Allied Health Professions

Most allied health professionals work collaboratively with physicians, physician assistants, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and others to provide quality care for patients. Some allied health professionals work independently. According to the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions: Allied health encompasses a broad group of health professionals who use scientific principles and evidence-based practice for the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of acute and chronic diseases; promote disease prevention and wellness for optimum health; and apply administration and management skills to support health care systems in a variety of settings.

On this page: Allied Health Career Spotlights, Careers in Allied Health, and Allied Health Career Resources

Allied Health Career Spotlights

We feature an allied health career in every CPHA newsletter we send out. Not getting the CPHA newsletter? Sign up to be on our email list and learn more about allied health careers there and back here. We’ll keep the information coming.

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Anesthesiologist Assistant

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Anesthesiologist Assistant

  • Anesthesiologist Assistants work in partnership with anesthesiologists and other medical professionals to care for patients in the operating room under anesthesia.
  • 12 schools in the US offer this 2 year master’s program and participate in the CASAA application. Check out the Master of Science (MSA) program at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).
  • The professional responsibilities and pay of Anesthesiologist Assistants are similar to those of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). However, CRNAs are trained as nurses first and are licensed to practice in more states.
  • Visit the American Academy for Anesthesiologist Assistants or learn more at explorehealthcareers.org.

Athletic Trainer

Athletic Trainer

  • Athletic Trainers (ATs) are healthcare professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. (Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education)
  • Become an athletic trainer by graduating from an accredited master’s program and passing a certification exam
  • Work settings include hospitals and clinics, sports & performing arts, educational settings and more
  • Athletic trainers may specialize in Injury and Illness Prevention/Wellness Promotion; Examination, Assessment and Diagnosis; Immediate and Emergency Care; Therapeutic Intervention; or Healthcare Administration and Professional Responsibility. Learn more from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
  • To learn more about UW-Madison’s AT program, visit the MSAT website, follow the program on Instagram, or reach out to Program Director Andrew Winterstein (andrew.winterstein@wisc.edu)

Audiologist

Audiologist

  • Audiologists are the primary healthcare professionals who provide services in the prevention, diagnosis, and evidenced-based treatment of hearing and balance disorders for people of all ages.
  • Audiologists specialize in identifying and assessing hearing and balance problems, rehabilitating persons with hearing and balance disorders, and preventing hearing loss. To view a helpful infographic about audiology, click here or visit here or here to learn more about the profession.
  • Audiologists work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, private practice, ENT offices, universities, K-12 schools, government, military, and Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospitals.
  • Helpful skills include data analysis, using technology, interacting with patients, and communicating and collaborating with other professionals.
  • As an undergraduate, interested students may choose to major in Communication, Sciences and Disorders if the program is offered by their college, but this is not required as long as students complete some prerequisites before applying to graduate school.
  • Audiologists must earn a doctoral degree (an AuD) from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation and get a passing score on a national examination. To explore accredited programs, visit here.
  • To get involved with audiology on campus, visit the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association at UW-Madison.
  • Watch recordings from the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic Health Symposium put together by current UW AuD students!
  • Peter Shireman (pshireman75@gmail.com), a UW-Madison alumni and current audiology student, made a helpful and informative intro to audiology video for interested students. Click here to view.
  • Learn more about UW-Madison’s AuD program and reach out to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders undergraduate advisor Katie Christenson ( kathleen.christenson@wisc.edu), clinical professor Amy Hartman (amy.hartman@wisc.edu) and grad student Emily Roznowski ( esroznowski@wisc.edu) with questions. Use CPHAs guide on informational interviewing to plan for your conversation.

Biostatistician

Biostatistician

Cardiovascular Perfusionist

Cardiovascular Perfusionist

  • Perfusionists are trained members of surgical teams who temporarily perform the heart’s job during open-heart surgeries and other major procedures by operating circulation equipment such as a heart-lung machine.
  • They monitor and manage a patient’s blood flow, body temperature, and other respiratory functions during operations.
  • They must have a great knowledge of anatomy and physiology, be detail oriented, and have mental and physical endurance for long surgeries
  • Become a Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CPP) by:
  • Find a Perfusionist to shadow or (or set up a safe informational interviewHERE!
  • Watch a video of a perfusionist in action HERE and learn more HERE and HERE.

