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Allied Health Careers: Do I Need to Get Certified?

One of the interesting things about the allied health sector is that there are many career options available that do not require certification or licensure. Is that the best option for you, though? Will getting certified make your career outlook any brighter?

Here are the six reasons we think an allied health certification is the best way you can kick start a healthcare career.

To Certify or Not to Certify?

First of all, it’s true that there are many allied health careers open to those without certification or licensure. Positions such as cardiographic technician, occupational therapist aide, medical assistant, dental assistant and pharmacy technician are just a few of the allied health careers that may not require certification in order to get hired.

If That’s True, Why Bother to Get Certified?

For many positions, entry requirements can differ from state to state. Pharmacy technicians, for example, must register with the state board of pharmacy in certain states. It could be a simple form-filling process or a background check, and in some places, it means that you have to get certified in order to complete your registration.

In the case of phlebotomy, all but five states have no certification requirement for employment as a phlebotomy technician. However, that doesn’t mean that getting a job without certification will be easy.

Due to the relatively short training period, phlebotomy is one of the most popular allied health jobs and the sector is growing at a faster-than-average rate of 25% yearly. Competition in the labor market is fierce, so even if your state doesn’t require certification, being certified may help you stand out.

Many prospective employers actively seek certified candidates, and on top of that, they also want experience. In a survey of more than 200 healthcare hiring managers, 24% of managers said applicants don’t have any relevant work experience, yet at the same time, 22% said they would only consider applicants with specialized training.

It’s that catch-22 scenario many job seekers find themselves in.

Allied healthcare certification can help you break out of this particular bind. For example, getting your medical assistant certification requires the completion of a formal training program. Many of these programs allow students to gain practical experience through a clinical internship.

Here are a few more reasons why pursuing certification is always beneficial:

1. Find Better Job Opportunities

When applying for any job, you always want to make sure that you are the most attractive candidate for the role. This is even more important in today’s competitive economy. With a  4.4% unemployment rate (as of June 2017), anything you can do to put yourself at the top of the selection pile is worth doing and will be an investment in your future.

If the allied healthcare position you’re applying for doesn’t require a training certificate, the employer may have 90+ other applicants to consider. How are you going to stand out? If you are up against someone who is certified, it just makes sense for employers to choose the applicant who has already demonstrated a commitment to the profession.

Plus, the majority of employers will ask for certification, even when it is not a state requirement, in order to find the best candidates for the role.

Not only does certification increase your chances of being selected for a job in the first place, but it also means that you will qualify for jobs at institutions, medical practices and organizations which demand the highest of standards. High standards usually translate into better job opportunities.

2. Earn a Higher Salary

If you are certified, you will be in a better position to ask for annual raises. The average salary for a medical assistant is around $31,000, but it can range from $24,000 on the low end to $40,000 on the high end.  With a ladder of over $20,000 to scale, it can literally pay to get certified.

For medical billing and coding specialists, certification may not be required, but it is strongly advised. The AAPC, one certifying body for medical coders, states that certified candidates typically earn 20% more than their non-certified counterparts.

3. More Opportunity for Career Advancement

Going into a position fully certified is like hitting the ground running, and can allow you to progress further and quicker within your chosen field or allow easier transition into related fields.

Allied healthcare programs usually include an intensive internship period, providing practical training in a real work environment. This means that by the time you graduate from your certificate program, you will already have the knowledge base and practical skills required for your future career – before you even start searching for open job positions.

Not only does this make you a more attractive candidate, but it also means that you can start expanding your scope of practice and knowledge from day one on the job.

A certification can open so many different doors. For example, 24% of certified medical assistants go on to become registered nurses, but some other possible continuing career paths including licensed practical nursing, practice management and medical office management.

4. Be Recognized as a Professional

Certification is often seen as a mark of excellence. It is evidence that the individual has demonstrated a certain level of mastery of a specific body of knowledge and skills within the relevant field.

Within allied healthcare, certification is also something that requires continued learning and skill development to maintain, making it a long-term benefit that will assist you throughout your entire allied healthcare career.

A 2010 survey conducted by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) interviewed  more than 11,000 certified and uncertified nurses. The survey discovered that more than 90% of the nurses agreed that certification validates specialized knowledge and enhances professional credibility.

Additionally, certification confirms an individual’s dedication, competence and capabilities to their employers and supervisors, as well as to their peers and patients.  

Certified allied healthcare professionals are not only in demand – they’re also raising the stature of the allied health professions.

5. Give Your Patients Peace of Mind

It’s only natural that when people go to visit a doctor or a medical center, they expect that they’re putting their trust in qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced professionals.

From the medical assistant they meet at the front desk to the phlebotomy technician taking their blood sample and the cardiographic technician helping to monitor their heart, certification is an indicator of quality. It gives added reassurance to patients and their families that they are in good hands.

6. Feel Accomplished

There is no denying the elation that comes from having gone through the challenge of allied healthcare training and achieving a professional seal of approval and acceptance.

Certification provides new allied healthcare workers with a sense of pride and professional accomplishment. It’s your new profession’s official recognition of achievement, expertise, and clinical judgment, and it can enhance your own personal confidence in your abilities.

How Do I Get Certified and How Long Does It Take?

There are a variety of training facilities, educational centers, and colleges providing flexible training program options. Some programs can be taken full-time, part-time, or over a series of weekend courses.

How long it takes to complete your certification program will depend on your field of interest, the state regulations regarding certification, and how much time you’re able to dedicate to your studies. For example, you can become certified as a cardiographic technician in three months studying in a weekday program, four months through an evening program or six months through a weekend program.

Whichever program you choose and whatever your specialization, however, you’ll be certified, experienced, and on your way to a successful allied health career you’ll be proud of.

Take the first step towards your future, and check out this list of AIMS allied healthcare certifications that take less than a year to complete!