Do you want to start a career in healthcare? Perhaps you’re an undergraduate student approaching the end of a nursing or medicine degree or someone with no experience at all who’s looking to enter the industry? If so, great. This easy guide has everything you need to know regarding starting a career in healthcare.
Healthcare is a rapidly growing industry that is projected to create millions of new jobs over the coming years. No matter what age you are, it’s a smart idea to want to be part of it – as there’s a guarantee of job security and endless career opportunities.
Of course, you can’t clap your hands and magically enter the healthcare industry within 24 hours. Instead, you need to follow a handful of steps and dedicate several years of your life to a specific pathway. Upon doing this, you’ll be able to successfully enter the world of healthcare.
So, where do we begin? Let’s start with the first tip:
Complete a Degree
When it comes to workers in healthcare, from pharmacists to doctors, nearly all of them have graduated from university with a degree. This is because it’s generally a requirement.
For example, to become a nurse, you must have a degree in nursing (your degree will be centered around either adults, children, mental health, or learning disabilities).
Upon successfully completing their healthcare-related degrees, many individuals then go on to study for a master’s degree, which is then often followed by a Ph.D.
Naturally, master’s degrees are attractive for a number of reasons, including:
- The opportunity to command higher wages
- You learn new skills and knowledge that weren’t taught at the bachelor’s level
- They open up more advanced roles to choose from in the healthcare industry
What’s the Best Master’s Degree for Healthcare Graduates and Professionals?
Healthcare graduates should be looking to choose a master’s degree that focuses on cultivating management and team leading skills, such as this Executive Master of Health Administration. This way, individuals can build on their existing experience while developing their analysis and data-modeling skills. In an age where management opportunities in healthcare are highly lucrative, this is an opportunity many can’t afford to turn down!
Also, thanks to the growth of eLearning, it’s now possible for healthcare graduates and professionals to study their master’s degrees online from the comfort of their own homes. This is incredibly convenient, as it allows individuals to carry on with their lives without having to dedicate their day-to-day schedule to study.
Although campus-based learning isn’t part of the equation, online students still get access to all the resources they need (although resources vary from university to university). From online books to one-to-one meetings with professors, all the major boxes get ticked.
Are Master’s Degrees Expensive?
- In the U.S., you can typically expect to pay between $20,000 to $60,000 per year for a master’s program.
From the U.S. to Europe, millions of people study master’s degrees in a variety of subjects, from medicine to healthcare management. Typically, these master’s degrees cost significantly less than bachelor’s’ degrees, which is another major bonus.
Choose a Non-Degree Healthcare Job
As mentioned earlier in this guide, the majority of healthcare professionals have completed a degree to get to where they are.
However, it is possible to start some healthcare jobs with no degrees at all. Occasionally, you don’t need any prior experience, either.
Let’s run through two excellent examples of this.
- Healthcare Assistant
To become a healthcare assistant, there are zero set entry requirements.
Instead, employers – such as hospitals and private clinics – expect assistants to have excellent communication and teamwork skills as well as prior experience (although this isn’t essential).
Typically, healthcare workers are employed by hospitals. They have to take on a variety of daily tasks, such as:
- Washing and dressing patients
- Serving meals to patients
- Sterilizing equipment
- Taking patient measurements, such as temperatures (this data is then recorded and transferred to doctors and nurses)
According to U.S. News, the average salary for a medical assistant is $35,850, which is very good considering that it’s possible to enter this role without prior qualifications or experience!
- Dental Assistant
Many people believe that you need a degree to be a dental assistant – but this isn’t true.
To become a dental assistant, you can either go on a training course or apply directly to dental practices to train on the job.
As a dental assistant, you can expect to complete a variety of roles, including:
- Preparing and organizing tools
- Directing patients where they need to go
- Scheduling and canceling appointments
- Helping to relax patients and make them feel comfortable
- Rehab Worker
If you have a passion for helping people on their road to recovery, you can also become a rehab worker without a degree. Instead, it’s about having the right values, beliefs, and behaviors to be a success in this field.
As a rehab worker, your role will be to help people live an independent life. For example, you may help them with social activities, life skills (cooking, cleaning), and their general wellbeing.
There are millions of administrative roles in healthcare. Usually, these roles will revolve around office work, from scheduling patient appointments to organizing files in the system.
Each administrative role is different with its requirements. For example, some will prefer that you have experience and a background in business, while others will allow you to start in apprenticeship-style roles before progressing into full-time work.
Administrative roles in healthcare are great for people who want to make a positive difference to the community without being on the ‘frontline’ (i.e., handling patients face-to-face). Instead, you can work in a productive office space with other passionate employees.
