Beyond Clinical Practice: Career Alternatives for Allied Healthcare Professionals

May 7, 2013

Marquette University / / CC BY-NC-ND

Non-vocational degrees are broad enough for graduates to contemplate on the direction their careers might develop. Undergraduate education in more general areas such as arts and humanities enables students to consider and choose from a variety of options. Some consider this as a major benefit. After all there is no burden of expectation, and things remain flexible. Others view the lack of specificity in undergraduate education as a disadvantage with no clear career path or likelihood of employment in a definite sector.

Healthcare, on the other hand, typically leads graduates down a structured path into their chosen career. Healthcare-related graduates are led through a structured path of training and practice to full qualification that enables them to enter the work force. Although there are choices to be made within the healthcare industry, the broad direction is set.

But the question remains - Should healthcare graduates feel obligated to follow the set path of clinical practice for life? What happens if in ten, fifteen or twenty-five years, these qualified professionals experience occupational burnout, or simply desire to change the course of their career? What possibilities exist beyond clinical work?

Fortunately, as an allied healthcare professional, direct patient care is not necessarily a career option for life. For people holding a degree and experienced in the allied healthcare industry, there are career alternatives to clinical practice.

velkr0 / / CC BY

Healthcare Education

The allied healthcare disciplines and their sophisticated requirements have provided a foundation for clinical education. Colleges and specialized educational institutions throughout the country are offering programs that prepare students for entry-level positions within the allied healthcare workforce at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and a variety of other healthcare facilities. These educational institutions have a need for qualified educators and instructors who will teach students both the theoretical and the practical aspects of their chosen field.

Allied healthcare educators usually teach within the field of their expertise. For example, if you are an ultrasound technician, you can consider teaching students within the field of diagnostic medical sonography.

For allied healthcare workers who are considering a job within education, gaining teaching experience is very important. This can often be done part-time while continuing to work in the allied health field. Volunteering to train new employees or working part-time at a private institute are both easy ways to get some practical experience. Community colleges are a great option as well. Professors often welcome guest speakers with expertise in related subject areas.

Most allied health educators hold a certificate or degree in their respected field and work in a college or a higher-education institution that offers allied healthcare training. There are numerous cases where instructors teach part-time while continuing to practice their allied health profession.

Most health education occupations typically require a bachelor’s degree and related teaching and/or work experience for entry level positions. The requirements to work in a private institute are usually not as strict. As well as education and experience, there is a teaching certification that may be required if you want to move beyond entry-level positions within the educational hierarchy. In addition to acquiring a relevant degree in an allied health or public health program, many professionals new to the field find that joining a related professional organization is beneficial and helps with networking and finding new career opportunities.

Sales Representatives for Pharmaceutical & Biotech Companies

Medical sales is another alternative career path to consider. A lot of companies are looking to train and recruit people with healthcare backgrounds for their sales positions. Medical sales representatives are responsible for selling medical products and services to hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and healthcare professionals. Such products include both pharmaceuticals as well as medical equipment.

Sales positions within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are closely related, but there are some key differences. The pharmaceutical industry is typically a little easier to target as there are more job opportunities available. In addition, the level of technical understanding required to be a good salesperson is generally lower for the pharmaceutical industry compared to biotechnology. Therefore if you currently work as a pharmacy technician and are considering a career change, pharmaceutical sales might be a good option for you.

Landing a job as a sales representative at a biotechnology company is often more challenging than becoming a pharmaceuticals sales rep. Due to the more scientific and technical nature of this field, most job opportunities require some form of medical training or background. Medical technologists with extensive experience working with complicated medical equipment may want to consider a career in biotechnology sales.

Healthcare Administration & Consultancy

Every hospital, medical center and public organization that delivers health care services typically hires administrators and consultants to manage the organizations. Healthcare administrators manage people, patients, information systems, costs and equipment in a medical facility. They are either generalists that focus on the entire organization or specialists that focus on a specific department.

Healthcare administrators and consultants are responsible for both the coordination and delivery of health care services, as well as the strategic planning, marketing and implementation of organization policies. Whereas administrators focus more on streamlining processes to improve efficiency in health care delivery and techniques, consultants work to implement systems around employee development, information technology, finance and human resources.

These positions require excellent research, quantitative and technology skills. Knowledge of computer programs such as Access and Excel, and the ability to manage databases, are a must. Senior level positions require a firm grasp of standard business procedures and practices, as well as strong leadership, people management and strategic planning skills.