Health Care Careers: What to Know

What to know about healthcare careers

When you think of professions in health care naturally the first people that leap to mind are doctors and nurses. But there are many fields in health care that have little or nothing to do with being a doctor or a nurse. These careers fall into the Allied Health category—and together with other medical professions they make the health care system thrive.

If you are interested in an allied health profession, there is a career for you. This field in health care is varied and specialized; there is something for just about everyone. Here are just a few of the possible specialties to study in health care.

  • Anesthesiologist Assistants. These allied health professionals function as specialty physician assistants under the direction of a licensed and qualified anesthesiologist.
  • Athletic Trainers. These professionals in health care work with the consultation and direction of attending and/or consulting physicians and are an integral part of the health care system associated with physical activity and sports.
  • Audiologists. These medical professionals work with people that exhibit hearing, balance, and related ear problems. They examine individuals of all ages and identify those with the symptoms of hearing loss and other auditory, balance, and related neural problems.
  • Cardiovascular Technicians. This field in health care focuses on diagnostic examinations and therapeutic interventions of the heart and/or blood vessels at the request or direction of a physician.
  • Clinical Laboratory Assistants. These allied health professionals are trained multi-skilled health care providers with a laboratory focus. Laboratory tests play an important role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.
  • Cytotechnicians. This medical profession is for specially trained technicians who work with pathologists to evaluate cellular material from virtually all body sites primarily utilizing the microscope.
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. (Ultrasound Technicians) These allied health professionals provide patient services using medical ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves that produce images of internal structures) equipment.
  • Dietitians. This field in health care is excellent for those interested in diet and nutrition. These medical professionals are nutritionists who integrate and apply the principles derived from the sciences of food, nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, food management, and behavior to achieve and maintain the health status of the public they serve.
  • Electroneurodiagnostic Technicians. If you are interested in a profession in health care, you might find this unique position ideal for you. These allied health professionals use specialized equipment to obtain interpretable recordings of patients’ nervous system function.
  • Emergency Medical Technicians. (EMTs) This important medical profession is in high demand, and these medical staff are trained to provide emergency care to people who have suffered from an illness or an injury outside of the hospital setting.
  • Exercise Physiologists. These allied health professionals manage programs to assess, design, and implement individual and group exercise and fitness programs for apparently healthy individuals and individuals with controlled disease.
  • Genetic Counselors. These unique health care professionals trained to provide genetic counseling services to individuals and families seeking information about the occurrence, or risk of occurrence, of a genetic condition or birth defect.
  • Health Information Technicians. This field in health care helps conduct health data collection, monitoring, maintenance, and reporting activities in accordance with legal and regulatory standards, and professional best practice guidelines.
  • Health Information Managers.This critical allied health professionals apply their training and expertise in both science and management to develop, implement, and/or provide oversight to health care data collection and reporting.
  • Medical Assistants.One of the most in demand allied health professions, these health care professionals function as members of medical offices and perform administrative and clinical procedures.
  • Medical Librarians. These unique allied health care staff are information professionals who specialize in health resources and provide medical information for physicians, allied health professionals, patients, consumers, students, and corporations.
  • Nuclear Medicine Technicians. This allied health profession often works with patients battling cancer and performs a number of tasks in the areas of patient care, technical skills, and administration. Nuclear medicine is the medical specialty that utilizes radioactive and stable nuclides to make diagnostic evaluations and to provide therapy with unsealed radioactive sources.
  • Occupational Therapists. This unique profession in health care addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, sensory, and other aspects of daily functioning to help patients more easily engage in everyday life activities that affect health, well being, and quality of life.
  • Ophthalmic Dispensing Opticians. This field in health care focuses on the eyes and adapts and fits corrective eyewear, including eyeglasses and contact lenses, as prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
  • Ophthalmic Assistants. These allied health professionals (as well as ophthalmic technicians and ophthalmic medical technologists) perform ophthalmic procedures under the direction or supervision of a licensed ophthalmologist.
  • Perfusionists. This very specific profession in health care is for a unique individual with specific skills. Pefusionists are trained and educated specifically as a member of an open-heart surgical team responsible for the selection, setup, and operation of a mechanical device commonly referred to as the heart-lung machine.
  • Pharmacy Technicians. Another profession in health care in very high demand, pharmacy techs assist licensed pharmacists in their duties.
  • Physical Therapists. One of the most valuable allied health professions, PTs provide services to many different kinds of patients/clients, from those recovering from accidents or illness and people with disabilities to world-class athletes. They help improve patients’ strength and mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities.
  • Physicians Assistants. Of the many fields in health care facing staff shortages, Physicians Assistants is one facing the worst shortfalls. PAs make clinical decisions and provide a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services. The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities.
  • Polysomnographic Technicians. One of the most fascinating fields in health care is studying the science of sleep, and these technicians perform sleep tests and work with physicians to provide information needed for the diagnosis of sleep disorders.
  • Radiation Therapists. These allied health professionals deliver prescribed doses of radiation to patients for therapeutic purposes. In fulfilling this primary responsibility, radiation therapists provide appropriate patient care.
  • Recreational Therapists. One of the medical professions that also makes use of the field of psychology, these allied health professionals use various interventions to treat physical, cognitive, emotional, and social conditions associated with illness, injury, or chronic disabilities.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors. Another on of the professions in health care where medicine and psychology intersect, these therapists provide general and specialized counseling to people with disabilities in public human service programs and private practice settings.
  • Respiratory Therapists. Another field in health care facing critical staff shortages, respitory therapy is an excellent specialty to study in health care. You will work in a wide variety of settings to evaluate, treat, and manage patients of all ages with respiratory illnesses and other cardio­pulmonary disorders.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists. These medical professionals work with people who cannot make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly, and those with speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering.
  • Surgical Assistants. These allied health professionals provide aid in all aspects of surgical procedures and help the surgeon carry out a safe operation. They also perform preoperative and postoperative duties to better facilitate proper patient care.
  • Surgical Technologists. This allied health position requires only a brief certification course, making it an excellent specialty to study in health care if you are interesting in working in the field right away. Surgical technologists prepare the operating room by selecting and opening sterile supplies.