Certified Child Life Specialist

Certified Child Life Specialist

  • According to the Association of Child Life Professionals, Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, and loss through therapeutic play and other techniques.
  • A CCLS also works to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in health care settings and other challenging environments. To learn more about the profession, visit here.
  • Child life specialists provide services in a variety of health care settings, including inpatient units, surgery areas, intensive care units, as well as providing services in other settings such as dental offices, community organizations, special needs camps.
  • Helpful skills include interpersonal, research, administration and leadership skills and knowledge of techniques and coping mechanisms to help children and families deal with difficult situations.
  • In order to become a Certified Child Life Specialist, there are two academic paths a student can take: a student can either earn a Bachelor’s degree in any field of study and take the required child life coursework, or a student can earn a degree from an ACLP-endorsed academic program . To view a list of ACLP-endorsed programs, visit here and learn more about academic and additional requirements here and here.
  • Connect with Child Life Program Director at Edgewood College Dr. Katie Glass (kglass@edgewood.edu) to learn more about the ACLP endorsed Master of Science in Child Life Program.
  • Reach out to Tara Loether (tara.loether@gmail.com), UW-Madison alumni and current Child Life Specialist at American Family Children’s Hospital or Amanda Lockett (alockett@wisc.edu) a CCLS and current Human Development & Family Studies Graduate Student at UW-Madison to learn more about a career as a Child Life Specialist. Use CPHAs guide on informational interviewing to plan for your conversation.

Cytotechnologist

Cytotechnologist

The above picture is a squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer of the cervix, caused by human papillomavirus infection (HPV). (UW Cytotechnology webpage)

  • Cytotechnologists are medical laboratory professionals who prepare and analyze cellular material under a microscope.
  • They most often work in hospital laboratories but can also work in research or in corporate laboratories.
  • They also typically work behind the scenes, but may interact with patients if assisting with biopsies.
  • Learn more about UW-Madison’s Cytotechnology Program.

Doctor of Optometry

Doctor of Optometry

  • Doctors of Optometry (ODs) examine and diagnose eye injuries, diseases, and vision problems.
  • They provide treatment through corrective lenses, medications, vision therapy, and some surgical procedures. Learn more here and here!
  • Become a licensed Optometrist by:
    (1) Completing the required pre-requisite coursework with your bachelor’s degree
    (2) Taking the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and applying to Optometry school
    (3) Attending a 4-year Doctor of Optometry program
    (4) Passing a National Board Licensure Exam
  • Work in hospitals, clinics, academia, and retail optical settings
  • Don’t confuse Optometrists with OphthalmologistsOpticians, and Orthoptists! Click on the previous links to learn more about these related professions.
  • Make an appointment with CPHA for more information!

Environmental Health Practitioner

Environmental Health Practitioner

  • Environmental Health Practitioners collect, analyze, and present data on contaminants in air, water, and soil. They work to protect public health by reducing pollution.
  • Some might focus on air quality, soil, hazardous and solid waste, noise abatement, or radiation specialties
  • Many work in offices or laboratories, but some do fieldwork. They may work with government agencies, consulting firms, or in industry.
  • A bachelor’s degree in a science field is recommended. A master’s degree in environmental science can help with career advancement. Some positions will require a certification. Learn more here.

Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare Administrator 

  • Healthcare Administrators are organizational leaders and professionals who are on the business side of healthcare. They can work as medical staff directors, financial managers, emergency preparedness specialists, and in community health, senior care, and more. Learn more about the profession from explorehealthcareers.org and Public Health Online.
  • Even though Healthcare Administrators do not directly care for patients, their expertise in communication, strategizing, policy, and finances indirectly benefit patients
  • Work environments include large hospital systems to small medical practices. Learn about the variety of paths available here .
  • Some positions are available in healthcare administration with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is recommended for advanced positions. Search accredited master’s programs here.
  • Learn more about the healthcare industry from these resources: Modern Healthcare & Healthcare Executive Podcast .
  • Consider reaching out to UW-Madison alums and MHA graduate students Marissa Sandkuhler (sandk028@umn.edu) and Louis Monette (monet036@umn.edu ). Both attend the University of Minnesota’s MHA program. Use CPHAs guide on informational interviewing  to plan for your conversation.
  • Make an appointment with CPHA to further explore this career. Students in the College of Letters & Science can also get great support from  Maureen Muldoon, a Career Advisor with SuccessWorks.

Histotechnologist

Histotechnologist

  • Histotechnologists prepare thin tissue slices (from patients, animals, or plants) that are later affixed to a slide, stained, and examined under a microscope.
  • A pathologist (a specialized physician) reviews the slide and communicates with a patient’s care team to come to a diagnosis.
  • Most work in hospitals, clinics, or pathology or research labs.
  • Helpful skills include precision, patience, and attention to detail.
  • How do you become a histotechnologist? Complete an associates degree (to become a histology technician) or an undergraduate or capstone program in histotechnology (to become a histotechnologist). A national certification exam is required as well. Read more about programs here.
  • Learn more about the field from the National Society for Histotechnology and check out a video spotlighting the profession. And of course reach out to CPHA with any questions you have!

