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Shannon Lee

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Shannon Lee has been a freelance writer, editor, and novelist for over 25 years. Her work has appeared on Fox Business, Forbes, MSN, Bob Vila, Modernize, Nashville Scene, MoneyGeek, MVP Parent, and many other outlets; her writing on home improvement led to an editorial position with The Spruce in 2021. She's written extensively on higher education, relationships, and the intersection of technology, health, and medicine. When she's not freelancing, Shannon also writes fiction novels.

last updated

10/19/2023

The healthcare field is seeing a growing demand for allied health professionals, and with the right training, you could be one of them. Although many of these online and hybrid allied health certificate programs take less than two years to complete, you may be worried that they are still cost-prohibitive to prospective students like yourself. We’ve written this guide to highlight the many programs available that offer financial aid to help you fund your education and start or advance your allied health career.

One of the most things you can do to obtain financial aid is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Despite its name, many schools require this application not just to determine your eligibility for federal-based financial aid, but also financial aid from the school itself, like scholarships and grants.

The schools we’ve highlighted in this guide offer online certificate programs that accept FAFSA and prepare students for promising careers without saddling them with a mountain of debt. Let’s take a look at some of these entry, mid, and senior-level certificate programs and the types of jobs available to their graduates.

Get Started: Entry-Level FAFSA-Approved Online Certificate Programs

If you want to start working in the allied health field as quickly as possible, consider FAFSA-approved online certificate programs that require less hands-on training. With fewer in-person learning requirements and less technical skills training, students can graduate in less than a year. Below are a few of the most popular entry-level programs with shorter curriculums.

Electrocardiography (EKG) Technician

An electrocardiogram is a medical test that records the electrical signals produced by the human heart. An electrocardiography technician is a trained medial professional who uses equipment to perform this test. If you’re interested in becoming an EKG technician, you’ll need some sort of post-secondary training in the form of either an associate degree or a post-secondary certificate. This occupation is well-suited for those who like to work directly with patients and have an innate interest in how the human heart works.

Temple College

The 84-credit Electrocardiography Technician certificate program at Temple College prepares graduates to sit for certification exams offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), and the Cardiovascular Credential Institute (CCI). To apply, prospective students must have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years old. The total cost of the program is less than $2,000, although eligible students may receive financial aid for up to 50% of the program cost. In addition to financial aid, Temple College offers various financial assistance options, including the Adult Education and Literacy Scholarship.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

An EMT provides emergency medical care, typically at the scene of an accident or on the way to a hospital, however an EMT may not administer medication or conduct more invasive lifesaving procedures. If you prefer a fast-paced work environment, you may want to consider this career path. The training, though intense, can often be completed in a year-long post-secondary certificate program.

Salt Lake Community College

Salt Lake Community College’s Emergency Medical Technician program prepares graduates to become Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) or Advanced EMTs. The EMT program lasts 13 weeks and requires students to be at least 18 years old and have no felony convictions, while the 12-week Advanced EMT program is open only to those who are already EMTs. The Advanced EMT program provides students with advanced treatment skills, including the use of advanced airways and IVs, and can provide six credits toward a Criminal Justice AS or AAS degree for those wishing to continue their education. Although many of the courses are hands-on, and therefore cannot be completed online, they are offered on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings to help accommodate students’ schedules. Some online coursework is available during the summer session. SLCC offers financial aid in the form of federal and needs-based grants as well as scholarships and loans.

Mental Health Technician

Sometimes called psychiatric technicians, mental health technicians provide direct care to patients dealing with developmental, emotional, or mental issues. To become a mental health technician, students must complete a post-secondary certificate program. If you’d describe yourself as compassionate, patient, and eager to interact directly with patients, this could be ideal occupation for you.

Edmonds College

The Social and Human Services – Mental Health Technician Certificate program at Edmonds College prepares students for entry-level positions helping patients with behavioral and memory issues in a variety of settings. The program consists of 39 credits, some of which can be completed online. In addition to some in-person courses, students must also complete an externship at a partnering facility under the supervision of a clinical instructor and the facility’s staff. Students who are already certified nursing assistants can substitute three certified nursing assistant courses (one of which includes the externship) with approved electives of their choice. Eligible students may apply for financial aid in this program by visiting Edmonds College’s financial aid office.

