected to grow by 8% by 2029. Looking to take your career further? You can advance in the field by pursuing a master’s degree in health sciences, or by obtaining a specialty certification. The Institute of Hazardous Materials Management and the Ecological Society of America offer certification for environmental scientists.
Health Educator: $48,140
What you’ll do: As a health educator, you’ll give people the information they need to lead healthier lives. This can include things like ways to quit smoking, healthy eating strategies, and more. You’ll work in the community to set up and monitor programs to help people get healthier.
What education you’ll need: Health educators need a bachelor’s degree in public health, and many employers also require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. Health educator is one of many roles you can pursue with this degree as your foundation. Other potential careers include healthcare administrator, social worker, and public health officer.
What else you should know: Health educator roles are predicted to grow 13% by 2029. Looking to take your career to the next level? Consider earning the CHES credential from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.
Massage Therapist: $43,620
What you’ll do: As a massage therapist, you’ll work with your hands and use specialized techniques to relieve pain throughout the body.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need to complete an accredited certificate program. Associate degrees are also available. Regulations differ by state, but most require massage therapists to be licensed or certified. Your massage therapy education will need to meet your state’s requirements.
What else you should know: Massage therapist roles are projected to grow 21% by 2029. It’s very important to know the regulations of your state. They will determine not just the education you’ll need, but also any other requirements. For example, in some states, you’ll need to have liability insurance and be CPR certified to practice.
Medical Assistant: $35,850
What you’ll do: As a medical assistant, you’ll take on both administrative and clinical tasks. Your exact duties will depend on where you work—you might schedule appointments, make sure patient records are up to date, take vital signs, give vaccinations, and more.
What education you’ll need: There are no formal requirements beyond a high school degree or GED in most states, but most employers will require that you’ve had formal education. You can complete a certificate or diploma program to get the education you need. Associate degrees are also available. You’ll have several certification options once your education is complete.
What else you should know: Roles for medical assistants are predicted to grow 19% by 2029.
Medical Records Specialist: $44,090
What you’ll do: As a medical records specialist, you’ll organize health data for a medical facility. You might be able to work from home in this role.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need a certificate or associate degree to work as a medical records specialist. Educational programs are often broad medical billing and coding programs. This will allow you to pursue a career as a medical records specialist or a career in medical billing or medical coding.
What else you should know: Medical records specialist roles are projected to grow 8% by 2029. If you’re looking to advance your career, you can build on your medical billing and coding education and earn a bachelor’s degree. You could then take on roles such as health service manager.
What you’ll do: As a nutritionist, you’ll help people develop healthy eating plans. You’ll work with people who are looking to improve their nutrition, as well as people who need specialized medical diets.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to work as a nutritionist. Some states will require you to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. In many states, you’ll also need to take an exam and earn licensure.
What else you should know: Nutritionist roles are predicted to grow 8% by 2029. You can advance your nutritionist career with more education. Nutritionists who earn a master’s or doctoral degree are eligible to test for the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential from the American Nutrition Association.
Pharmacy Technician: $35,100
What you’ll do: As a pharmacy technician, you’ll work alongside a pharmacist to dispense prescription medication. Many pharmacy technical roles also include customer service and administrative duties.
What education you’ll need: The education you’ll need depends on your state. In some states, you can work as a pharmacy technician with a high school diploma and on-the-job training. In others, you’ll need to complete a formal education program and earn certification. Formal education programs are generally certificate programs. Associate degrees are also available. Many employers will look for certification even if your state doesn’t require it. You can earn certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association.
What else you should know: Pharmacy technical roles are projected to grow 4% by 2029.
What you’ll do: As a phlebotomist, you’ll draw blood for lab tests, transfusions, blood donations, and more.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need to complete a certificate program to work as a phlebotomist. Most states don’t require formal certification. However, most employers prefer to hire certified phlebotomists. Certification is available from many organizations. Professionals within your certificate program can help you figure out which one to pursue.
What else you should know: Phlebotomist roles are projected to grow 17% by 2029.
Physical Therapist: $91,010
What you’ll do: As a physical therapist, you’ll help alleviate pain and help people move with more ease. You’ll see patients recovering from surgery, experiencing chronic pain, and more.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. Some schools offer tracks that allow you to earn both a bachelor’s degree and DBT in six or seven years.
What else you should know: Physical therapist roles are projected to grow 18% by 2029. You can boost your physical therapy career by earning a specialty certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. You can specialize in areas like sports medicine, orthopedics, or geriatrics.
Radiology Technician: $63,710
What you’ll do: As a radiology technician, you’ll use special equipment to take images of patients that doctors can use to diagnose conditions. You’ll also prepare patients for the imaging test and explain the procedure to them.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need an associate degree to work as a radiology technician. Most states will also require that you earn licensure or certification by taking and passing an exam. You can take a certification exam from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) even if your state doesn’t require it. Many employers prefer to hire radiology technicians who’ve earned certification.
What else you should know: Radiology technician roles are projected to grow 7% by 2029.
Surgical Technologist: $49,710
What you’ll do: As a surgical technologist, you’ll help surgeons during operations. You’ll prepare operating rooms, ensure needed equipment is available, and assist during surgery.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need to complete at least a certificate program to work as a surgical technologist. Associate degrees are also available.
What else you should know: Surgical technologist roles are projected to grow 7% by 2029.
Ultrasound Technician: $70,380
What you’ll do: As an ultrasound technician, you’ll operate specialized equipment to perform tests and take diagnostic images of patients. You’ll also help patients prepare for the procedure and answer questions they might have.
What education you’ll need: You’ll need to complete at least a certificate program to work as an ultrasound technician. Associate degrees are also available.
What else you should know: Ultrasound technician roles are predicted to grow 12% by 2029.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2020
Allied Health Outlook
Allied health careers are on the rise. According to the BLS, the average projected job growth across all jobs in the United States is 4%. When you compare that to the 21% projected growth for massage therapists or the 19% growth for medical assistants, it’s easy to see that allied health is booming. Experts agree.
“As managed health care becomes the norm,” says Sallie Sarrel, PT, ATC, DPT, a pelvic physical therapist practicing in New York and New Jersey, “more and more allied health professionals will take over patient interaction and care because it will be cheaper for an insurance company to pay one doctor to supervise while others will deliver the care.”
With professional insight from:
Partner Development Manager, Recovia