Lactation Consultant

Lactation Consultant

  • “Lactation consultants are the primary members of the healthcare team to advocate for breastfeeding families with a focus on preventing, recognizing, and solving breastfeeding difficulties. Most lactation consultants have educational and clinical backgrounds in the health professions or mother-to-mother support.” (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) To learn more about the profession, visit here.
  • Lactation consultants work in a variety of settings including hospitals, public health clinics, maternal and child health services, private medical practices, home health agencies, community and workplace settings, and in private practice.
  • Helpful skills include critical thinking skills, interpersonal skills, knowledge of health sciences and public health issues, and patient-care experience.
  • Lactation consultants can pursue training through three distinctive pathways: trade school or undergraduate certificate programs, bachelor’s degree programs in nursing, health sciences, or public health with a lactation consultant certificate, or a master’s degree programs in nursing, health sciences, or public health with a lactation consultant certificate.
  • All of the above pathways enable aspiring lactation consultants to pursue board-certification through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and earn the title of Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC). To learn more about preparing for the IBLCE, visit here.
  • To learn more about the lactation field, consider attending an outpatient breastfeeding champion course.
  • Listen to a Breastfeeding Medicine Podcast and subscribe to the lactation clinical question of the week.
  • Reach out to UW-Madison alumni and lactation consultant Kelly Sijapati (kelly@cygnuslactation.com) to learn more about a career as a lactation consultant. Use CPHAs guide on informational interviewing to plan for your conversation.

Medical Illustrator

Medical Illustrator

  • Medical Illustrators are extensively trained in both art and science to create images or animations that depict complex scientific content. Learn more here.
  • They may collaborate with physicians or researchers and observe medical or laboratory procedures in the process of creating their illustration
  • Most are self-employed; and some may work in hospitals, medical schools, law firms, web/animation firms, or publishing companies
  • Artistic skills, attention to detail, and clear communication are required skills
  • Become a medical illustrator by taking college level coursework in both science and art. Most medical illustrators attend a master’s level program in medical illustration. Learn more about the four accredited North American programs here.
  • Learn about one medical illustrator’s path here.
  • And come talk with CPHA to discuss what your next steps might be!

Midwife

Midwifery
  • Midwives are healthcare professionals who provide primary OB-GYN care to people from young adult years through menopause. They specialize in work with expectant individuals from before birth through the postpartum period and provide newborn care, birth control, and family planning. They also provide primary care during labor and birth.
  • There are three credentialing paths to become a midwife: Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Certified Midwife (CM), or a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Each has a different range of care they provide, different settings they practice in, and legal status. A nursing degree and a graduate degree are required to become a CNM. Learn more here!
  • Practice in hospitals, private homes, birth centers, or offices
  • Helpful skills: critical-thinking, compassion, collaboration, advocacy, leadership
  • While both midwives and doulas work with mothers from before birth through the postpartum period, and they often work together, their roles differ. Midwives provide medical care for the mother and baby whereas doulas provide nonmedical care such as support related to emotional, physical, and social well being. To learn more about the role of a professional doula, click here.
  • Learn more about the Midwifery Model of Care
  • Want to explore more? Check out this website, these FAQs, or listen to this podcast!

Pathologist Assistant

Pathologist Assistant

  • Are you fascinated by anatomy? Are you detail oriented? Organized? Compassionate? Do you want to have a “behind the scenes” impact on patients?
  • Pathologist Assistants examine and prepare tissue and surgical specimens submitted to a laboratory. They work under the supervision of a Pathologist who will make an ultimate diagnosis.
  • Complete a two year Pathologist Assistant master’s program before taking a certification exam. Learn more here!
  • Work environments include hospitals, pathology labs, reference labs, forensic labs, morgues and academic settings.
  • Learn more here and here! And, read about a day in the life of a Pathologists’ Assistant here.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

  • Food and nutrition professionals specializing in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and treatment of disease through the integration of biochemical, physiological, social, and managerial concepts within the science and art of food and nutrition.
  • Work in hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, athletics, research, industry, and public health
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, counseling and active listening skills, and a science and disease prevention interest
  • Become registered by (1) completing required coursework (2) earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree (master’s degree required by 2024) (3) completing a ​dietetic internship (4) passing a national exam
  • The term “nutritionist” is not synonymous with RDN, the RDN credential signifies completion of the credentialing pathway listed above.
  • Learn more about UW-Madison’s Didactic Program in Dietetics.
  • Make an appointment with  Sarah Golla, Advisor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences to learn more.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory Therapist

