Health can be an extremely rewarding sector to pursue, with many career options. The main employer in Health, and the largest employer in the UK, is the National Health Service. The NHS employs nearly two million people in a variety of roles and responsibilities.
Health roles are also available outside the NHS, in private Healthcare organisations and wellbeing, fitness or diet. Many jobs in Health provide staff with high levels of job satisfaction, but often require dealing with difficult realities such as illness, disease and death.
Most roles in the Health sector require very specific training, either on the job or in university. Graduates need to be prepared to put in the hours required to succeed.
How to Get a Job in Health
Health is a large field, with a variety of areas offering rewarding careers.
Graduates may want to pursue a career in:
1. Nursing or Midwifery
Nursing and Midwifery is a broad field, and roles can be based in a variety of environments. Nursing is trained in one of four fields: Adult, Children, Mental or Learning Disability.
A degree or diploma in Nursing or Midwifery is required to work in the field, and candidates should be efficient, understanding and competent. Graduates need to be team players capable of acting under pressure and maintaining good communication during emotionally-charged situations.
Many prospective Nurses and Midwives gain experience by working in care homes as volunteers or support staff. Such experience shows passion for the profession, and aids in getting graduates accustomed to the clinical side of Nursing.
2. Specialist fields
Many positions in the Health sector require extremely specialised training and certification. These include Physiotherapy, Dentistry, Optometry, Radiography and Speech and Language Therapy. Graduates wanting to work in these fields will have to undertake postgraduate qualifications.
Paramedics do not require a specific degree, but graduates interested in working in this area should have at least five GCSEs, two A levels and a full manual driving license. Candidates should be prepared to undergo extensive training in order to be qualified for the position, and they must be capable of thinking calmly in urgent and dangerous situations.
Moving away from the clinical side, Healthcare offers many positions involved with coordinating and managing patients and physicians. Management roles and schemes are available in the NHS and require successful applicants to organise, implement and look after certain areas of the service. Management roles are also available in private healthcare companies.
Management schemes require graduates to be organised, financially minded and possess an understanding of healthcare operations. Other necessary skills are strong written and oral communication, a personable approach, and staff management.
Health, like any other sector, includes many business roles. Positions such as Sales, Marketing and Secretarial are common in the sector and candidates should be prepared with the basic skills as in any other sector.
Health Case Studies
Health Case Study - NHS
Everybody is going to be a patient at some point, so what I love is making it the standard I would want for my family.
The Employer - Rob Farace (Senior Programme Lead Resourcing - NHS)
Name: Rob Farace
Job Title: Senior Programme Lead Resourcing - NHS
University: Middlesex University
Course: Human Resources
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
We always look for a few core competencies. One is resilience, the Health sector at the moment is a very tough environment, so people need to come in and be tough enough to cope with that. It is good if they can work in ambiguity. We don't know the full picture when we start on projects, so it is something that you need to go into being in exploration mode.
Self-reflection is something that we struggle to find in people. It is that ability to reflect on that performance, on their strengths and development areas. The final one is being humble. You're fast track material but it is very much about how you interact and approach that role. If you go into an organisation and come across as too self-important, you will not go far. It is that ability to be able to work with people.
Can you talk us through the application process?
The application process starts off with a compulsory questionnaire. We don't see the answers, but it will give an indication to how successful they are likely to be. You will then go onto fill out an online application form. It's a typical one and it is purely about us capturing information. After that, there are online tests: numerical, verbal reasoning, a personality profile and a situational judgement tool. This stage is probably the toughest and will sift the majority out.
After that we take them through to interview. The interviews are based on strengths and a competency based approach. After, it is an assessment centre. This is a day-long event and you will have a workstation with a laptop and printer. Throughout the day you are sent a series of emails and you experience the typical day of a trainee. You are bombarded with information and it is how you react and interact with the data which is assessed.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?
It is amazing how many people fail because they have not read the instructions correctly or the eligibility criteria. Another thing is the online tests. If you don't have the ability, you're not going to pass them, but you do hear and see some horror stories of people trying to do the test in the ten minutes before it closes.
It is common sense really. Our application process is actually incredibly tough and demanding, it's not something you're just going to breeze on a whim. You really need to prepare and do your research. Some people don't know what's going on in the NHS at the moment, you've got to do your research so you can have a sensible conversation and understand the challenges we face.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the Health sector?
