A career in healthcare gives you the chance to make a real difference to people's lives on the front line treating patients, conducting vital research or in an administrative role
What areas of healthcare can I work in?
Employment opportunities can be grouped into:
- allied health (e.g. physiotherapy, radiography, occupational therapy)
- ambulance services
- complementary therapies
- health informatics
- health promotion
- healthcare administration and management
- healthcare science (e.g. clinical engineering, biomedical science, pathology)
- medical equipment sales
- medicine (e.g. doctors, surgeons, GPs)
- medical research
- nutrition and diet
- optometry and opticians
- psychological therapies.
You could work in the National Health Service (NHS), private healthcare or private/non-profit organisations in a range of settings including:
- care homes or hospices
- community healthcare (e.g. doctor's surgery, dental surgery, health clinic)
- 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
- human resources (HR)
- legal services
For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in healthcare.
Who are the main graduate employers?
The largest employer in the healthcare sector is the NHS, which employs more than 1.5 million people - making it one of the top five largest workforces in the world. Within the NHS there are more than 350 different careers available, according to Health Careers.
A significant proportion of the sector's workforce is in independent healthcare. In addition to their private sector functions, these providers are increasingly contracted to provide services on behalf of the NHS.
Independent healthcare organisations include:
- BMI Healthcare
- Care UK
- Ramsay Health Care UK
- Spire Healthcare.
Voluntary and non-profit organisations in the healthcare sector include:
- 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:
- national pay rates for NHS employees except doctors, dentists and senior managers
- shift work with unsociable and often long working hours
- a range of different working conditions depending on the role and organisation
- a potentially stressful and emotionally draining working environment
- to be able to work anywhere in the country.
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 is rarely out of the news, whether it's claims of a winter crisis in A&E departments, industrial action by junior doctors or the never-ending debate over how much additional funding is required to maintain the service.
One constant problem that affects the NHS is staff shortages. England needs 20,000 extra nursing staff and 3,500 more midwives, according to the Royal College of Nurses and Royal College of Midwives respectively - and there are similar issues across many different healthcare roles.
For example, the UK also requires more doctors, with around 7 to 10% of posts vacant. The government's plans to expand medical school places by 25% from 2018 will increase the number of doctors being trained each year from 6,000 to 7,500. Announcing the policy in October 2016, Theresa May, the prime minister, said she wanted to 'see more British doctors in the NHS'.
Currently a quarter of NHS doctors are from overseas - therefore there is uncertainty over how the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) might affect staff recruitment from abroad in future.
Meanwhile, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted that the NHS will need an extra £88billion by 2067. Among the challenges the service faces are the ageing population, the growing problem of obesity, and adhering to the legal requirement to value mental health equally with physical health.
A priority for successive governments has been the integration of health and social care services. Find out more about the social care sector.