  • “Respiratory Therapy is a specialized health care field where practitioners are trained in pulmonary medicine in order to work therapeutically with people suffering from pulmonary disease.” (American Association for Respiratory Care)
  • Respiratory therapists are responsible for conducting diagnostic tests for persons with breathing disorders and recommending treatment methods, interviewing patients and doing chest physical exams, and responding to Code Blue or other urgent calls for care. To learn more about the profession, visit here and read some interesting articles about respiratory therapists’ outreach efforts, roles during the Covid-19 pandemic here and here, and here to learn about the urgent need for more respiratory therapists.
  • Respiratory therapists work in almost all healthcare career settings, including, but not limited to hospitals, intensive care units, sleep laboratories, pediatric units, asthma education programs, and case management programs.
  • Helpful skills include knowledge of the scientific principles underlying cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology, critical thinking, patient/environment assessment skills and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.
  • Respiratory therapists must have a minimum of an associate degree from an accredited respiratory therapy education program. However, many students get a bachelor’s degree and some enter the profession with a graduate degree if they wish to pursue leadership roles.
  • After graduation, respiratory therapists are eligible to take two national examinations to earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist credential.
  • To inquire about job shadowing opportunities at Rush University, email Priscilla Alvarez (Priscilla_Alvarez@rush.edu) or email Paula Breihan (pbreihan@uwhealth.org) to inquire about job shadowing opportunities at UW Health.
  • Reach out to admission specialist Shelley Jackson (Shelley_Jackson@rush.edu) or faculty Ellen Becker (Ellen_Becker@rush.edu) with Rush University’s MS in Respiratory Care to learn more about their program.
  • Contact alumni Sarah Brundidge (sarah.brundidge@gmail.com) to learn more about a career as a respiratory therapist. Use CPHA’s guide to informational interviewing to prepare for the conversation.

Social Worker

Social Worker

  • Social work is “a profession devoted to helping people function the best they can in their environment” by providing individuals with the necessary tools and resources to cope with problems in their everyday lives. Learn more about the profession here or at the National Association of Social Workers website.
  • The three types of social work practices are: Micro-level practice (social workers work directly with clients and help them cope with particular situations, Mezzo-level practice (social workers work with groups of people rather than with a single person), and Macro-level practice (social workers establish social change on a larger scale which is achieved by organizing, establishing policy change, and serving an administrative role).
  • Social workers are found in every facet of community life, including schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected offices, private practices, prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies.
  • Helpful skills include interpersonal skills, problem solving, understanding of human development and behavior, and the ability to help people of all backgrounds overcome challenges.
  • A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is required for any entry level position(s). In order to become a licensed clinical social worker, a person must get a master of social work (MSW), complete two years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting, and be licensed in the state in which they practice. To explore accredited programs, visit here.
  • Learn more about UW-Madison’s MSW program and reach out to Cindy Waldeck (waldeck2@wisc.edu ) with questions or to get connected to a current student.
  • Watch the Exploring Careers in Social Work Info Session from this Spring’s Health Professions Expo.
  • Reach out to Laura Bradley (laurasbradley@gmail.com) or Bethany Doherty (bethanydoherty1@gmail.com), both alums and current medical social workers. Use CPHAs guide on informational interviewing to plan for your conversation.

Speech-Language Pathologist

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Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Speech-language pathologists work with patients seeking treatment in areas of speech, vocal disorders, communication, and swallowing.
  • They develop long-term relationships with kids and adults.
  • They often work in schools, clinics, nursing homes, or hospitals.
  • A graduate degree in Speech Language Pathology is required. Check out the MS in Speech-Language Pathology at UW-Madison.
  • Make an appointment with CPHA or see Katie Christenson, UW-Madison Undergraduate Advisor for Communication Sciences and Disorders, for more information.

Careers in Allied Health

Careers that require a Certificate or Associate’s Degree:

Advanced Cardiovascular Sonographer, Anesthesia Technologist/Technician, Cardiovascular Technician, Dental Assistant, Dental Hygienist, Emergency Medicine Technician/Paramedic, Hospital Administrator, Lactation Consultant, Massage Therapist, Medical Administrative Specialist, Medical Assistant, Medical Interpreter, Medical Laboratory Technician, Medical Scribe Specialist, Midwife, Neurodiagnostic Technician, Nursing Assistant, Paramedic Technician, Perfusionist (B.S. & M.S. also), Polysomnographic Technician, Radiation Therapist, Recreational Therapist, Respiratory Therapist, Specialist in Blood Bank Technology, Surgical Assistant

Careers that require a Bachelor’s Degree:

Athletic Training, Cyotechnology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Dietetics, Communication Disorders, Health Care Management, Kinesiotherapy, Nutrition (B.S.), Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician

Careers that require a Master’s degree or Above:

Anesthesiology Assistant, Athletic Training, Audiology, Exercise Physiology, Genetic Counselor, Medical Illustration, Medical Social Work, Nutrition (M.S./Ph.D.), Orthotics/Prosthetics, Radiography, Speech-Language Pathology