Healthcare sector Career Pathways & Advice
Healthcare is a huge sector, and one of our most essential – hospitals, GPs, dental surgeries, outpatient facilities and all types of clinics that see patients fall into its extremely wide remit. Those working in the sector perform open heart surgery, ensure that new babies are brought into the world safely, and prescribe the drugs that keep us alive, amongst a myriad of other things. For this level of responsibility, the industry requires the best and most dedicated graduates.
Nurses and doctors might work in hospitals, advising and facilitating care in departments including maternity, Accident & Emergency, oncology, paediatrics, mental health or Intensive Care. There are four nursing specialisms in the UK: adult, child, mental health and learning disability. High level doctors might work as surgeons, operating on patients in theatre, or as consultants in specific departments. Others might work in General Practitioner (GP) surgeries, dealing with non-urgent and non-life threatening conditions.
Dentists perform a vital role in society by improving community health. There are around 21,000 dentists currently practising in the UK, but there is a shortage of NHS dentists, meaning they are in high demand. A dentist's office also employs people other than dentists, like administrators, dental nurses and dental hygienists.
Of course, you have a choice of whether you work in the public or private sector, providing care to the general public in a busy hospital or surgery or to fewer patients in a smaller or more specialist facility. If you work in healthcare for the Public Sector you’ll work for the National Health Service (NHS).
Working in veterinary science, you could be working across the spectrum of the animal kingdom, from household pets to farm or zoo animals. You are likely to work in a veterinary practice, with some vets securing jobs in zoos or even in the wild. The range of functions for those working at a veterinary surgery includes veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, and assistants.
Healthcare sector Jobs
It goes without saying that you need to have a caring and considerate nature to work in any area within the healthcare or veterinary sector.
Obviously, you’ll also need the specific scientific skills and knowledge gained in your degree, whichever path you chose to take. As the majority of degrees in this area are vocational, the skills you learn will be all about teaching you how to diagnose, treat and care for patients with various illnesses and ailments.
Excellent communication skills are vital in all medical roles, as you will be dealing with nervous and potentially upset patients (or owners, in the case of veterinary science).
As a medical professional you will be constantly updating your skills and knowledge as new medical developments take place. Working in this sector is about dedicating yourself to lifelong learning.
- Decision Making
- Time Management
Career progression in both the healthcare and veterinary science sectors are clear: roles are defined and you’ll have to achieve certain things in order to move to the next level.
In nursing, the level you are at is set by bands. Bands 1 – 4 consist of roles including nursery nurse, healthcare assistant, emergency care assistant and theatre support worker. A newly qualified nurse begins as a Band 5, whilst more experienced nurses will move up to Band 6. The majority of NHS nurses fall into these two categories. Band 7 and above (Band 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D and 9) is comprised of deputy ward managers, ward managers, chief nurses (managing staff as well as caring for patients), and specialist consultants.
After their two-year Dental Foundation Training course (completed right after a dentistry degree), dentists are free to work in surgeries. Continued training (compulsory for dentists) will allow you to specialise and increase your skillset.
Doctors who want to work in hospitals start with their foundation year after medical school, before taking on five to six years of specialist training (“junior doctors”, who are qualified but haven’t yet completed their specialist training, fall into this category). After specialist training is completed, doctors can apply for consultant positions.
Those aiming to be GPs go on rotation, spending time both in hospitals and in GP surgeries.
As a veterinary graduate you are free to apply to work in practises as soon as your degree is over, and you can progress your career by taking on more responsibility in larger practises, or by moving into academic research, teaching, or within private industry – for example pharmaceuticals or biomedical sciences.
As you progress through your career in healthcare, you will be required to take on extra training (Continued Professional Development, or CPD) in order to specialise and ensure that your skills are up to date and, most importantly, safe for your patients. For doctors, CPD is the responsibility of the individual to complete and report back on.
In dentistry, CPD courses can be taken in order to give dentists further skills or a specialism. This will lead to more extensive work and an increase in the amount of services that you can offer. The General Medical Council also makes continuing training for all dentists compulsory.
All nurses are required to go through a revalidation process every three years to ensure their knowledge and skills are up to date. This is administered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and includes written work, registered time working, and character and health declarations.
