Graduates of allied health sciences programs support medical professionals such as doctors, dentists, surgeons and pharmacists. Depending on their areas of study, these workers can perform diagnostic tests, treat patients through different therapies and perform administrative tasks. Their salaries depend on their job titles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2011, many of the best paid earned over the mean annual $45,230 for all U.S. workers.
Averaging $79,830 per year, physical therapists boasted the highest incomes of all allied health science graduates. They help patients improve movement abilities impaired by illness, injury or lifelong disability. Among their treatment methods are hands-on manipulation, stretching and exercise. They may also use equipment such as weights and walkers. All states mandate licensing for the profession. This requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy program that takes three years to complete beyond the undergraduate degree. Students may also undergo residencies of up to three years, depending on their specialty. They must then pass the National Physical Therapy Examination or a state equivalent.
Home health aides showed the lowest pay in the group, with mean annual wages of $21,820. Home health aides help the disabled, elderly or chronically ill to perform daily tasks, such as grooming and eating. They may also perform basic medical services, such as checking temperature and giving medications, under the supervision of medical professionals. Most work for home or hospice agencies that receive federal funding. They must thus meet certain regulatory requirements. They can learn their skills from formal training programs on the job or through courses that lead to a certificate from vocational institutes or community colleges.
Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants had the most allied health sciences jobs, with 1,466,700 positions, earning a mean $25,420 per year, or $12.22 per hour. They provide basic medical care in hospitals and residential facilities. Depending on their employer and job title, they help patients bathe and use the toilet, transport them to different rooms or surgical stations, measure vital signs and serve meals. Requirements for the professions vary by state. Nursing aides and attendants typically need a post-secondary certificate, available from technical insitutes and some hospitals and nursing homes. Orderlies need only a high-school diploma. Aides and attendants may also need to pass a competency exam, complete a background check and be on a state registry.
With only 6,860 positions, orthotists and prosthetists formed the smallest number of allied health sciences graduates, with wages at a mean $71,000 yearly. They create devices to support or replace human body parts, such as knee braces and artificial limbs. Orthotists focus on support devices while prothetists specialize in prosthetics. However, many professionals combine both specialties. The job demands at least a master’s degree in the field, which can take two years to complete. The prerequisite bachelor’s degree can be in any major, as long as specific science and math courses are taken. Graduates also need a one-year residency and certification before they can practice.