It takes an army of professionals to ensure the nation’s healthcare system – its hospitals, ambulance service, community centres and doctors’ surgeries – run smoothly, effectively and within budget. If you’re considering a career in healthcare operations and management, you’ll find a wide range of graduate jobs on offer – and you don’t need a health-related degree to get them.
Health service managers work with clinical and non-clinical staff and other partner organisations to make strategic decisions and manage day-to-day operations.
The NHS is by far the biggest employer, but there are also private healthcare companies looking for graduates with leadership potential to run their nursing homes, hospitals and clinics.
NHS graduate training scheme
Each year, the NHS selects around 100 graduates to join its management training scheme. The programme lasts for two years (two and a half years for finance trainees) and opens for applications each October. Trainees earn £23,000 a year, plus higher cost of living allowance if applicable.
Candidates apply to one of four schemes: finance, health informatics, human resources or general management.
The finance scheme runs for two and a half years, in order for trainees to complete professional finance qualifications, and covers corporate finance responsibilities, accounting and financial analysis, as well as ways to achieve value for money.
The health informatics scheme focuses on how information can be used to provide and transform patient care. Core areas include the collection, storage, and structure of data through processes, technologies, and information systems, clinical coding, and business and information analysis.
The HR scheme covers areas such as change management, recruitment and selection, employment legislation, team building and performance management.
Designed to fast track trainees to director level appointments, the general management scheme offers practical experience of organisational strategy, healthcare policy, and managing change in healthcare.
Graduates are supported in achieving professional and post-graduate qualifications appropriate to each scheme. Trainees on the finance programme study for a CIPFA professional qualification; those on general management work towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership for Healthcare; health informatics trainees a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Informatics, and HR trainees a Postgraduate Diploma (CIPD) in Human Resources.
All trainees, regardless of specialism, complete The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Programme – a fully accredited programme leading to a Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare Leadership.
Applying for the programme
Before you apply, check to see if you’re a good match for the programme via the online suitability self-assessment tool.
To be considered, you will need a degree (2.2 minimum) in any subject or a health or management degree-level equivalent qualification, such as NVQ level 5 in management or a relevant diploma. After you submit the online application form, you will need to pass a series of online aptitude tests, then a face-to-face interview followed by an all-day assessment centre.
Competition for places is fierce and the selection process is rigorous. You will be expected to demonstrate leadership potential, a commitment to shared values, and be resilient and adaptable enough to take on the many challenges faced by the NHS today.
Training and work experience
Each stream starts with a 20-day orientation programme, offering an introduction to the NHS, followed by a combination of formal management training and work experience. The patient is at the heart of the NHS, and trainees see first-hand the impact they can make to frontline services. For example, you might find yourself on an ambulance ride-out, work-shadowing nurses or observing a life-saving operation.
In addition, you will complete a two month ‘flexi-placement’ related to your chosen specialism. This doesn’t have to be within the NHS. Previous trainees have spent time with Cancer Research UK, Deloitte, KPMG and IBM – and have brought back valuable skills and experience to the NHS.
Starting your job search
Although trainees are not promised a job on completion of the scheme, they are supported to find their first role. Many graduate trainees secure their first job through their final placement.
Depending on performance, you can expect to be promoted quickly through the ranks. High achieving managers may move into director or chief executive roles within ten years of completing their training. The average salary on leaving the scheme is currently between £27,000 and £37,000. You can expect to earn up to £90,000 as a Director or £100,000 plus as a Chief Executive.
Graduate scheme not for you?
The graduate training scheme isn’t the only way to get a job in healthcare operations. Many healthcare professionals, such as nurses and doctors, move into general management roles, particularly those involving clinical services.
You may also be able to work your way up through junior management roles. If you’re entering management from an internal administrative role, a qualification in management and/or relevant specialist area, such as facilities management, human resources or finance, is beneficial.
Some trusts offer on-the-job training for those in supervisor or assistant manager roles and a number of organisations, such as the Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM) and the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), run general supervisory-level courses.
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