Optometric Technician

Optometric technicians work under the supervision of optometrists to help provide eye care to patients. While a high school diploma and some on-the-job training may be sufficient for some employers, most prefer to hire applicants who have completed a post-secondary program culminating in a degree or certificate. If you want to provide eye care to patients, but don’t want to spend the time or money to become an optometrist, a future as an optometric technician may be right for you.

Madison Area Technical College

Madison Area Technical College offers a plethora of vocational and allied health training programs, including the FAFSA-approved Online Optometric Technician diploma program. The curriculum consists of 27 credits that students can complete in one year of part-time study, even while working full-time. In addition to their online coursework, students must complete in-person labs under the supervision of a mentor. This mentor will be someone under whom they can work in an eye care setting. Upon graduation, students will be ready to take and pass the national Paraoptometric Technician certification written exam. The total cost of this program is $4,690.80, but students can take advantage of MATC’s many financial aid options to help offset the cost of their education.

Orthopedic Technician

Orthopedic technicians, also referred to as orthopedic technologists, build, adjust, and/or repair orthopedic devices. They also work with orthopedists to assess a patient’s need for an orthotic or prosthetic devices and apply and remove plaster and synthetic casts. If you enjoy building things and working with patients, you would make an ideal orthopedic technician. Orthopedic technicians must have a high school diploma and some on-the-job training at a minimum, however most employers prefer applicants to hold a post-secondary certificate or associate degree.

NHTI—Concord’s Community College

The Orthopaedic Technology certificate program at NHTI – Concord’s Community College focuses on providing students with casting and splinting skills. Many of the classes in this three-semester, 45-credit program offer extensive hands-on training both on campus and through clinical externships. Financial aid for this certificate program is available to eligible students. Current and prospective students can use the net price calculator for a more detailed idea of what they are likely to pay. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and attend a personal interview. They must also write an essay and complete a CPR and Airway Obstruction Management course.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants (PTA) help patients recovering from physical injuries or illnesses regain some or all of their physical mobility by providing direct care under the supervision of a physical therapist. If you like the idea of providing hands-on care to patients over extended periods of time, you may be interested in becoming a PTA. This career path typically requires an associate degree and licensure or certification.

Seminole State College of Florida

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program at Seminole State College of Florida is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Students graduate the program with an Associate of Science and are eligible to become licensed PTAs in the state of Florida by taking the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The curriculum consists of five semesters and is a lock-step program, meaning students graduate with the rest of their cohort in roughly two years. To accommodate busy schedules, most courses are offered in a hybrid format. Each course consists of both in-person elements, including labs, and online components that students complete through the Canvas online course management system. Financial aid is available to PTA certificate program students who demonstrate financial need.

Take the Next Step: Mid-Level FAFSA-Approved Online Certificates

If you’re interested in advancing in your current career without breaking the bank, consider enrolling in a FAFSA-approved mid-level online certificate program. These programs typically take an extra year to complete compared to entry-level programs, but the extra time you invest now pays dividends down the road. Completing a mid-level certificate program in your field can help you qualify for more challenging—and better paying—positions. Here are a few mid-level allied health online certificate programs that accept FAFSA.

Dietary Technician

Those with an interest in healthy eating and helping others should consider becoming a dietary technician. These allied health professionals work under dieticians and nutritionists to prepare meal plans and food for individuals with special dietary needs or goals. If you’d like to become a dietary technician, you will need to complete a dietetic technician associate degree program.

Northland College

Northland Community and Technical College’s Dietetic Technician Program offers a flexible and convenient learning option for busy students. The 67-credit curriculum consists of 100% online coursework, supplemented by three practicums that total 480 hours of supervised training. Students advance through the two-year program as a cohort and start the program each fall semester. To accommodate distance learning students, practicums may take place at approved locations close to students’ home or work. Upon completing this ACEND-accredited program, students will earn an Associate of Applied Science degree and be ready to take the National Dietetic Technician Registration Exam. Distance education students pay $211.55 per credit, and are encouraged to complete the FAFSA, apply for scholarships, and take advantage of “lifelong benefits without a lifetime of debt.”

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists administer radiation-based treatments developed by a physician or comparable medical professional using special tools and machines. Because radiation is often used to treat cancer, prospective radiation therapists should be comfortable working with those who are terminally ill. To become a radiation therapist, you’ll need to earn an associate degree and receive specialized training in radiation therapy.

