By: Kate Bartlett, MS, ATC, VATL
There are hundreds of different types of healthcare jobs, from physicians to X-ray technicians, from athletic trainers and physical therapists to art therapists and home health care aides. In the US, healthcare makes up 18% of the economy and provides millions of jobs. Roughly 60% of healthcare jobs are in allied health. Allied health professionals provided services and support to keep the healthcare wheel turning. They included therapists, technicians, and assistants as well as medical interpreters and coders. Allied health professions are expected to grow in the next 5-10 years. Since allied health is such a broad category, the education varies from 1-2 years for emergency medical technician (EMTs) to 6-8 years for anesthesiologist assistants. The requirements to be an allied health professional are also different based on the specific occupation and where you live.
When you see an allied health professional, how do you know who you are seeing and what they know? Do your research! Explore Health Careers is a great website with basic information on hundreds of careers. It also has resources for each one, so you can see the professional organizations, schools, or other information. This is also a great resource for high school students and others looking for a career. Once you are familiar with a specific allied health profession, you can look more closely at your provider to see if they have the appropriate degree, certification, and license.
Look at the letters after the provider’s last name. These are called credentials and can indicate degree, certification, or license. For example after my name, I list MS for a master’s degree in science, then ATC for a nationally certified athletic trainer and VATL for a licensed athletic trainer in Virginia. Some common credentials in sports medicine that you might see are CSCS, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and PES, Performance Enhancing Specialist. Athletic trainers also work with Physical Therapists (DPT) and Physical Therapist Assistants (LPTA). There are countless credentials in the world. They are easy to look up online or ask the professional and they can give you information about their background and about the credential. In addition, you can verify if a person is certified and/or licensed online. Go here for professionals in Virginia.
Regulations are widely varied with allied health profession. In general, to be an allied health professional, you must complete an accredited program, pass a national certification exam, and be state licensed. Many occupations also require clinical hours to be completed either separately or as part of the accredited education program. It is important to note that not all careers have these requirements and they change from state to state. Some people can also avoid the requirements by listing a different job title. A “masseuse” is different from a “massage therapist”. Also some credentials may have been obtained from a weekend course and not from an accredited education program. Ask the provider about their background and education.
The same tips can also be applied to other careers outside of healthcare, such as real estate agents, contractors, and cosmetologists. Large organizations are thorough in their hiring practices and will know what the state regulations are. Smaller organizations and private companies do not have as many resources readily available and may not be as thorough. The bottom line is to ask questions and do your own research.