If you are looking for a career which combines a real challenge with job satisfaction, the allied health professions (AHPs) offer a wide range of opportunities.
The main roles in the allied health professions are:
- arts therapist (art therapist, drama therapist and music therapist)
- occupational therapist
- speech and language therapist
As key members of a healthcare team, AHPs provide treatment which helps to transform people’s lives, from treating a broken toe to assessing someone’s diet. Whether you are interested in science, the arts or physical movement, the jobs in the allied health professions offer a wide variety of opportunities for all sorts of people, no matter what their level of skill or qualification.
Allied health professionals may work one-to-one with patients to develop interactive therapies to aid their recovery but health and social care today is all about teamwork so AHPs will also be part of a team and may even lead one. AHPs often work with other healthcare professionals such GPs, hospital doctors, teachers, or social workers.
Allied health professionals work in hospitals, clinics, housing services, people’s homes, schools and colleges. Not surprisingly, training demands and academic requirements are high but so is the sense of job satisfaction.
Entry requirements for AHPs
Entry requirements for jobs in the allied health professions vary and acquiring the knowledge and skills you’ll need means training and studying at degree or diploma level. However, there is also a range of vital support roles which don’t require you to have any set academic qualifications.
Jobs in the allied health professions include a range of clinical support and assistant roles that are an important part in providing treatment to patients. There are no set academic requirements but these roles can act as a springboard for further career development and eventually, professional qualifications.
With A-Levels/other level 3 qualifications
To move into jobs in the allied health professions, you will need to complete an approved course of study and training, at degree or diploma level or above. You will then be qualified to make clinical judgements on which the health and well-being of your patients may depend. You’ll need good grades at A-level or the equivalent to go to university, including a science – or relevant work experience combined with evidence of academic ability.
Alternatives to A-levels may be considered for entry, such as BTEC National Diplomas or OCR Cambridge Technicals – level 3 Health and Social Care. Some universities may require an A’ level in addition to one of the above qualifications, so it’s essential to check directly with each university about their specific entry requirements.
As an AHP you will be working as an independent professional, responsible for the assessment and treatment of your own caseload of patients. For most jobs in the allied health professions you must complete a higher education training programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). These programmes will be at degree/diploma level or equivalent.
However, if you already have a degree in a relevant discipline, there are also postgraduate training courses at diploma, masters or doctorate level in some of the allied health professions and to work as an art, drama, or music therapist, you must gain an approved postgraduate qualification.
Liz Muir is an allied health professional, working as a speech and language therapist for the NHS in North East Essex
My first experience of speech and language therapy was as a volunteer with a local stroke rehabilitation group. I think my mum came up with the idea that I might like it as a career, so I volunteered in order to find out more. I enjoyed it and the experience helped with my university application because there’s strong competition for places.
The degree course took three-and-a-half years, combining study with work placements. Once I’d qualified, I got a job where I’d spent my last placement; two years on I’m really happy with the career choice I made.
It’s a busy life. You’re working closely with the other members of a multidisciplinary team, like physiotherapists and dietitians. Every case is different so you’re really kept on your toes. To gain wider experience, I started in a split role, working with people with learning disabilities and patients with acquired disorders through injury or disease.
Now I’m working in hospital, outpatient clinics and in the community with patients who have had a stroke. I work with them and their relatives, assessing their communication and swallowing difficulties, and setting goals for coping with or overcoming their problems. In fact, I now chair the same kind of stroke group that I used to be a volunteer with. It feels like I’ve come a long way in a short time.”