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 currently include the following roles:
- Art Therapist
- Drama Therapist
- Music Therapist
- Operating Department Practitioner
- Occupational Therapist
- Prosthetist and Orthotist
- Speech & Language Therapist
What do allied health professionals do?
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.
Other duties include:
- teach, train and mentor other clinicians, students, patients and carers
- develop extended clinical and practitioner roles which cross professional and organisational boundaries
- liaise with other clinicians and provide specialist advice
- play a central role in the promotion of health and wellbeing
- take an active role in strategic planning and policy development for local organisations and services
- undertake research and development
Where do they work?
AHPs work in a range of surroundings including hospitals, private homes, clinics, surgeries and schools.
They work in partnership with health and social care colleagues across primary, secondary and social care, as well as in the independent and voluntary sectors.
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.
What will I earn?
An average starting wage in the NHS is around band 5, which in 2022 starts at £27, 055, 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.
How do I become an allied health professional?
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, and 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.
It will also give 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, and English are all a good starting point.
What else will I need to do when I've qualified?
Once you begin practising as a professional, 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.
Whichever profession you might choosein healthcare, best of luck with your training and future role!
For more tips and advice on getting into health careers, please see:
- What is an apprenticeship?
- Choosing an apprenticeship
- How to apply for an apprenticeship
- Dietetics Personal Statement Examples
- Occupational Therapy Personal Statement Examples
- Osteopathy Personal Statement Examples
- Physiotherapy Personal Statement Examples
- Radiography Personal Statement Examples
- Careers Advice Guide
N.B. This post was originally published in August 2019 but has been updated to reflect changes in these career options.