As in the other healthcare professions, CPD is required for vets. You’ll be required to identify your learning objectives and undertake a certain number of CPD hours per year. There are various formats laid out to help you complete the process.
Salaries within the nursing profession are extremely varied, although its reputation as a poorly-paid career is not justified. According to Pay Scale, in general registered nurses earn between £18,658 and £36,146 per year, depending on their “band” – that is, level of experience. According to NHS Careers, as a registered nurse starting out you will earn in excess of £21,000 per year. Directors of nursing pay earn close to £100,000. If you work as a nurse in London you may receive a wage that is up to 20% higher than the rest of the county.
Here are the pay brackets for bands 5 to 7 (where you’re likely to begin and progress your career) in 2017-18, according to the Royal College of Nursing:
Band 5 – £22,128 - £28,746
Brand 6 – £26,565 - £35,577
Band 7 – £31,696 - £41,787
Dentists’ salaries are high once they have a few years’ experience. Whilst in your year of post-graduation dental training, you will earn around £31,000. According to Payscale, the average dentist’s wage in the UK is £50,040, with a £29,233 - £98,098 range, depending on the level of experience. If you work at night, through the weekend or any unsocial hours you will also receive overtime pay.
Doctors earn well, especially after gaining experience. The average salary for a doctor, according to Payscale, is £50,731, with consultants earning up to £107,565. According to NHS Careers, these salaries are what you should expect at each stage in your career:
Junior Doctor (1st year) – £23,000
Junior Doctor (2nd year) – £28,000
Doctor in specialist training - £30,000 - £47,000
The 2017-18 pay circular for consultants, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), can be found here.
According to Payscale, veterinary nurses earn an average of £18,294 and up to £24,000, whilst surgeons earn an average of £33,692 and up to £45,000.
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
This is an area where your degree really does dictate the career path you go into – to become a vet, you will need a degree that is approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), for example, and the vast majority of nurses and doctors have degrees in healthcare or medicine, respectively.
Having said that, students with degrees such as biological science can go into medicine – they’ll need to take on a four-year accelerated masters course after their undergraduate degree. The postgraduate medicine course is available at a small number of universities across the UK.
If you want to train as a vet but are currently enrolled in or have completed a degree in another subject, an accelerated four-year course (like this one offered by the Royal Veterinary College) could see you transfer your skills and cut down on the usual seven-year training route.
How to get there
As a doctor you’ll begin your post-medical school life by completing your foundation training, a two-year programme, giving you the clinical skills you need to practice. After completion you’ll be awarded the Foundation Programme Certificate of Completion (FPCC). You’ll then choose a specialism (training five to eight years) or to become a GP (training three years.)
It is incredibly important to gain practical experience as part of your route into a career in nursing. You should contact one of the 400 NHS trusts that exist in the UK directly, explain the level of training that you are at, and see whether you can spend some time volunteering on a ward or in another part of the hospital. You can find out more about work experience in nursing on the NHS Choices website.
When you have completed your nursing degree you will be qualified to work as a nurse. You should apply directly to NHS trusts when they advertise vacancies.
You will need to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) and complete one year of dental foundation training in a dental surgery after you have graduated. This will include lectures and demonstrations in hospitals. When you’ve completed this year you’ll be able to get a job in a dental practice as an associate or an assistant.
Orthodontists and those who want to go into dental medicine will need to undergo further training in a hospital setting.
To help you move into a dental career more quickly, it’s essential that you get work experience. Luckily, this is likely to be covered by your dentistry degree – and as your mandatory year of training after graduation is spent in a surgery, your work experience needs are likely to be taken care of.
As a veterinary science graduate, you are able to apply directly to veterinary surgeries once you have completed your seven-year undergraduate degree.
Health Careers (NHS)
General Medical Council (GMC)
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Surgeons
Royal College of Psychiatrists
British Dental Industry Association
General Dental Council
British Dental Association
Nursing & Midwifery Council
Royal College of Nursing
British Nursing Association
National Care Association
British Veterinary Nursing Association
British Veterinary Association
Association of Veterinary Students UK & Ireland (AVS)
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)