Do Allied Health Professions Require Medical Degrees?

Allied health professionals are a diverse group of diagnostic, therapeutic, technical, and administrative specialists. Members of the healthcare team each bring unique expertise to the table. Whether your interests lie in science or administration, there’s a career for you as an allied health professional.

Do Allied Health Professions Require Degrees?

Education requirements for allied health professions vary significantly. Factors include responsibility level, regulatory constraints, and employer preferences. Jobs requiring specialized or technical knowledge demand a higher level of training, while administrative roles are typically more flexible.

Which Allied Health Programs are the Most Common?

Colleges specializing in allied health offer a variety of programs, including diploma and degree options. The most common are in industries with ample job opportunities. Some of the more common Allied Health programs include:

Health Services Administration

Health Services Administration programs prepare students for leadership roles in the healthcare industry. In-depth, they focus on the knowledge and administrative skills necessary to manage one or more services in a medical facility.

Programs cover:

  • Healthcare management
  • Public policy and regulations
  • Finance and budgeting
  • Technology and information systems
  • Leadership and organizational behavior
  • Strategic planning and capital development
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Human resources
  • Quality improvement

You will graduate with a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, ready for managerial positions in various healthcare settings, from hospitals and clinics to long-term care facilities and public health agencies. Entry-level job possibilities include healthcare administrator, healthcare manager, health services director, and similar roles. Moving into the master’s degree program after gaining in-field experience can expand your opportunities and growth potential.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapist Assistants (PTA) help patients recover from illnesses, injuries, or surgeries. Under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, they play a crucial role in patient rehabilitation. A minimum of an associate degree is required to practice in Florida. Then, you can climb the career ladder faster with a bachelor’s degree.

Both programs cover similar information with the bachelor expanding upon the associate foundation, including:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathophysiology — the causes and effects of illness
  • Kinesiology and biomechanics — the study of movement and ergonomics
  • Physical therapy techniques, including manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and complementary treatment modalities, such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound.
  • Orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation
  • Pediatric and geriatric physical therapy
  • Professional ethics and communication
  • Legal and regulatory issues

Graduates qualify to take the national exam and obtain state licensure. PTA students and licensed PTAs can join the American Physical Therapy Association. APTA members can also advance their careers through specialty certifications in acute care, orthopedics, geriatrics, and other medical specialties.

Consider a rehabilitation aide diploma program if you are interested in physical therapy but must balance work and education. The rehab aide diploma is a great first stepping stone toward a career in physical therapy.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Technology

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers use ultrasound technology to create diagnostic images of internal body structures, from blood vessels to organ systems. The training program at Florida National University is an associate’s degree.

This program explores:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Ultrasound physics and instrumentation
  • Obstetric and gynecological sonography
  • Abdominal and vascular ultrasound
  • Patient care and communication
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Workplace safety

Upon completion of a degree program, graduates are eligible for certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Either will help you find a job in the setting of your choice.

The nature of sonography lends itself to widespread use, providing rewarding opportunities in various facilities, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, specialty clinics, and imaging centers. Medical sonographers are essential to women’s health, giving mothers a first image of their growing child.

Radiologic Technology

Radiologic technologists, or radiologic technicians, produce diagnostic images of the human body using X-rays. An associate degree is usually the minimum qualification to work in this highly technical, specialized, and regulated field.

Coursework includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Radiation physics and instrumentation
  • Radiographic procedures
  • Image quality assurance
  • Patient care and communication
  • Radiation safety

Upon graduation, you will be well prepared to take the certification exam. Offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the certification qualifies graduates to work in Florida.

Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists specialize in treating breathing disorders. Working with doctors and nurses in various healthcare settings, they administer specialized respiratory treatments targeting the lungs and airways.

Associate degree programs provide the knowledge necessary to work in this fast-growing field, covering these subjects and more:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Cardiopulmonary pathology
  • Respiratory pharmacology
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Airway management
  • Treatment procedures
  • Respiratory therapy equipment
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Critical care concepts

Graduates of accredited programs are eligible to take the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) examinations to become licensed to work.

