14 careers in healthcare that don’t require a medical degree
What else can you do in medicine?
A Medlink article by Sarah English MSci, June 22nd 2019
So, you are certain you want to work in and around medicine but aren’t sure that medical school or being a doctor are for you? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other career options out there for you!
In this article we’re going to give you a snapshot into some of the many professions in healthcare that are out there that don’t require all the work of getting into, and going to, medical school.
Something to sink your teeth into?
Dentistry is an excellent option if you are looking for an alternative career to medicine. Like doctors, dentists work with patients as part of a multi-disciplinary team to diagnose and treat oral diseases and facial injuries.
You will need excellent manual dexterity to carry out intricate surgical procedures as well as fantastic clinical skills, high knowledge of human anatomy, and good people skills.
Most dentists will work as GDPs (general dentist practitioners), the kind you will visit in your local dental practice, offering care to the general public. However, there are many other areas you could work in including; community dental care, dental public health, hospital dental care (involving oral and maxillofacial surgery), and armed forces dentistry.
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While you won’t have to go through medical school, becoming a dentist is no easy ride. You will have to study at a dental school at university for at least 5 years, followed by 1 or 2 years of supervised practice.
Alternative careers to dentist but in the same field include Dental Nurse, Dental Hygienist, Dental Technician and Dental Therapist.
2. Adult Nurse
The heart of the hospital.
Nursing is a fantastic career at the heart of medicine. You will often find yourself being asked “why do you want to be a doctor and not a nurse?” and you should be asking yourself that same question too!
With an incredibly high level of patient contact, nursing gives you the chance to really make a connection with the people you are looking after that a career as a doctor might not. As a nurse you will need to observe patients and asses their needs before planning and delivering the most appropriate care for them.
Much like a doctor, you will be working with patients of all ages and cultures, with a wide variety of conditions and diseases. You can also find yourself in a vast array of places, from hospital wards, to GP surgeries, to prison services and schools.
In order to become a nurse, you will need to study a degree in nursing which can be found at most universities.
Alternative careers to adult nursing but in the same field include Children’s Nurse, District Nurse, Learning Disability Nurse, Mental Health Nurse, Neonatal Nurse, Nursing Associate, Prison Nurse and Theatre Nurse.
A good career move?
Physiotherapists work with patients who struggle with movement due to illness, injury, disability or aging. Conditions you will often see will be neurological, such as stroke and Parkinson’s, neuromusculoskeletal, such as sports injuries and arthritis, and cardiovascular, such as rehabilitation after heart attacks.
This is a career that involves a lot of patient contact as you work with them on the best way to treat their condition. You may find yourself working in hospitals (virtually every department will need the aid of a physio) and at the forefront of the action in intensive care where you will be essential in keeping unconscious patients breathing with chest physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy also offers you the chance to expand into a less clinical setting should you want, working in sports clubs and gyms alongside coaches and personal trainers, dealing with injuries that occur due to high impact activity.
In order to become a physiotherapist, you will need to undertake a physiotherapy degree course or a degree standard apprenticeship in physiotherapy.
4. Digital Radiographer
Take a deeper look into healthcare.
As a radiographer you will be working with patients day in, day out, using the latest technology to look inside the body in different ways. You’ll need an excellent knowledge of anatomy to work out what disease or condition is causing the issues with your patient.
Various things you could be doing during your workday include;
- X-rays to examine bones, foreign objects and cavities
- CT (computer tomography) to look at cross sections of the body
- Ultrasounds to examine circulation and the heart, as well as work in antenatal departments
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to build detailed 2D and 3D maps of the body
- Fluoroscopy to see the digestive system in real time
To become a radiographer, you will need to study a degree course in radiography or sit a postgraduate programme for 1 or 2 years.
Is this career a sight for sore eyes?
Orthoptics is a fantastic choice of career if you are keen to work in medicine but aren’t sure about working with the whole body. As an orthoptist you will get to work with patients, diagnosing and managing conditions that effect the eye, focusing on vision problems, abnormalities in eye movement, and issues with visual development.
You will play a crucial role in spotting symptoms of serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, which can be indicated by double vision, as well as aiding rehabilitation of patients who have suffered stroke or brain injuries.
There is huge variability with this choice of career as you will have the opportunity to work both in a multi-disciplinary team, alongside eye surgeons, optometrists and nurses, as well as working independently in private clinics and community health centres.
To become an orthoptist, you will need to study an undergraduate degree in orthoptics.
A step in the right direction?
