Medicine vs. Allied Healthcare: What’s the Difference?

December 6, 2019


Interested in joining the healthcare field and exploring your options? Medicine and allied healthcare require different duties and educational paths, but they also fit together seamlessly.

Choosing the profession can be an overwhelming prospect when you don’t have all the information.

Whether you’re looking for allied health career ideas – or are simply wondering what the differences between allied health and medicine is – keep on reading!

Who Are Medical Health Professionals

Medical professionals (like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists) play key roles in diagnosing illnesses with the aim of treating symptoms and improving patient health.

These professionals draw their knowledge from biology, pharmacology, and medical research, and some roles – especially surgery – can take up to 15 years to complete!

Medical professionals often fall into one of the following categories: general medicine, dental medicine, and pharmacy.

What Is General Medicine? 


General medicine provides general and preventive care. This branch of medicine provides primary treatment for patients with chronic or acute conditions that affect any of the body’s systems, like asthma, pneumonia, and diabetes. These roles also provide preventive care such as colonoscopy screening, immunizations, and sexually-transmitted diseases.  

General Practitioners

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GPs are physicians without specialization in a particular field. These medical professionals provide routine medical care for diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries (which don’t require surgery or sub-specialist intervention).

Are Nurses Allied Health Professionals?

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Nurses are typically responsible for recording and interpreting patient information, performing physical examinations, administering medications, and diagnosing/treating minor afflictions.

CNAs and LPNs are considered allied health professionals due to their limited educational scope and abilities. RNs and APRNs, on the other hand, are considered medical professionals because of their thorough, rigorous training and degrees. 


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Dentistry deals with much more than just teeth, and many issues related to the human skill require a licensed dentist’s expertise. Becoming a dentist involves a bachelor’s and either a Doctor of Dental Medicine and Doctor of Dental Surgery. Both degrees take at least four years to complete.

Is a Pharmacist an Allied Health Professional?

 Pharmacists need to have deep knowledge of various medicines, their effects, and how they react with each other. Their main job responsibility is to provide pharmaceutical care and promote wellness. Some pharmacy professionals are involved with the research and development of new drugs.

Future pharmacists can expect to spend at least seven years of studying to receive their Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

What Is Allied Health

Allied healthcare offers a wide range of career options that don’t require a medical degree, which are especially suitable for high school graduates and people seeking a career change. 

Though there are many paths to choose from, allied healthcare provides affordable and efficient study options which typically take fewer than four years to complete. In fact, there are many quick certifications that pay well!

Possible education routes include short certification programs, associate degree programs, 4-year degrees, or even on-the-job training.

Who Are Allied Healthcare Professionals?

Generally, allied health careers collaborate with medical health providers like doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists. For example, surgical technologists work under the watchful eye of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and registered nurses. MRI techs might work independently to carry out scans, but are directed by physicians (who do the diagnosing).

Because there are hundreds of possible roles in the allied health field, we’ve narrowed the scope to provide a more comprehensive description. 

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians


Clinical laboratory technology requires performing, collecting, and processing laboratory tests. 

Technicians typically conduct routine lab tests on blood, bodily fluids, and tissues, typically working under the supervision of physicians, scientists, and/or technologists. They need either an associate degree or a certificate in laboratory technology.

In addition to technician duties, lab technologists are responsible for analyzing data, matching blood samples, and performing complex analyses. These allied health pros must have a bachelor’s degree in life sciences, as well as a certification and/or license to practice.

Dental Hygienists 

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Dental hygienists provide care under the supervision of a dentist. You’ll see them cleaning teeth, taking x-rays, examining a patient’s oral health, and educating patients on health and hygiene.

To find work, dental hygienists need an associate's degree in dental hygiene

Radiologic Technologists


Radiologic technology professionals perform advanced imaging and may specialize in a particular diagnostic field like mammography, sonography, radiation therapy, or magnetic resonance imaging (otherwise known as MRI). They also prepare patients for image examinations, employing protection devices, and keeping patient records.

You’ll need a certificate or an associate degree from an accredited institution, which typically take 1-3 years to complete. Some allied healthcare programs, however, offer MRI training in 2 years

Pharmacy Technicians

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Pharmacy technicians work side by side with pharmacists to prepare and dispense patient medications. While these professionals can learn via on-the-job training, pharmacy tech certification is often preferable and can be obtained via 3 to 6-month certificate programs.

Pharmacists and pharmacy techs might share the same workplace, but they differ wildly in terms of responsibility and education. 

Emergency Medical Service Professionals

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Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics provide medical health outside of the hospitals via ambulances, fire trucks, and even helicopters. 

Emergency medical professionals need to complete an EMT or EMT-Paramedic training program. EMTs learn skills such as oxygen administration, CPR, and treating external wounds. EMT paramedics undergo more advanced education and are further trained on medication, airway management, and electrocardiographic monitoring.

Medicine vs. Healthcare: Saving Lives and Changing the World

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If you dream of a career in healthcare – but don’t love the idea of rigorous education and high student loans – consider joining the allied health sector.

With affordable education and quick certifications that pay well, these health professionals are able to pursue further education once they discover where their real passion lies.