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The Top Five (5) Fastest Growing Allied Health Careers

Most of the allied health professionals that we work with are the OTs. PTs, and SLPs.   As the most mature of the allied health professions, it is not surprising that newer areas more related to health care reform are in fact growing faster.  For those of you who have children, relatives or friends interested in the fasting growing professions, these more recent trends may be of interest to you.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care is in the largest industry in the United States today.   Of the twenty fastest growing occupations today, eight of them are in the health care industry, and most of these jobs require four years of college or less.   Given the very high costs of higher education today, this is a real plus to these occupations.

The good news is that occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy are all going to grow strongly in Chicago and throughout the country in the next few years.   What is striking about these allied health careers is that they are all expected to grow over 25% annually for the foreseeable future!  These growth rates are generally highly correlated to long-term job security with a great deal of choices as to settings and schedules.    Here are a few of the fields:

  1. Medical Assistants

These health care professionals perform administration and clinical tasks that keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, and chiropractors running smoothly.   With electronic medical records now required and more and more medical practices tied into larger hospital systems and insurance billing requiring most precise formatting, this role is becoming increasingly important in a wide array of medical settings.   The combination of the changes mandated by Obamacare and the aging of the population makes this the fastest growing health care job in the current market.

Most Medical Assistants complete postsecondary programs of either one year, resulting in a certificate, or two years, resulting in an associate degree.

The average salary for Medical Assistants is $24,610.   This average can vary significantly based on the part of the country.

  1. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

These professionals assist physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiac and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) diseases.   Cardiovascular technologists specialize in invasive procedures.  This includes preparing and monitoring patients during open-heart surgery and during the insertion of pacemakers and stents.  Technologists prepare patients for cardiac catheterization and balloon angioplasty.   During the procedure, they monitor patients’ blood pressure and heart rate with EKG equipment.

Rapid employment growth is expected for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians as the population ages.  Invasive procedures are more common for cardiac interventions with the elderly, but it is also noteworthy that advances in vascular technology and sonography may reduce the need for more costly and invasive procedures.  If that happens, Cardiac Technicians will be the beneficiaries.

The majority of Cardiovascular Technologists complete a 2-year junior or community college program, but 4-year programs are increasing in order to keep pace with the increasingly level of sophistication required for both of these roles.

The average salary for Cardiovascular Technologists is $38,690.   Regional differences in that average vary widely.

  1. Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Also known as ultrasound technicians, these individuals operate the equipment where images must be record very precisely to help the physician make an accurate diagnosis.   Sonography is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to radiologic procedures as patients seek safer diagnostic and treatment methods.

Two year programs are currently most prevalent  for this allied health profession, but 4-year programs are increasing  with the level of sophistication of ultrasound technology.

The average salary for this allied health professional is $52,490.There is the same issue of meaningful regional variations around that average.

  1. Physician Assistants

One of the most understaffed careers in health care, these health professionals practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons.   They take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X rays, and make diagnoses under physician supervision.   They may be the principal care providers in rural areas or inner city clinics where a physician may be present only occasionally.   With the growing emphasis on cost containment throughout health care, increasing utilization of Physician Assistants is inevitable.

Many Physician Assistant programs last two years and are full time.   The program must be accredited and a national exam must be passed to obtain a license.

The average salary of this allied health career is $74,264.

  1. Respiratory Therapists and Respiratory Therapist Technicians

Respiratory Therapists assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care treatments and diagnostic procedures, including the supervision of respiratory care technicians.   Respiratory therapists are expected to play an expanding role in the early detection of pulmonary disorders and disease prevention.

An associate’s degree is required for entry into the field.   A bachelor’s degree may be required for an advanced respiratory therapist position.

The average Respiratory Therapist salary is $43,140.

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Believe it or not, there are more allied health professions that are also candidates to grow in the 25% range for at least the next five years!   But that’s fodder for another blog .

Robert Hoyt, Ph.D.


Allied Health Professionals, LLC

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