If you are looking for an interesting career in the healthcare sector, but don’t have your heart set on being a nurse, then a career in the allied health professions could be just the job for you!
If you are not already aware, the allied health professions (AHP) is a set of 14 distinct professional roles associated with healthcare, and include jobs such as dieticians, paramedics, radiographers and more. Their key role is to help treat and rehabilitate patients, both children and adults, who are ill, have disabilities, or have special needs and help them to live their lives as fully as possible.
Often working alongside other professionals in a healthcare setting (such as nurses and doctors), roles in the UK are usually found within the NHS, however there are a smaller number of positions available in the private sector and for the self-employed. An average starting wage in the NHS is around band 5, which in 2019 starts at £24, 214, but with some experience under your belt, salaries of over £60,000 in band 8 are not unheard of.
Practitioners in the field are highly employable, and have the flexibility to take their skills to a wide variety of locations (even globally!!), and work patterns – after all, the public’s health doesn’t work the 9-5 in large cities only!
Once qualified, you’ll find lots of options for gaining additional skills and responsibilities, either developing your career in your qualified area, branching out into other areas of allied health, or even into healthcare management.
A great place to start is by getting some work experience of the allied health practice you’d like to specialise in. This will give you some idea of the demands of the job, what it is like in “real life, but also help you to make connections and network with others who may be able to guide you in your route to becoming qualified.
As with an increasing number of careers, there is a degree-entry route, but also an apprenticeship route, starting off at level 2, both of which can lead eventually to professional registration.
If you choose the apprenticeship route, many programmes are available from level two upwards, enabling you to get shop floor experience of the specialism, and giving you access to basic hands on skills which are invaluable, however far you choose to take your career. As you progress through the apprenticeship levels, the practical and management skills increase in technicality, leading to the level 7 degree apprenticeship programme, which allows you to be a fully qualified and registered allied healthcare professional
If you choose your starting place to be a relevant undergraduate degree, three A Levels, or other relevant qualification and experience, are almost always required, with suitable subjects such as Mathematics, any of the sciences, English, a good starting point.
Once you begin practising as a professional, then you’ll also need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) or the General Osteopathic Council (GOC) , if you are choosing to train to become an Osteopath. You need to apply once your training is completed, and you’ll also need to provide evidence of continuing professional development throughout your career.
Aside from having these qualifications, you’ll also need to be fully literate and numerate. Good people skills are essential, as is being a team player, but as you may be required to work alone, often out in the wider community, you’ll also need to be able to work independently, with consideration for time-keeping and caseload management.