Training and progression

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

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

Healthcare isn’t just for medical and nursing graduates. Discover the opportunities for graduates looking for a management career, along with the entry requirements you'll need to meet.

Healthcare professionals in a meeting with documents and a coffee cup on the table.

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

NHS graduate management training schemes aim to develop future leaders and because of this they offer thorough management training and education. You could apply for schemes in general management, finance, human resources, health informatics, policy and strategy or health analysis. These allow graduates to gain a professional or postgraduate qualification, as well as hands-on experience through work placements. Graduates also have access to support and careers guidance.

NHS graduate management training programme

The NHS graduate management programme is distinct from the other graduate management training schemes. It involves a 12-month work placement with a social care organisation and includes experience within a health care setting. Graduates on the scheme also carry out two qualifications aimed at improving both knowledge and managerial ability.

  • If you choose finance you’ll cover corporate finance responsibilities, accounting and financial analysis, and methods of achieving value for money.
  • Those choosing general management will gain practical experience of organisation strategy, healthcare policy, managing change in healthcare and other general management areas.
  • 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.
  • 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. Graduates also work towards a postgraduate diploma in health analysis.
  • 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 gain a postgraduate diploma in health strategy.
  • The health informatics pathway will allow you to contribute to the smooth running of the NHS by gaining experience in information systems, databases, project management 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.

NHS Scotland management training scheme

NHS Scotland has typically run two training schemes: general management and financial management. Both are three-year programmes, during which you will receive fully funded support to gain a master's level qualification (general management) or CIPFA professional qualification (finance).

Other NHS graduate schemes

NHS Wales also runs a two-year general management training scheme. Candidates will be given training in a number of areas, including patient experience and staff engagement, and work towards a postgraduate 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 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, offers an operations management graduate scheme.

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.

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