A Guide to Breaking into the Healthcare Industry

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If you are looking for a career that provides exceptional job security, a rewarding environment and a potentially lucrative salary, you would be smart to consider a career in healthcare.

There are a wide variety of ways to enter the essential sector, and the avenue you go down will ultimately depend on your education, skillset, passion and ambition.

If you are considering a career in the demanding sector, read this informative guide to breaking into the healthcare industry.

Embark on the Right Education

As there are many jobs available in the healthcare field, you can take your pick from many fantastic positions, which are available for a wide variety of education levels.

A High School Diploma

If you have a high school diploma, you could embark on a career as an orderly, pharmacy technician or medical transcriptionist. It is likely you will receive on-the-job training when you undertake one of the above positions, and an employer also might provide certifications and workshops to support you in your new role, such as CPR and ACLS.

A Trade or Technical College Certificate

If, however, you want to become an occupational therapist, EMT, or a dental hygienist, you will most likely need to secure a certificate from either a technical or trade college. It is common for a specialized college program to last between one year to 18 months, and you also could build on your experience by embarking on an entry-level healthcare job while studying towards your chosen career.

An Associate Degree

Many community and technical colleges can also provide budding medical professionals with an associate degree in healthcare. It commonly takes two years to complete a degree for a variety of occupations in the medical field, such as a clinical lab technician, a medical assistant, or a physical therapy assistant, to name only a few.

A College or University Degree

While not all healthcare careers will require you to obtain a college or university degree, they can be a prerequisite for various positions in the sector. For example, if you want to train to become a registered nurse, you will need to embark on a four-year degree to enter the rewarding career.

Post-Graduate Training

Many specialized medical jobs will also require medical professionals to embark on post-graduate training, such as a physician or surgeon. The more education you obtain throughout your career, the more opportunities that will come your way and the bigger your annual salary will be.

It is, however, important to note that each degree you obtain will come with expensive tuition fees, so you should work your way towards a career that can help you to quickly repay your student loans.

Online Education

There are also numerous online degree programs that will allow you to advance in your career while embarking on a part- or full-time healthcare career. For example, if you currently work as a registered nurse, you could boost your earning potential and job satisfaction by enrolling in an online nurse practitioner program to become a family nurse practitioner, and you could complete the degree in as little as 32 months.

Gain Valuable Healthcare Experience

While hospitals and medical practices are constantly looking for exceptional talent to improve patient care, the industry is undeniably competitive and you could go up against many professionals for a vacancy.
If you want to stand out from many applicants, you should aim to secure experience within the healthcare field. For example, you could volunteer at a hospital or secure an entry-level position at a medical practice while studying towards a degree or certification.

You also could boost your skillset by applying for an internship. While it is likely to be unpaid, it could provide you with valuable experience to help you create an impressive resume, and it will also help you to make an informed decision on whether a job in the sector is right for you.

It might be worthwhile reaching out to various local hospitals and clinics to learn more about their internship opportunities. It is also possible the internship could lead to a full-time position, which could help you to enter the rewarding industry without experience.

Build a Strong Network of Contacts

While knowledge is power in the healthcare sector, it also helps to make plenty of friends throughout your career. If you want to secure a healthcare position and rise through the ranks in the industry, you should aim to form many connections with people inside the sector. Building relationships could help to get your foot in the door and might be essential when embarking on a major career transition.

To build a strong network of contacts, you should:

  • Volunteer
  • Reach out to classmates and acquaintances in the industry
  • Join various healthcare professional associations
  • Connect with healthcare professionals via social media
  • Attend various industry workshops, seminars and conferences

Assess Your Existing Skills

If you are considering entering healthcare, you should identify what transferable skills you possess that could benefit you in the growing sector. For example, if you have extensive experience in information technology, your technical skillset could prove advantageous, especially as many hospitals and practices are now relying on new technologies to improve their operations and patient standards.

You also could use your sales and marketing experience to promote an organization, or you could help a practice to take control of its finances and budget if you have an accounting and finance background.

Find an Experienced Mentor

To secure promotion after promotion and boost your annual salary, you would be smart to find a mentor who could help you to quickly advance in your career. It is advisable to look for a mentor with extensive experience in their field and who has extensive connections across the industry. Consequently, they could help you to navigate your way through various healthcare politics, improve your networking skills, and to secure a new position.

It is possible you could find a mentor when you secure a job at a hospital or medical practice, as a professional might be willing to provide you with advice and guidance to help you flourish in the industry.