Medical Assistant Technology

Medical assistants support licensed healthcare professionals by performing clinical and administrative tasks in outpatient settings. Associate degree programs provide the highest level of education required for most jobs.

Coursework includes:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Administrative skills, such as scheduling and recordkeeping
  • Billing and coding
  • Clinical skills, such as medication administration
  • Infection control
  • Laboratory and diagnostic procedures, including phlebotomy and electrocardiography
  • Healthcare law
  • Therapeutic communication

Degree programs produce well-rounded professionals capable of functioning in fast-paced, technically challenging environments. Graduates are qualified for certification and the broadest possible range of roles in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and insurance companies.

Medical Assistant

Medical Assistant programs offer diplomas versus degrees. The curriculum is similar but less comprehensive and may not include training in specific clinical skills. However, it provides the education you need to succeed in entry-level positions. Programs take months to complete, getting graduates into the field quickly.

The curriculum covers:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical Office procedures
  • Billing and coding applications
  • Clinical and laboratory procedures
  • Communication and professionalism
  • Privacy regulations

If you need a quick but rewarding career option, earning a diploma is a positive step forward. Applicants at all skill levels are in demand.

Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

Medical billing and coding is another field with more than one education pathway. Diploma programs prepare graduates for entry-level roles. Job-focused, they emphasize skills over theory. You will spend more time working on case studies and practicing coding skills.

Students study:

  • Medical terminology
  • Basic anatomy and physiology
  • Health information management
  • Insurance verification and processing
  • Healthcare office procedures
  • Billing and regulatory compliance
  • Medical coding systems

Graduates are ready to work for hospitals, clinics, private practices, and billing services.

Certification eligibility varies based on your training level. With a diploma, you can become certified by the American Health Information Management Association as a Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), a Certified Coding Associate (CCA), or a Certified Professional Biller (CPB). An associate’s degree qualifies you for credentials such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and the Certified Professional Coder (CPC).

Rehabilitation Aide

Rehabilitation Aides (RAs) support physical therapy, occupational therapy, and chiropractic professionals. Education requirements and scope of work differ by state and facility, but the role is more administrative than clinical. However, it offers a front-row view of what physical, occupational, and speech therapists do, allowing you to explore the field while earning money and gaining valuable experience.

You will learn to:

  • Welcome clients
  • Set up therapy equipment
  • Assist patients with therapeutic exercises
  • Observe and report responses to therapy
  • Manage safety and infection control issues
  • Handle insurance and other questions
  • Communicate with clients

Programs take just months to complete and serve as a foundation for even higher education. As with nearly all professions in the allied health industry, today’s diploma is the foundation for tomorrow’s degree.

Patient Care Technician

A Patient Care Technician (PCT) assists nurses and other medical professionals in providing primary patient care. This career combines an assortment of duties performed by nurse’s aides, medical assistants, and laboratory technicians into one position — but with an emphasis on personal care.

Responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Drawing blood.
  • Collecting urine samples.
  • Taking vital signs.
  • Encouraging therapeutic exercise.
  • Providing emotional support.
  • Homemaking duties.

These helpers are filling an essential niche in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

PCT programs teach:

  • Medical terminology
  • Basic anatomy and physiology
  • ADL skills
  • How to obtain vital signs
  • Phlebotomy
  • Electrocardiography
  • Infection control
  • Specimen collection
  • Catheter care
  • Safety monitoring
  • Patient observation and communication
  • CPR

Despite the evolving nature of the PCT position, graduates already have certification options. A diploma prepares graduates to become Certified Patient Care Technicians/Assistants through the National Healthcare Association.

Final Thoughts

Medicine is becoming more complex, requiring a more collaborative and holistic approach to care. Each discipline has some answers, so doctors increasingly rely on allied health professionals for their clinical and administrative expertise. Patients win by getting the care they deserve from individuals dedicated to their field. And you win with opportunities to pursue your career interests.

Allied Health Programs

If you are interested in healthcare programs, let Florida National University answer any questions. Contact us today to learn more about our Allied Health programs.