Washburn University

The FAFSA-approved Radiation Therapy online certificate program from Washburn University has several unique features that make it an attractive option for prospective students. This blended program consists of online courses, supplemented by hands-on clinical training, and takes just 13 months to complete. To be accepted into the program, students must already have an associate degree from an accredited radiologic technology program with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be a registered radiologic technologist. Upon graduation, students can immediately begin working as a staff radiation therapist.

Surgical Assistant

A surgical assistant is an allied health professional who performs surgery support tasks under the direction of a surgeon. The surgical assistant position is perfect for anyone who wants to actively participate in preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care but isn’t interested in becoming a surgeon. Most surgical assistants have a post-secondary certificate or associate degree.

Madisonville Community College

The Surgical First Assistant Program from Madisonville Community College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)and offers two academic pathways. Students with prior clinical training should consider the Surgical First Assisting Certificate. This curriculum consists of just 16 credits, most of which consist of clinicals and practicums—only students who are certified Surgical Technologists or registered nurses with operating room experience can enroll in this program. Students just starting out can apply to the Surgical First Assisting Associate of Applied Science Surgical program track. This option takes about two years to finish and consists of 60-64 credits, some of which can be completed through online coursework. Madisonville Community College boasts the lowest tuition prices in the state, a host of financial aid options, and financial aid specialists ready to help you determine how to fund your education.

Reach Your Peak: Senior-Level FAFSA-Approved Online Certificates

Below we’ll discuss some of the FAFSA-approved online certificate and degree completion programs that prepare students for higher-paying allied healthcare positions. To earn this boost in compensation, students often complete longer and more challenging curriculums to prepare them for the increase in responsibility and opportunities for direct patient care.

Medical Technologist

Medical technologists work in medical laboratories to carry out tests on blood and tissue samples. Someone who enjoys working independently in a laboratory setting will appreciate what this job has to offer. Medical technologists usually hold bachelor’s degrees, although it is possible to enroll in a non-degree certificate programs if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than medical technology.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida’s Medical Laboratory Sciences Online Certificate programoffers four certificate tracks: Technologist in Clinical Chemistry, Technologist in Hematology, Categorical Concentration in Core Lab, and Technologist in Microbiology. Their curriculums range from 14 to 25 credit hours with most classes available online. However, each track has at least one in-person requirement, such as an internship or supervised laboratory work. These FAFSA-approved online certificate programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, so students are ready to take the applicable national board examinations by the end of the program. The University of West Florida’s affordable tuition rates coupled with their loans, scholarships, grants, military discounts, and payment plans make this program accessible to students regardless of their financial background.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

A nuclear medicine technologist administers and prepares radioactive drugs. These drugs can be used by physicians to help diagnose a patient, as well as treat certain illnesses, like cancer. The nuclear medicine technologist must be familiar with scientific concepts and complex medical equipment and have the interpersonal skills to interact professionally with both patients and doctors. Becoming a nuclear medicine technologist requires an associate degree or an associate degree and an additional post-secondary certificate.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences recognizes that many future nuclear medicine technologists have academic backgrounds in another field but don’t want that to hold them back from graduating—and getting to work—as quickly as possible. That’s why they created the Advanced Certificate in Nuclear Medicine Technology program. In this 15-month, four-semester online certificate program, students build on their previous college studies and learn to administer radioactive drugs through synchronous online coursework and clinical experiences throughout the New England region. This program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology and is open to students who have a bachelor’s or associate degree in medical imaging. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences accepts FAFSA and offers state aid, work study, scholarships, grants, and loans to help students finance their education.

Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist treats patients with breathing problems. Their job duties may also include assessing patients, performing tests, and reporting their findings to physicians. The necessary training usually involves a minimum of an associate degree, although bachelor’s degree completion programs are also available. The latter are designed for practicing Registered Respiratory Therapists who wish to earn a bachelor’s degree and learn advanced skills to take on additional responsibilities, such as administration and management.

Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University’s RT to BSRT degree completion program offers a distance learning option for students who already have an associate degree and their Registered Respiratory Technician (RRT) credentials. It’s anticipated that becoming an RRT may soon require a bachelor’s degree instead of an associate degree, if not by state regulators, then by future employers. The program is very affordable, with an out-of-state tuition rate of just $260 per credit hour. And while the program is not officially CoARC-accredited, the university promises prospective students that such accreditation is forthcoming.