By working in podiatry, you get the chance to work with a variety of different patients and conditions, diagnosing and treating abnormalities in people’s feet and legs. Many of the patients you will see may be at high risk of amputation and you will offer professional advice on the care of their feet and legs.
Podiatry offers a huge amount of variety. The kind of patients you can expect range from children with problems in their lower limbs, all the way to dancers and athletes whose long hours of exercise put stress on their feet and cause injury. Likewise, you could find yourself in a hospital, a GP surgery, a community clinic or even the homes of your patients, providing a real chance to suit your career to the setting you prefer.
To become a podiatrist, you will need to study an undergraduate degree in podiatry
7. Prosthetist or Orthotist
Fill in the missing piece of medicine.
Prosthetists work to design and create artificial replacements (prostheses) for patients missing limbs. Meanwhile orthotists provide aids such as splints, braces and special footwear (orthotics), to correct problems in nerves, muscles or bones. A key aspect of both of these careers is assessing the patient and understanding what they need personally from their prostheses and orthotics, for example designing for a particular sport or activity.
As a prosthetist, you will find yourself working with patients born with limbs missing, as well as those who have lost limbs through accidents, conditions such as diabetes, or during military service. These patients will vary in age and you will spend time making adjustments and helping your patients get used to their prosthetic.
If you work as an orthotist the types of patients you will encounter will again range in age and present with varying conditions, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, arthritis and stroke.
With both careers you’ll be working with digital imaging techniques and will predominantly be based in a hospital, though there is the opportunity to work in private clinics.
To begin a career in either of these fields you will need to undertake a degree in Prosthetics & Orthotics.
8. Speech and Language Therapist
A career to talk about.
If you enjoy the social side of medicine, linguistics and education, then speech and language therapy could be the career for you. With this job you can make a real difference in people’s lives in a highly flexible role.
You will be offering life-changing treatment to children and adults alike. And speech and language therapy doesn’t stop at communication as you will find when you provide support for those struggling with eating, drinking and swallowing.
Variety is a huge pull with this career as just a handful of the patients you will work with include:
- People overcoming their stammering
- Children and adults with learning difficulties
- Those suffering speech difficulties due to throat, head or neck cancers
- Children with autism or social interaction difficulties
- Those with cleft lip and palate
- Children with dyslexia
- Children and adults with hearing impairment and voice disorders
Plus, many more.
You’ll be an integral part of a multi-disciplinary team, working closely with doctors and nurses, as well as teachers and psychologists.
To become a speech and language therapist you will need to study at degree level in either a Speech and Language Therapy degree, or a Speech Therapy degree.
9. Ambulance Care Assistant or Patient Transport Service Driver
A job that will take you places?
Ambulance Care Assistants or Patient Transport Service (PTS) drivers are responsible for driving sick, elderly, disabled or vulnerable people to and from routine hospital admissions, outpatient clinics and day care centres. You will be required to look after your passengers, ensuring they are safe and comfortable during their journey, and will need to get them to their appointments on time.
As many of your passengers won’t be in the best of health it is key that you have life-saving skills should there be a medical emergency. Excellent people skills and a calming demeanour will also be necessary in this job as you’ll find that many of your passengers will be anxious about their visit to hospital. You’ll also find many frequent fliers so it really helps if you can build up rapport.
You may find yourself working in a two-person team, moving several people on each journey, however you may also work on your own, transporting just one or two able-bodied patients. Either way you will need to ensure your vehicle is clean and tidy and must keep an accurate record of your journeys.
As an experienced PTS driver, you could take on more specialist work transporting people nearing the end of their lives, babies, and mental health patients.
To become an ambulance care assistant or PTS driver you do not need to study at degree level. You will instead have to undergo a 2 – 3-week training course which covers first aid, moving and handling techniques, safe driving techniques, and basic patient skills, through practical assessments and written exams.
There are no set entry requirements, though most employers will want good standards of numeracy and literacy and look for relevant work experience, preferably where you have worked with elderly or disabled people in either a voluntary or paid capacity. Most will also expect you to have a driving licence when you apply.
The first line of medicine.
As the senior member of a two-person ambulance crew, paramedics have a high level of responsibility in both emergency and non-emergency situations. It is a career that often puts you as one of the first healthcare professionals to arrive at a scene, so it is not for the faint hearted!
Whether you work in a team or solo, using a motorbike or emergency response car, your role will be to assess the condition of your patients and make life and death decisions. Can they be treated at the scene or transferred to hospital?
As you will primarily be working outside, dealing with relatives and the general public will be something you will have to do a lot and often you may find them hindering your work, so a clear head and calm demeanour is a must. Frequently you will also be working alongside other emergency services such as the police and fire and rescue services.