However, if you want a mentor to invest their time and energy into helping you, you must showcase a passion for the industry and demonstrate a willingness to both learn and grow.

Choose a Growing Profession

If you want to take your pick from multiple vacancies throughout your career, you would be smart to choose a growing profession. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted the following professions will grow in demand by 2026:

  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physical therapist assistants
  • Personal care aides
  • Home health aides
  • Physician assistants
  • Occupational therapy assistants

Embarking on one of the above careers could ultimately provide you with greater job security and could even lead to a superb salary, as hospitals and practices will be vying to secure top talent to effectively care for their patients’ health.

Find a Career to Suit Your Personality

As stated, the healthcare sector can provide an extensive variety of jobs to suit all education levels. It is, however, important to consider whether a role will match your personality before you enroll in a degree program or apply for a vacancy. For example, if you struggle with social interaction, you might not be best suited to a role as a nurse, doctor or physician assistant.

There are, however, many non-medical roles that require next to no patient interaction. While you might be working behind-the-scenes, your actions could ensure the smooth running of a hospital or clinic and can improve patient care.

Great behind-the-scenes roles to consider can include:

  • A medical science liaison
  • A healthcare IT professional
  • A pharmaceutical sales representative
  • A microbiologist
  • A medical writer

So, before you venture down a career path, consider your personality, review your soft skills and aim to find a career that matches your passions. The right occupation is out there, but it is up to you to find it.

Consider the Impact of a Healthcare Career

Before you work your way towards a career in healthcare, you must seriously consider how it will impact your family and social life. For example, if you dream of becoming a nurse or a doctor, you may need to routinely work weekends, nights or on call. You might also need to work many long hours without a break, which can take its toll on your physical health.

The career you enter can also determine the level of stress you will need to contend with each day. It might, therefore, be worthwhile considering one of the least stressful jobs in the industry, such as an audiologist, chiropractor, dental hygienist, dietician, or an occupational therapist.
Also, depending on job demand in your city, you may need to relocate for a position or medical residency. For this reason, you must review the demands placed on various medical professionals each day, so you don’t waste your time, money and energy working your way towards a healthcare career that could later regret.

Take a Step Down

While you might have spent many years in a non-medical job in the industry, you could have next to no experience within a clinical field. If you are passionate about growing in the sector, it might be beneficial to take a step down in your pay or career level to gain essential experience, so you could one day secure your ideal occupation in healthcare. While taking a step back in your career can be disheartening, you could work your way towards a more rewarding occupation that offers exceptional earning potential.

Thoroughly Research Your Industry

Despite securing the appropriate qualifications and experience for a role, your knowledge and passion during an interview could determine whether you secure a position. If you want to set yourself apart from the many applicants vying for a vacancy, you must thoroughly research your industry.

For example, you should read the latest industry news and various medical journals, gain an understanding of emerging trends, and learn more about the latest medical technologies. By doing so, you can articulately talk about the industry during an interview, which could convince a hiring manager to offer you a position at a hospital or medical practice.

Effectively Prepare for an Interview

It doesn’t matter if you are applying for an entry-level position or a clinical role, you must effectively prepare for an interview. To impress a hiring manager, you must thoroughly research a potential employer to learn more about their history, latest news, values and corporate culture. It will prove you are genuinely interested in the company and passionate about securing the role.

You also should have at least three references from direct supervisors or academic professors, which will demonstrate to an employer that you are a hard-working, trustworthy employee.

It is also important to wear the appropriate attire when attending an interview. For example, if you want to appear smart and professional, you should opt for a business suit in a neutral color. It should also be dry-cleaned and pressed a day or two in advance, which will complement your glowing resume and passion for the role.

Hire the Help of a Professional Recruiter

If you are struggling to secure your dream role in a medical field, you should consider hiring a professional recruiter. Also known as a headhunter, they will have extensive experience placing ambitious medical professionals in the right healthcare facility for their needs and expertise.

It is their job to identify your many strengths and weaknesses, so you can create an attractive resume to secure multiple interviews. What’s more, they can help prime you for a telephone or face-to-face interview, which could increase the likelihood of being offered a position at a hospital or medical practice.

You also don’t need to limit yourself to working with one recruiter, as you could enlist the help of two or three headhunters who could help you to quickly find a job. However, you should inform each recruiter each time you have applied for a position to avoid submitting multiple applications for the same position, which could make you appear desperate to a hiring manager.