Choosing a pathway


Thinking about the 350 different careers available within the NHS can be daunting. Even having a specific focus on just one career idea from a young age can inadvertently narrow down options. Read on for advice on how you can support your young person as they explore options in healthcare and help them to make informed choices. 

  • Help them think about their future.

    Let your young person know it’s perfectly OK not to know what they want to do in the future. School leavers from 2020 will likely change their careers as many as 11 times during their working life. 

    However, trying to ignore the fact that career choices will have to be made at the end of Year 11 (and beyond) can create problems. Help your young person consider their options by opening communication with open questions, active listening and respecting their ideas. Help students link where they are now and the huge range of options within the NHS, for example, by using accurate information and help them to start investigating the opportunities. 

    You can suggest tools such as Careerpilot and the Step into the NHS Careers Test to help explore how their interests, strengths and personality traits link to career areas and open up discussion.  

  • Encourage them to keep going.

    It can be tricky to stay on top of everything; young people need to juggle their studies alongside thinking about their future plans. Students can easily be knocked off track by unexpected exam results, negative work experiences or the realisation that their interests in subjects and ideas are changing. 

    Try to celebrate learning from all experiences and self-reflection. Helping your young person focus on their strengths and developing resilience at an early age will support them to successfully cope with learning and working in the future. The Future Quest website has resources and advice on supporting your young persons mental health 

    Let your young person know there are multiple pathways available at age 16 and 18 to allow them to reach their goals. Understanding that English, Maths and Science are the core subjects that educators and employers focus on can sometimes reduce the feeling of pressure young people have when they are studying a broad GCSE curriculum. 

  • Build your own knowledge of pathways.

    Qualifications and routes into careers change quickly. Having an awareness of these options can help you to ask the most relevant questions and signpost your young person to useful resources.  

    After GCSE’s, young people have more choice in what and where they study; T levels are a new type of vocational qualification that join existing vocational qualifications such as BTECs. A Levels are a qualification offered across a range of subjects. Most Post-16 qualifications are taken over 2 years.  

    You can find out more about pathways into NHS careers, including apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships, university, and post-graduate opportunities, through the NHS Careers website.

    You can also update your knowledge on the funding options available to support qualifying in different healthcare careers. Find out more on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

  • Discuss their skills and qualities.

    Skills develop as we progress through life. You can master existing skills through practice and develop new skills through new activities, allowing us to mature and develop. 

    Knowing our skills and strengths can help us make well-informed choices about how to learn and which kinds of jobs and environments would suit us well. It can also help us think about compromise if a career idea will ask us to use skills outside of our comfort zone regularly. This NHS tool can help your young person consider their skills

    Talking about skills and identifying examples can help develop confidence and is also excellent preparation for applying for courses and jobs, and performing well in interviews.  

  • Do some extra research.

    Reading news articles about the healthcare sector can help young people feel more confident in their choices and gain a greater awareness of current policy and how healthcare is delivered. Other sources could include journals such as The New Scientist,  the news from NHS England, or see the Future Quest Healthcare blog ‘Healthcare as it Happens’.   

    Having an understanding of what’s going on in the healthcare sector will also help your young person as they complete applications for courses and apprenticeships and go for interviews related to healthcare.  

  • Encourage them to listen to professionals.

    Case studies from different healthcare professionals can really help offer young people a reality check about a job role of interest. Learning from someone doing the job they are considering can also help students reflect if they are the right person for this job. This is also a great way to weigh up the pros and cons of different job roles. Encourage them to access virtual meetings and experience and also plan and attend face to face work experience.  

  • Consider current student views.

    Gaining advice and information from current healthcare students can help young people to visualise job roles more accurately and remove barriers that misinformation can build. It can be motivating for young people to see their peers succeeding in higher education and job roles. There are opportunities to chat with students on the UCAS website and useful student insights in our Healthcare Heroes blog.

  • Be aware of the timelines for action.

    Look at the timelines for getting into medicine, pharmacy and the allied health professions. This can help your young person to  research and make decisions between Year 10 and the end of post-18 learning. There are many different deadlines and actions to tick off the ‘to-do’ list to support confident progression from school.   

  • Keep in contact with school and/or college.

    Regular contact from school or college can help you understand your young person’s progress linked to the curriculum, which can generate conversations at home. School and college staff might also be able to offer support with access to careers advisers and careers events on site. Sharing your young person’s goals and aspirations with teachers can help them to motivate and inspire them in the classroom.  

  • Keep an open mind.

    When you start helping your young person with career planning it can feel challenging. However, with good planning and fully considering the options at each stage, every part of the journey can offer new lessons, insights and enjoyment. Using the pointers listed above will provide an awareness of opportunities and an understanding what is required in healthcare careers. Encouraging young people to keep an open mind to consider a range of options is important as they navigate their own ideas and plans.  


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