The healthcare sector covers a multitude of occupations, so for graduates looking to enter a career in healthcare, there are many routes to choose from.
Careers in healthcare
The primary employer in healthcare is the National Health Service, which employs more than 1.7 million people across the UK. As well as the NHS, there are options to enter a career in private healthcare or the not-for-profit sector.
The NHS employs a wide variety of different categories of staff:
- Doctors including consultants, registrars, senior house officers and associate specialists
- Nurses including midwives, health visiting staff, nurse consultants and nurse practitioners
- Qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff, sub-categorised into:
- Allied health professionals including dieticians, occupational therapists, radiographers and physiotherapists
- Qualified health support professionals including pharmacists, speech therapists and prosthetists. This category also includes clinical and biomedical scientists specialising in disciplines such as genetics, immunology and biochemistry.
- Ambulance staff including ambulance paramedics and personnel
- Support staff including nursing and healthcare assistants, clerical and administrative staff and maintenance workers.
- NHS infrastructure support including areas such as finance, legal services, health educations and specialised management staff.
To succeed in healthcare, you must be fully committed to the sector. Be sure to analyse the reasons you want to enter the profession. Depending on the career, specific qualifications and or training may be required. It is important you are confident a career in the healthcare sector is right for you before embarking on what can sometimes be a long and challenging training process.
Alongside relevant qualifications, there are numerous personal qualities and skills employers in healthcare are looking for, including:
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Time management
- Patience and flexibility
- An ability to work well under pressure
- Compassion, understanding and a supportive nature
The most common entry path into many occupations within healthcare is through a relevant vocational degree, such as nursing or medicine. If you are a graduate in a non-vocational subject, there are many possible routes by which you can enter a career in healthcare. While it is commonly assumed a scientific-based degree is required, humanities graduates are increasingly finding their way into healthcare occupations through a range of alternative training options.
The NHS also offers a range of graduate programmes including:
NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme
This graduate scheme is a fast-track programme to prepare you to work as a senior manager in healthcare. The six areas trainees can specialise in are general management, finance, human resources, health informatics, policy and strategy and health analysis. The scheme lasts for two years, during which you will be employed on a fixed-term contract and receive a salary. You will need at least a 2:2 degree in any subject to apply for the Graduate Management Training Scheme. To find out more information, visit the dedicated NHS website.
NHS Scientist Training Programme
The Scientist Training Programme (STP) is a scheme used to train science or engineering graduates to work in a senior healthcare, science role. There are a huge range of STP specialisms, including genomics, microbiology, clinical engineering, radiation safety, cardiac science and urology. The STP lasts for three years, during which you will be employed on a fixed-term contract and receive a salary. To apply for the STP, you must have at least a 2:1 in a science-based subject relevant to the specialism in which you applied. To learn more about the STP and whether it is the right route for you, visit the NHS website.
NHS Graduate Digital, Data and Technology Scheme
The Digital, Data and Technology scheme is a fast-track programme for graduates interested in a career in health informatics and technology. Health informatics is one of the fastest growing areas in healthcare. It involves the intelligent use of information to provide better care for patients. The scheme is open to applicants with a degree in psychology or any of the STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) subjects, or those that may have equivalent experience. Visit the NHS website to find out more information and how to apply.