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Management careers in healthcare

Find out about the NHS graduate scheme and other healthcare management programmes

Healthcare isn’t just for medical and nursing graduates – there are also opportunities for graduates who are looking for a career in management.
A successful manager will have an in-depth knowledge of how their organisation works, and the healthcare sector is no exception.

From finance and HR to general management and informatics, the sector offers a huge variety of roles to suit graduates from all degree backgrounds.  There are two main ways to start your healthcare management career: through a graduate scheme or by applying directly for an entry-level job with a healthcare employer.

Graduate schemes are the most obvious route into the healthcare sector for graduates aspiring to a high-level management career. There are several established training schemes to choose from – both in the NHS and the private sector.

However, this isn't the only option when it comes to building a successful healthcare operations and management career. The NHS and private healthcare providers have a huge number of job roles to offer, so it's well worth considering applying for individual entry-level job vacancies in your chosen area of work. 

Graduate schemes in the NHS

The NHS graduate schemes aim to develop future leaders and because of this they offer thorough management training and education. The schemes give graduates the opportunity to study for a professional or postgraduate qualification relevant to the specialism chosen and provide comprehensive study assistance including additional leave and the payment of all fees. Graduates also have access to support and professional development. The scheme is consistently popular and is open to graduates who achieved a 2.2 or higher.

NHS graduate management training scheme

The NHS graduate management training scheme in England is split into two stages and takes two years (two and a half years for the finance route). During the scheme you will concentrate on the specialism you chose on application – finance, HR, informatics, analysis, strategy or general management.

  • If you choose finance you’ll cover corporate finance responsibilities, accounting and financial analysis and methods of achieving value for money, and work towards your CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) professional qualification.
  • Those choosing general management will gain practical experience of organisation strategy, healthcare policy, managing change in healthcare and other general management areas. They will also work towards a postgraduate diploma in healthcare leadership.
  • HR specialists will concentrate on the role and function of HR within an organisation; change management, recruitment and selection, employment legislation, team building and performance management. Graduates on this scheme are supported to achieve a postgraduate diploma in human resources and to gain graduate membership of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
  • The health analysis stream will allow you to gain experience in how analysis informs policy within the healthcare system. Areas you might work in include modelling future levels of hospital activity, evaluating the success of ways of delivering care to patients and analysis of waiting times.
  • Those choosing the policy strategy stream will gain insight into how the health service interacts with the government, front line services, think tanks and academia.The skills you will develop include evidence-based policy making, systems thinking and strategy development. You will also work with clinicians, economists and thought leaders to develop programmes.
  • The health informatics pathway focuses on the collection, storage and management of data; the development of IT systems essential to the infrastructure of the health service; and knowledge management – the transformation of information into useful intelligence. Graduates on this scheme will study for a postgraduate diploma in health informatics. Our guide to health informatics in the NHS explains more about specialisms, career progression and the role of the private sector.

No matter which specialism you choose, the scheme will cover service improvement, commissioning, change management and general management skills.

NHS Scotland management training scheme

NHS Scotland has typically run two training schemes: general management and financial management. For 2017 it is recruiting 5 graduates for its general management scheme. The scheme is a three-year programme involving both work and study, during which you will receive fully funded support to gain a master's level qualification.

Other NHS graduate schemes

NHS Wales also runs a two-year general management training scheme and a three-year financial management scheme. Candidates will be given training in a number of areas, including financial acumen and staff engagement, during the two-year course. They work towards a professional masters qualification.

The Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland general management training scheme has four stages, three of which are work placements.  During the two-year long scheme graduates will work towards a professional postgraduate qualification.

Entry requirements for the NHS

The NHS accepts applications from students with an obtained or predicted 2.2 or higher in any subject or a postgraduate qualification, such as a MA or MBA. NHS England also accepts some degree level equivalents that are related to health or management, for example the diploma in management studies (DMS).

Competition for a place on a NHS graduate scheme is high so some relevant work experience can be an advantage. Applicants must have an understanding of the issues currently facing the NHS.

Private healthcare graduate schemes

You may also be able to find graduate employment in a management role in the private sector. BUPA, one of the largest private sector healthcare employers, has run graduate training schemes in the past.

Direct entry routes

If you don’t want to enter the health service through one of these training schemes, why not look into the huge range of entry-level positions on offer with both public and private sector healthcare employers? Start your job hunt by looking in the local, regional and national press and on the websites of your local healthcare centres, private healthcare providers and NHS Careers.

A successful manager will have an in-depth knowledge of how their organisation works, and the healthcare sector is no exception. Working your way up to management level, even from a junior position or administrative role, will give you the opportunity to gain an insider perspective of the health system, develop a feel for the areas you're interested in moving into and a network of professional contacts.