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Career Options in Medicine & Medical Sciences: School Leaver

Whether you want to get hands-on in a medical role, or help support the day-to-day running of the numerous organisations and services that make up the medicine, medical sciences and research sector, there’s certainly something for you to do as a school leaver.

School leaver opportunities in medicine, medical sciences & research

- Pre-medical programme

- General/administration placements

- Work shadowing

- Trainee roles

If you’re unsure about whether you want to go on to university study at this point, there are a few things you can do to find out which career paths are most appealing, and help you decide whether university or an alternative career path would be most suitable for your ambitions and your personal situation.

You could try applying for a pre-medical programme, which allows you to shadow a medical professional for a week or two. It’s intended for school leavers who are considering studying a medical degree at university, so if you’re seriously considering this then it’s a worthwhile thing to do. And some insight into the medical profession will be necessary for your university applications!

There are plenty of apprenticeship opportunities for medical-related support roles if you don’t want to go to university. Apprenticeship career options include: healthcare assistants, dental nursing, radiotherapy assistants, physiotherapy assistants, pharmacy assistants, dietetic assistants and clinical support work.

There are also some more general/administrative placements available, which could be useful if you’re not necessarily interested in a medical role. You could do a finance apprenticeship in the finance department of a private health care centre, for instance, or work in maintenance, logistics, hospitality or IT within this sector.

As a school leaver with GCSEs and/or A-levels (or equivalent), you could even take on a non-clinical trainee role or apprenticeship with an ambulance service. These roles might involve administration, or working as a telephone operator taking emergency calls, providing advice on the phone to callers and helping to organise logistics for the transport and medical care of emergency patients. If you have GCSEs, it’s possible for you to train as a pharmacy technician within a hospital or community pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians train on the job whilst studying for General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) accredited qualifications, which lead to registration with the council.

Plenty there to give some serious thought to!

Setting the school leaver record straight

It isn’t possible to get into the majority of more senior medical professions without study beyond the point of leaving school or college. However, that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t options out there for school leavers in this sector! See above. ‘Nuff said.

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

No faffing about here; there are some roles you simply cannot do if you haven’t studied at university beforehand. Practising doctors, dentists, audiologists, opticians, paramedics, pharmacists and therapists in various disciplines all have university degrees.

Nursing and midwifery also require you to have studied for a degree on either a full-time or part-time basis. Right now, if you’re set on any of these career paths, you’ll have to earn your A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) and go on to university to study for a degree in a relevant subject that will set you up for one of these careers. Nursing and midwifery are popular choices for people who want a career change, and they ways you can study for the necessary qualifications can be quite flexible. It’s definitely never off the table if you decide to follow this path later on.

However, there are a huge number of non-medical roles in this sector too that don’t always call for a degree, and they’re just as vital to make sure that health centres, hospitals, emergency services and pharmacies and the services they provide keep on running smoothly. If you want to get into the sector and start working straight away, there will be something for you! If you choose to take up study again later on, some of the experience you gain in the meantime will stand you in good stead. For example, work as a receptionist in a hospital or midwifery department will develop skills in how to deal with the public under sensitive and stressful circumstances, which could be transferable to a nursing or counselling career later.