The Different Career Paths in the Health Industry
Healthcare is a popular career choice and working in the health industry is often a preferred first career, as well as a common option for career changers. It is a varied field and the skills required differ depending on the position you plan on taking up. There is a healthcare role to suit a wide variety of skill sets and personality types, and it is often the lesser-known careers outside of medical practice, nursing and dentistry that can be the most rewarding.
Why people choose to work in the health industry
Caring for the well being of others or contributing to the healthcare system gives many people a unique sense of satisfaction, over and above the contentment gained from an enjoyable career. Health workers are also paid very well, while being in high demand as the world population grows and ages.
Careers in healthcare allow a lot of room for career development and for building your earnings and level of responsibility as you progress. There is also a benefit in that healthcare is very standardized around the world, and your skills are applicable in any country – though you may need to sit a re-certification exam.
Popular healthcare roles
Provision of care has traditionally centered on a group of traditional health industry jobs, such as the general practitioners who act as doctors, nurses who assist doctors, and specialized fields, including dentistry and opticians. These careers are generally very patient-focused, and a career path in one of these typical health industry roles requires many years of training and practical experience to achieve full qualification.
Competition for these jobs in healthcare is stiff, and you may find courses are oversubscribed and that many qualified applicants vie for a limited number of positions. Careers in these areas are highly regulated and you may not find a lot of flexibility when it comes to the career progression you can achieve outside of the set routes most people follow.
Alternative roles in healthcare
If you are particularly interested in entering the health industry, it is worth considering some of the alternative career paths. Some of these do not necessarily involve patient contact – while you may not interact with patients, your support for the healthcare system still contributes to patient welfare. Roles in managing hospitals or setting public policy around healthcare are typical examples.
You could also think about entering the field of medical research, which is in essence there to improve patient outcomes. People who work in a laboratory or perform statistical analysis are crucial to the advancement of medicine, and many of the day-to-day therapies doctors use in practice are only in existence due to the contribution of researchers working behind the scenes.
Formal education for healthcare careers
Most careers in healthcare will require you to get qualified in some formal sense. Traditional medical roles involve up to a decade of formal training, which is a daunting prospect for most people. Some other roles in the health industry, such as laboratory assistant, can be applied for with much less training, as the requirements can be met largely by academic programs, but you will need to demonstrate some aptitude for the role.
If you are unable to attend a course on a day-to-day basis, you could consider studying online. It is also an excellent way to transfer from a career in a different industry into the healthcare industry. Online study can help you boost your career prospects if you are already working in healthcare – for example, the University of Arizona’s masters in public health is a typical option for experienced workers in public healthcare who want to take on leadership roles in their sector.
Options outside of formal education
Many healthcare industry jobs are open to people who do not have formal qualifications. Secretarial work at doctors’ offices can often be competently performed after some on-the-job training, while someone who offers aid to occupational therapists also needs little formal training. Often, starting in one of these entry-level roles is a way get on the ladder to more advanced health industry positions.
Apprenticeships are also an option: health care assistants are often trained by means of apprenticeship schemes. Initially, it may involve a low wage as you go through the training process, but there is usually no cost associated with the training element. Therefore, even if you are unable to spend many years in formal education, healthcare industry jobs are not closed off to you – but you may need to take a slightly longer, more patient approach.