You can apply for admin roles at a variety of different locations, from hospitals to private healthcare practices. Due to the increase in remote working, it’s now even possible to find administrative roles that allow you to work from home, which is something to bear in mind for people who don’t want to work in an office.
Apply for Volunteer Opportunities
In healthcare, there’s never a shortage of volunteer opportunities for people to take advantage of.
Volunteering is a great way to:
- Build industry experience
- Make new connections
- Gain an understanding of which roles you appeal to you the most
Here are some example roles that you can undertake as a volunteer:
- Pharmacy Runner
- Administrative Assistant
- Hospital Ward Volunteer
No matter your age or background, anyone can become a healthcare volunteer. It’s simply about finding opportunities that are right for yourself and your career goals.
For example, many university undergraduates will volunteer in hospitals so that they can build up their practical experience while also giving their CVs a major boost.
Remember, you can also volunteer in other countries, too. This is great for individuals who wish to travel or who are taking a break from study abroad.
Research, Research, Research
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck back in 2020, the world of healthcare has changed forever.
Now, new trends and practices have emerged, from telemedicine (which involves talking to patients via video and phone calls) to online health records.
As someone who is looking to start or further your career in the healthcare industry, it’s important to stay up-to-date with these trends. By doing this, you’ll be more aware of opportunities within healthcare as well as career decisions that will benefit you.
Luckily, there are lots of different resources you can use to research healthcare news, from news platforms (BBC News, Forbes) to social media.
Also, it’s recommended that you subscribe to online health journals, such as the BMJ, so that you never miss out on any new research, findings, and medical opinions. No matter which segment of healthcare you work in, you’ll find it to be incredibly useful!
Remember, the more research you do, the more you will gain an understanding of the type of roles you want to enter in healthcare.
Reach Out to Healthcare Professionals on LinkedIn
After making an account on the popular career networking site LinkedIn, you’ll be able to reach out to tons of healthcare professionals for advice.
For example, you’ll be able to search for local organizations within your area – such as private doctor’s practices – and see the employees that work there. By messaging them, you might even discover that they have some roles available that you can apply for.
Remember, when you reach out to people on LinkedIn, be as polite and professional as possible. This will prevent you from appearing rude or overly pushy when searching for advice.
Focus on Cover Letters
Whether you’re applying for volunteer opportunities or full-time career positions after acquiring a degree, you need to focus on cover letters.
Cover letters are seen as essential in the healthcare industry. This is because:
- It gives recruiters better insight surrounding your potential
- You can draw quick attention to your qualifications, previous work experience, and personal traits
When creating a cover letter, you should focus on efficiency. Paragraphs should be short, concise, and to the point, as this makes life much easier for the hiring directors who will be reading your cover letters.
Develop Your Existing Skills
Working in healthcare isn’t just about having the right knowledge for the tasks at hand – it’s also about developing your skills. Here are the key skills you’ll need to develop before entering the healthcare industry:
- Positive thinking
- Stress management
- Time management
- Listening and communication
Having all of the above-mentioned skills will provide you with the best possible chance of succeeding in healthcare.
Remember, you will be communicating with patients and colleagues a lot from day to day, which is why these skills are so important.
For example, a lack of empathy will likely lead to you struggling to form a relationship with patients due to the fact you can’t understand or relate to them.
At times, you will also be under a lot of stress due to heavy work demands, which is why it’s essential to have a forward-thinking, positive attitude.
Ask Lots of Questions
While working with colleagues and higher-ups, it’s a good idea to ask as many questions as possible – particularly during the early stages of your career.
For example, if you’re in the middle of a work placement, you should be taking mental notes at all times while absorbing all the advice you can from your peers.
The healthcare industry is built upon listening, as nobody is perfect when they start out. It’s a continuous learning process – even the most established of doctors are still learning each and every day!
Keep a Journal
Finally, make sure to keep a journal.
You should keep a journal during both your education process and work experience.
This way, you will be able to keep track of everything you’ve learned as well as your achievements from day to day.
As you progress as a healthcare worker, you’ll be able to reflect and grow more easily through the help of a journal, whether you keep one in paper form or digitally.
End of the Guide – Final Thoughts
The steps and discussed above will help you to make the transition into the world of healthcare, whether you’re a young student or someone who is working in an entirely different industry.
For more advanced, higher-paying roles, it’s recommended that you go the education route. However, it’s also possible to enter a variety of healthcare-related roles without going to university or having vast amounts of industry experience, with dental assistants being an excellent example of this.
Healthcare is a constantly evolving industry, so new opportunities are coming up all the time. Remember to keep your eyes on the market – especially through platforms like LinkedIn – so you can find the best possible roles.
Also, healthcare is very much a globalized industry, meaning there’s also plenty of opportunities for you to tackle abroad if this is something you would be interested in. Good luck!