There are several routes to qualifying as a paramedic. You could take a full-time degree in paramedic science at a university, become a student paramedic with an ambulance service and study as you work, or you could apply for a degree level apprenticeship in paramedic science with an ambulance service trust.
A job that delivers?
If you want to work with babies than midwifery provides a fantastic career opportunity, though your job doesn’t end there. Your role as a midwife is to provide care and support to women and their families during pregnancy, throughout labour and after the baby’s birth.
You will be the first point of call for expectant mothers, providing professional support and advice and helping your patients make informed choices about the services and options available.
Key responsibilities will include identifying high risk patients, providing full antenatal care (which can include clinical examinations and parenting classes), monitoring women during labour and birthing, and teaching new mothers how to care for, feed, and bathe their babies. This will be with woman of a variety of ages and from a variety of backgrounds which will require the skills to adapt and communicate with different people.
There is a huge emotional and psychological element to this career and it is key that you are prepared for that if you enter this field. Pregnancies don’t always go to plan and you will be a support figure for mothers affected by stillbirth, miscarriage, termination, neonatal death and neonatal abnormalities, offering them both comfort and advice.
Midwifery services are seeing an increasing move from hospitals into the community so you may find that you are working more and more in your patient’s homes.
In order to become a midwife, you will need to study an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in either Midwifery or Nursing & Midwifery. Alternatively, you may secure a place on a midwifery degree apprenticeship.
The experts of medicine.
If medication itself is what draws you to healthcare, then pharmacy may be the career for you. As a pharmacist you will be an expert in medicines and their use, offering health advice to people with every type of medical condition.
There are many responsibilities for a pharmacist, including:
- Ensuring patients take their medication safely, including making sure new medicines are safe to use with other medication
- Advising doctors and nurses on choosing medications and correct usage
- Advising patients on the most effective non-prescription treatments
- Providing information about potential side effects
- Recommending changes to prescriptions and give advice on prescribing
- Advising on dosage and suggesting the most appropriate form of medication (tablet, ointment, inhaler, injection)
You will need a good science background as it will be part of your job to manufacture medicines when ready-made preparations aren’t available.
There is huge variety when it comes to where you end up working as the options include hospitals, community pharmacies, supermarkets and high street retail pharmacies. You may also find yourself visiting patients at home or in residential housing.
To become a pharmacist, you will need to study an accredited master’s degree in pharmacy at university. There is also the possibility to do additional training and qualifications which will allow you to prescribe medicines.
13. Clinical Psychologist
Mind over matter.
If you prefer the idea of treating behavioural, emotional and psychological problems then clinical psychology could be the answer. Your job will be to study how people think and behave, dealing with a wide range of health problems, both mental and physical, which can include addiction, anxiety, learning difficulties and depression.
Through observation, interviews and various techniques (such as cognitive behavioural therapy) you will work in partnership with your patients to treat and manage their condition, usually over the space of several sessions. Working with individuals of varied ages, backgrounds and with differing behavioural and emotional problems means that you’ll need excellent people skills and adaptability, building relationships with your patients.
Again, variety is a key word as you could find yourself based anywhere from hospitals and clinics and health centres, all the way to social services, schools, prisons and community health teams.
In order to become a clinical psychologist, you will need a degree in psychology before applying for a post graduate course in clinical psychology.
Alternative careers to clinical psychologist but in the same field include Assistant Psychologist, Forensic Psychologist, Health Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Art Therapist.
A job that makes your heart flutter?
If you have a keen interest in science and technology, then a career as a cardiographer might be for you. Your role would be to use equipment to monitor the heart, supporting cardiologists by operating ECG (electrocardiograph) machines, fitting electrodes to patients and taking readings which will then be used by the doctor to make decisions about treatment.
Technology is key in this field and you will be monitoring and treating patients using ECG machines, Ultrasounds for echocardiography, pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), treadmills during exercise testing and blood pressure monitors. There is a lot of patient contact in this role so you will need excellent people skills as well as the ability to explain clearly to patients what is happening.
To become a cardiographer, you do not need to study at degree level. You will receive training from your employer involving learning about the human body and the cardiovascular system, using the equipment and an introduction to the department, its systems and procedures. Most employers will expect a good standard of numeracy and literacy as well as relevant work experience in health or social care.
These are just a handful of the options available to you should you feel that medical school is not for you. It’s important to know that there are plenty of alternatives out there for you, and if you want to learn more, or see what else is out there then check out the NHS website for details on career roles in healthcare.
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