Discover what skills, qualifications and work experience you need to pursue a career in healthcare and explore the professional bodies that play a major role in the sector
Do I need a related degree?
For many graduate healthcare careers, including medicine, nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare, you must be a registered healthcare professional. This means you need a relevant approved degree and to register with a professional body to work in these roles.
If you have not studied an approved first degree, you could consider a graduate entry 'accelerated' course in order to apply for certain clinical careers. For example, there are four-year courses in medicine for those within a non-medical degree.
Some of these programmes require you to have a science or health-related degree, while others are open to graduates of any subject. In any case you will typically need at least a 2:2 and a substantial amount of work experience.
There are also graduate entry courses for nursing, dentistry, midwifery, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
The NHS Modernising Scientific Careers scheme has resulted in more structured training for healthcare science roles. The NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) combines study for a BSc with work-based training in areas such as life sciences, medical physics technology and clinical engineering.
For some roles such as paramedic, physiotherapist and occupational therapist, it is possible to work your way up from assistant level through in-service work-based learning including degree level study.
In a number of jobs - such as doctor, pharmacist and clinical psychologist - postgraduate study is an essential part of the training process. Search for postgraduate courses.
In other areas, for example nursing and midwifery, you can consider taking post-registration courses at postgraduate level in order to specialise.
Explore various options, included accelerated and post-registration courses, via the Health Careers course finder.
More information about routes into healthcare careers can be found by visiting the websites of relevant professional bodies, such as:
- General Dental Council (GDC)
- General Medical Council (GMC)
- General Optical Council (GOC)
- General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC)
- The Royal College of Surgeons in England
- Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)
For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications, see job profiles.
What skills do employers want?
Employers in the healthcare sector require candidates with:
- the ability to stay calm in high pressure situations, such as in surgery
- attention to detail
- empathy and an approachable nature
- good communication skills, for example to advise patients about their options
- the ability to work in a team.
Where can I get work experience?
Most undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to healthcare include work placements to enable you to gain experience alongside your qualification.
However, relevant work experience is usually needed for entry to these courses and it can be gained by volunteering, work shadowing a health professional or through work experience schemes with NHS Trusts.
The British Red Cross offers 8 to 12 week part-time internships in health and social care. Placements are available at their London head office and across the country, with reasonable travel and lunch expenses paid. They also offer voluntary work relating to first aid as well as their 8 to 12 month international youth volunteering programme.
For details of volunteering opportunities in hospices, visit Hospice UK.
NHS Trust work experience schemes are usually organised by a volunteer co-ordinator or the HR department - you can find details on Trust websites.
To find work placements and internships in the healthcare sector, search for work experience.
How do I find a graduate job in the healthcare sector?
Jobs within the NHS are advertised through NHS Jobs and NHS Trust websites. Jobs in independent healthcare are usually advertised on company websites or via specialist recruitment agencies.
The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme has options in finance, HR, general management and health informatics. Graduates with 2:2 degrees in any subject area are considered.
If you have a 2:1 degree in pure or applied science, you could consider the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP). This offers the chance for paid work while studying towards a Masters degree in areas such as blood sciences, genetics and medical physics. See Health Careers for details of the annual application cycle.
Vacancies for smaller organisations can be found by contacting them directly with a speculative application or through local press advertisements.
To find jobs in the sector, search graduate jobs in healthcare.