Healthcare and Medical Career Guide

Careers, Sectors / 09 November 2021

The NHS is the largest employer in Europe, and along with private healthcare providers, they offer a vast range of career opportunities for the UK medical and healthcare sector. Healthcare Assistants, Staff Nurses, and Doctors deliver the majority of patient-facing care, closely supported by other allied health professionals.Shift work and on-call duties are normal for healthcare and medical jobs, and careers in this sector can be physically and emotionally demanding. Caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable can be both challenging and extremely rewarding.

Healthcare and Medical Career Guide


Potential Roles in Healthcare and Medical

This guide focuses on the three main clinical roles in the healthcare and medical sector: Healthcare Assistant, Staff Nurse and Doctor.

Healthcare Assistants deliver personal care directly to patients to assist with physical and sometimes social needs. Healthcare assistant jobs are entry-level roles that usually involve shiftwork to provide round-the-clock care. Employers include NHS trusts, private organisations, residential homes, and home care agencies. Training is given on the job in most cases, and some positions include the opportunity to obtain NVQ qualifications.

Staff Nurses are trained professionals, usually educated to at least degree level, and registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. You can train in one of four areas of nursing: adult, child, mental health, or learning difficulties. Staff Nurse jobs often involve shift work and night cover. Staff Nurses have plenty of opportunities for progression, either by becoming a specialist nurse in a chosen clinical area or by moving into nurse management roles.

Doctors undertake rigorous and extensive training at undergraduate level and beyond and must be registered with the General Medical Council to practice. After qualifying, doctors can choose to specialise in one field or to work in general practice. A doctor’s duties depend on the field they choose to work in, but they generally include diagnosing and treating patients and carrying out medical procedures.

Other healthcare and medicine careers include allied health services, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, and clinical support services, like pathology and radiography.


Salary and Career Progression

Healthcare Assistants in the NHS start on a salary of £18,546. Residential homes and home care agencies generally pay on an hourly basis. As the role requires no prior experience, pay is often at the lower end of the scale. Many positions offer £9-10 per hour, or over £10 per hour for specialist caring roles. Small salary increases are possible as you become more experienced, particularly if you gain NVQ qualifications. Healthcare Assistants also get additional pay for unsociable hours when working evenings, weekends and nights.

Staff Nurses earn a salary of £25,655 in a newly qualified Band 5 role, up to around £45,839 in an experienced Band 7 role. Senior nurses and nurse managers can expect a salary upwards of £47,126.

Doctors have a high earning potential and extensive opportunities for progression. In the NHS, a foundation level doctor earns just over £28,000, increasing to £39,467 to £53,077 during specialist training. Specialty doctors earn £45,124 to £77,519, rising to over £82,096 for consultants.

Some doctors supplement their NHS salary with private practice, which attracts higher pay. Others choose to work solely in private practice, which typically generates even higher salaries.


Qualifications, Education and Experience

Healthcare Assistants need no formal qualifications or education, although NVQs in Health and Social Care can improve your chance of securing a senior carer position. This type of job relies on soft skills, such as excellent communication and emotional intelligence, and qualities such as kindness and patience.

Staff Nurses can train in one of three ways:

  • A degree in nursing; the most common route to qualification.
  • A registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA) takes four years to complete and is supported by your existing healthcare employer, who releases you for part-time study.
  • An existing Nursing Associate ‘topping up’ their training to qualify as a nurse.

Once qualified, Staff Nurses receive a PIN (Personal Identification Number) that they must have to work as a nurse legally. To maintain their PIN, nurses must:

  • Register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
  • Pay annual fees.
  • Complete a minimum number of practice hours every year.
  • Attend a minimum amount of online or in-person training every year.
  • Obtain at least five pieces of practice-related feedback and submit five written reflections every three years.
  • Declare any impairments to health or character.
  • Have Professional Indemnity cover (often provided by the employer).

Nurses also need excellent soft skills, including communication, empathy, and the ability to work in a team.

Doctors must undergo extensive education and training, including:

  • A’ Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths or Physics, obtaining high A’Level results, with the very top universities asking for all A*s.
  • A 4-7 year undergraduate degree at medical school to become a Bachelor of Medicine.
  • Two years’ further training in post, called Foundation training.
  • Speciality training to become a GP (3 years) or specialist doctor (5-8 years).

To legally practice as a doctor, you must also maintain registration with the General Medical Council (GMC) by:

  • Paying an annual fee.
  • Attending an annual appraisal
  • Disclosing any impairments to health or character.
  • Carrying out Continuing Professional Development.


Healthcare and Medical Career Guide



Communication skills, emotional intelligence and empathy are vital for all careers within the healthcare and medical sector, as you will be interacting with colleagues and patients daily, often under difficult and stressful circumstances. Organisational skills are also valuable for managing patient caseloads.

Nursing and medical roles involve carrying out clinical procedures and making complex drug calculations, so a good knowledge of science and maths is essential.


Working Hours

Healthcare Assistants provide round-the-clock care in most cases, so expect shiftwork and nights as standard.

Staff Nurses are required to work shifts in most cases, although some non-urgent services, such as chemotherapy or outpatients clinics, operate on a 9-5 basis. Most acute care settings cover 24-hours and are split into early, late and night shifts, or long days which cover both the early and late shifts.

Doctors are usually required to work days, nights, and on-call via a rota system. Shifts are long and very busy. As a doctor progresses in their career, they may have the opportunity to work standard daytime hours instead of shift work. Doctors who choose the General Practice route can usually work office hours.


Notable Locations

Healthcare and medical jobs are available all over the country. Population and local demographics determine the healthcare facilities and career opportunities available in each area.

Every area provides work for GPs and District Nurses, other community staff, and those working for care homes and home care agencies.

Areas with a dense population have more urgent and acute care provision, so hospital and specialist work is more readily available in cities and large towns.


Notable Companies

The NHS is the largest employer in the UK, with an estimated 1.3 million employees. In the vast majority of cases, healthcare and medical careers involve training and working within the NHS.

Outside the NHS, several well known large private healthcare providers employ healthcare and medical staff. They include:

  • Bupa
  • Spire
  • HCA
  • Nuffield Health
  • Ramsay Health

Care homes and home care agencies also employ a large workforce of Healthcare Assistants across the UK.


Next Steps

For all the latest healthcare and medical career vacancies straight to your inbox, sign up to receive regular job alerts from JobLookup. Or, check out our Ultimate Job Seeker Guide for more careers guidance.

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