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Good career prospects in the health sector

Tagged In:  Health

A recent survey ranks several healthcare jobs in the top 10 career choices for graduate employability.

We often hear in the media about the challenges and negative issues relating to working in the health sector. But what about the positives? How does healthcare compare with other professions in terms of factors such as employability and job satisfaction?

A range of healthcare disciplines feature highly in the top 10 subjects for graduate employability published recently by The Complete University Guide. While a few of the 'usual suspects' are there (namely land and property management, engineering and veterinary medicine), the list mainly comprises subjects which lead to jobs in primary healthcare, allied healthcare or other fields related to health. In eighth place is pharmacology and pharmacy with an employability score of 78%. The number six spot is taken by physiotherapy, scoring 89%. At five is medical technology with 90%. As for medicine and nursing jobs, they come in at numbers two and three respectively, just beaten to the top spot by dentistry. All three have similar scores of 93% for graduates employed in professional jobs.

For those planning to prepare for careers which have traditionally been seen as 'safe bets', it may be time to think again. The figures for healthcare compare highly favourably with many other subjects, such as accounting and finance (44% in a professional job after graduating), computer science (63%) and law (33%).

With an ageing population and more people living with long-term conditions, the demand for health workers is set to increase dramatically, not just in the UK but worldwide. It's estimated that by 2050 more than a fifth of the world's population will be over 60. That's two billion people, with a fifth of those (some 390 million) expected to be over 80. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' 10-year projections for 2014-2024 forecast that the health and social care industry will produce one in three of the net new jobs in the USA.

What's more, as was discussed in one of our previous blog posts, the UK's biggest employer, the NHS, is facing the challenge of an ageing workforce with 12.5% of nurses aged 55 or over and 31% of midwives in England aged 50 or over. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has predicted a 28% drop in the number of nurses by 2022.

Even more demand

As the NHS implements its five-year plan and moves towards seven-day working, the demand for skilled healthcare staff is likely to grow even more, particularly in allied health jobs such as biomedical science, pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychology.

Finding areas of opportunity for health service jobs just takes one glance at the current UK National Shortage Occupation List, used to score migrants for UK working visas. It's not just nurses that are in short supply. We also need emergency medicine doctors, clinical radiologists, old age psychiatrists, diagnostic radiographers, nuclear medicine practitioners, radiotherapy physics practitioners, radiotherapy physics scientists, sonographers and nuclear medicine scientists.

But what about once you're employed? Job satisfaction is as important to many people as pay and conditions. So how does working in healthcare fare in this respect? Despite the many challenges faced by health workers, surprisingly well is the answer. A 2013 survey of 1,040 primary healthcare staff by Campden Health (since renamed as Cogora) found that there was a 'significant degree of job satisfaction'. 58% of respondents said that they looked forward to going to work and 65% said they enjoyed being at work.

With most universities now charging fees of £9,000 per year and student loan debt soaring, those considering further education are thinking more and more about life after graduation. In terms of employability and enjoyability, a vocational healthcare degree could be just what the doctor ordered.

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