What are Allied Health Professionals?

Desi C.

Allied health professionals are a vital part of healthcare systems world wide. They are healthcare workers who have been educated in a certain area of medicine, completed clinical training, and then are either registered, certified, or licensed in their field. There are hundreds of different types of positions in allied health, and their titles often vary by country. Allied health professionals are not doctors, nurses, or dentists, but instead are the experts and team members who work alongside or under their supervision.

A dental hygienist, an allied health professional, cleans a patient's teeth.
A dental hygienist, an allied health professional, cleans a patient's teeth.

Most allied health professionals work on teams, though some can work independently. Where a person works depends greatly on the branch of allied healthcare chosen. For example, speech language pathologists are allied healthcare workers. They often work independently of any other healthcare professionals.

Dietitians and nutritionist are allied health professionals that can work independently of a team.
Dietitians and nutritionist are allied health professionals that can work independently of a team.

Dietitians and nutritionists are another example of allied health professionals who can work independently of a team. It is not uncommon for a dietitian or nutritionist to branch out and start a business, write health-related articles or books, or work as a consultant. Other allied healthcare workers, such as sonographers, will almost always be found working in a hospital or clinical setting, and as a member of a patient's healthcare team.

In general, allied healthcare jobs fall into one of these categories: technician, therapist, or technologist. Because they work under the supervision of other professionals, technicians generally train for a shorter amount of time than therapists or technologists, with education requirements that last around two years or less. Therapists and technologists have greater responsibilities, and therefore educational requirements are more stringent. An anesthesiologist assistant, for example, is a well-paid allied healthcare profession, and requires a great deal of education. A person can expect to dedicate six to eight years to training for this type of position.

Common allied health care job titles include physical therapist, medical assistant, and dental hygienist. There are, however, many less well-known allied health jobs, such as art therapist, dosimetrist, and orthotist.

Allied healthcare professionals often enjoy job security and the possibility of advancement and management positions in their field of expertise. Most countries have organizations that approve allied health training programs, and also represent allied health professionals. Such organizations include the Allied Health Professions Australia, Allied Health Professions Federation in the UK, Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa, and the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions in the United States.

Anesthesiologist assistants are allied health professionals who have extensive medical education.
Anesthesiologist assistants are allied health professionals who have extensive medical education.

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