If you want a role that makes a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing, or are passionate about helping to reduce the causes of ill-health, there are many job possibilities within this sector

What areas of healthcare can I work in?

Employment opportunities can be grouped into:

  • allied health (e.g. physiotherapy, radiography, occupational therapy);
  • ambulance service;
  • complementary therapies;
  • dentistry;
  • health informatics;
  • health promotion;
  • healthcare administration and management;
  • healthcare science (e.g. clinical engineering, biomedical science, pathology);
  • medical equipment sales;
  • medicine (doctors, surgeons, GPs);
  • pharmacy;
  • psychological therapies;
  • medical research;
  • midwifery;
  • nursing;
  • nutrition and diet;
  • optometry and opticians.

You could work in the National Health Service (NHS), private healthcare, voluntary or not-for-profit organisations in a range of settings including:

  • care homes or hospices;
  • community healthcare (e.g. doctor's surgery, dental surgery, health clinic);
  • hospitals;
  • medical laboratories;
  • people's homes.

In large organisations such as the NHS and private healthcare providers such as Bupa, there are jobs for graduates in:

  • customer care;
  • finance;
  • hospitality;
  • HR;
  • IT;
  • legal services;
  • marketing;
  • procurement;
  • sales.

You may also wish to consider health related roles in the science and pharmaceuticals or leisure, sport and tourism sectors.

For examples of job roles, see graduate jobs in healthcare.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The largest employer in the health sector is the NHS, which employs more than 1.6 million people in the UK. According to Health Careers, there are more than 350 different careers on offer.

A significant proportion of the healthcare sector workforce is in independent healthcare. This diverse and highly competitive independent sector delivers a wide range of services, including alternative treatments, with providers increasingly being contracted to provide services on behalf of the NHS.

Independent healthcare includes private organisations such as:

  • Bupa;
  • BMI Healthcare;
  • Care UK;
  • Optima Medical;
  • Ramsay Health Care UK;
  • Spire Healthcare.

It also includes voluntary and not-for-profit organisations, including:

  • British Red Cross;
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK;
  • Nuffield Health;
  • Save the Children;
  • Sue Ryder.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the healthcare sector can expect:

  • a national pay system for most roles in the NHS;
  • shift work with unsociable and often long working hours;
  • a wide range of working conditions within the same role and organisation. For example, working in a hospital will differ widely between the wards, theatre and outpatients department;
  • a working environment that can be stressful and emotionally draining;
  • to be able to work anywhere in the country, as all communities require healthcare professionals.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the healthcare sector?

The NHS has to make huge savings of £20billion over the next few years and at the same time meet an increased demand for services, particularly because people are living longer. The effects of this can be mixed for graduates.

The number of places on some degree and postgraduate courses is regulated depending on projections of future demand for professional healthcare staff. This means that some careers in this sector are highly competitive to enter, including medicine, dentistry, midwifery, children's nursing and physiotherapy. You can expect to sit admissions tests, need relevant work experience and for a higher numbers of applicants than places.

However, with effective management so crucial to the NHS in a time of budget constraints, the NHS Leadership Academy has been set up to support individuals and organisations in developing leadership behaviour and skills. It also seeks to find and recruit suitable graduates to four different specialisms within the NHS’s long-running Graduate Management Training Scheme.

A rise in long-term health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, has resulted in more opportunities for health professionals to work in the community. The aim is to provide services and personalised care plans to allow those who need continuing care to manage their conditions and stay in their own homes. In addition, healthcare workers increasingly work in multidisciplinary teams in partnership with social services and other community care services.