As you would expect from a profession that trusts its practitioners with a large amount of responsibility, requiring them to work independently and be solely responsible for the assessment, treatment and well-being of their patients, allied healthcare professionals need to be highly trained. Read on to find out what your entry options are.
Deciding on your course
For entry into most of the allied healthcare professions (AHPs) you will be required to undertake an extended period of study before you can become qualified. Entry requirements vary so it is always advisable to research your options thoroughly before deciding which course is right for you.
Some professions will require an undergraduate degree in the area you want to enter regardless of any previous qualifications held – for example, optometry and orthoptics; others will allow those with a relevant undergraduate degree to study for a shorter postgraduate diploma or masters degree in order to become qualified – examples include physiotherapy and radiography.
Entry into some professions (such as clinical psychology) will require a serious commitment to your chosen area, as you could be required to study the relevant undergraduate and postgraduate qualification in order to become qualified.
Undergraduate degree courses usually last between three and four years, combining a period of study with practical experience in a clinical environment. Postgraduate courses are usually shorter, lasting around two years, but will again incorporate clinical placements in the workplace to build up relevant skills and experience. Graduates wanting to study for a postgraduate diploma or masters will need to check carefully with their course provider if their undergraduate degree is considered relevant.
The aim of all courses is to ensure that when graduates qualify they can take on a caseload of their own patients as soon as they enter the workplace.
If the training options outlined above are not for you, there are other options. You could choose to start work as a healthcare assistant, for example, or clinical support worker in the area that you are interested in. Assistants play a vital role supporting qualified practitioners to deliver services to the patient and as such can experience the reality of the profession before committing to a period of study. Assistants are often encouraged to gain qualifications and may be supported in applying for degree courses, which could lead to professional qualification and further career progression.
- Explore your chosen career’s entry routes. Will you need a degree or other qualification?
- Find out if there are any particular skills or experience that will improve your chances of getting into your chosen career.
- Enquire about opportunities to volunteer or do relevant work experience.
- Research the profession on the web or speak to your local NHS trust to get an idea of the types of vacancies available.