Everything we do is about improving the patient experience. It's always a good template to go back to. What am I doing? How am I going to improve the patient experience? What is my contribution here?
Another piece of advice would be use the people already here. There are a lot of people in the Service that have a wealth of experience and knowledge. It's not to say you can't bring something new, it's what we expect you to do, but use the existing knowledge. Also, be ready for the scale of the organisation. It's an incredibly large and complex organisation and nothing can prepare you for it.
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
On our graduate scheme it is the sheer volume. They're doing a professional qualification, settling in to a new job, trying to network with their peers and this is all on a national scheme. So it is an awful big challenge. It is almost about time management, being ruthless and being brutal to see what should be done and when.
Where do you see the NHS in two years' time?
The obvious thing is change! Improving how we work and doing things cheaper. We've got to keep working smarter. So for graduates coming in, it is about keeping that mind set of how can we improve things. It is not just the financial driver, but it's taking into account how new technology can help what we are doing. Simple things like the makeup of the community. The Health Service needs to react and reflect those changes.
If you weren't in 'Programme Lead Resourcing', what would you be?
Many years ago, I did flirt with the idea of being a teacher.
The Employee - Kirstie Stott (Management Trainee - NHS)
Name: Kirstie Stott
Job Title: Management Trainee - NHS
University: University of Sheffield
Graduation Year: 2001
How did you get your graduate job in Health?
I worked as a Nurse initially and found myself ever increasingly frustrated by the system and wanted to have more influence over change. The first step was online psychometric testing with four different types of test. Then it was a competency based interview with a senior NHS manager and the final stage was a 24 hour leadership challenge. It's quite competitive. This year there was 12,000 applicants for 100 places. The ability to demonstrate the right values and behaviours which are aligned with those of the NHS is essential in the recruitment process.
Why do you think you were successful at the NHS?
Although I have previous NHS experience, this is not a requirement, what is important is you can demonstrate the right values and you've got a passion for patient care. The NHS is different to other sectors, you need to put patients central in your decision making. You've also got to understand what the NHS's challenges are. It's not the experience I had but the understanding and the values that made me successful.
Also it's about being passionate about the NHS. I have worked my whole adult life in the NHS and therefore had a great understanding of what the challenges are. I did a lot of hard work preparing for the tests and other stages which obviously paid off.
What do you actually do?
The role is incredibly varied. I am studying for a Master's in Leadership and Service Improvement. I also attend Action Learning Set groups and experiential study days with the King's Fund.
The two years are split into three placements. Firstly there is an operational placement, it gives you the opportunity to manage and lead a department. The placement means you do the day to day running of services. Ensuring patients get the best experience, organising and coordinating services and resources.
Then a flexi-elected placement which gives you 8 to 9 weeks to go out of the NHS and bring something back, which is what I'm doing at the moment. Then the final placement is a strategic placement.
What skills do you need?
The NHS is going through unprecedented change and you need to really be up for a challenge, have courage, resilience and tenacity alongside a passion and desire to put patients at the forefront of all you do
What is the best thing about your job?
What is brilliant about the job is that I get to make a difference for patients. To be able to have influence over the wider healthcare system and contribute alongside other dedicated people in the NHS. It is such a great reward seeing patients and service users accessing the service that you've helped implement and you've made a positive difference for them. Everybody is going to be a patient some point, so what I love is making it the standard I would want for my family.
And what is the worst thing about your job?
The worst thing, and the general frustrations that the whole NHS is experiencing, is the bad press that we regularly get when things go wrong. There's no coverage for the life changing things that NHS staff do daily. The frustrations can be around the finances at the moment, the lack of money in the system and having to do more for less.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I am a really ambitious person but I'd like to see myself in a position where I can influence real change. The NHS is such a valuable public asset, so I'd like to lead change in my own way and style. I don't know what that looks like as a role, it might be Chief Executive or a national role, but as long as I can influence change for the benefit of all, that's what I want to see.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to the NHS?
Make sure it is the right choice for you. Don't worry about the application process, if you're right for the job you will get it. Be passionate, stay true to yourself and always be you. The NHS requires a new style of leadership that can sustain and improve it for the future. Once you're on the scheme get involved with as many things as you possibly can. Always remember you are working for the public and that should always drive you.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with the NHS, please take a look at their minisite.