University Tips Blog
Image of a piggy bank with a stethoscope on it
A headshot image of the author, Marc Alner

by Marc Alner

Student Engagement and Recruitment Manager at Birmingham City University

posted on 5 Mar '24

An introduction to the allied health professions

Every year, thousands of students apply to courses such as medicine and pharmacy. These degrees are fantastic for those interested in becoming doctors or pharmacologists, among others, but competition can be very high. Quite often, students have not considered the wide variety of alternative routes they can pursue or are simply unaware that they even exist. I will provide a guide to some of these here.

What are the allied health professions?

If your young person is considering the options available to them, it’s important not to forget some of the lesser known – but no less important – careers in healthcare. The allied health professions (AHP) are comprised of fourteen different areas of practice, making up the third largest workforce in the NHS. From operating department practitioners and speech and language therapists to therapeutic radiographers and dieticians, the skill sets required are often very similar to those required for medicine and pharmacy degrees.

These types of degrees are regulated by either the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) or General Osteopathic Council (GOC). This offers students the opportunity to spend time on an industrial placement within their three years of study. They will become familiar with various medical environments and experience life as a professionally autonomous healthcare practitioner. Due to the collaborative nature of the healthcare sector, many of the AHPs find themselves working closely with doctors and surgeons.

Financial support for health programmes

Financial support for students studying for these degrees is also a factor worth considering. The introduction of the NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF) in 2020 provided students on eligible courses with a training grant of at least £5,000 in each year of study (subject to terms of the LSF).

It’s important to stress the importance these professions play within the healthcare sector. The work that has been done to bring attention to these pivotal roles has resulted in a welcome increase to the study of these degrees at university. Health Education England’s campaigns have included raising the profile of the AHPs in the military, including roles such as radiographers and operating department practitioners.

"The allied health professions are comprised of fourteen different areas of practice, making up the third largest workforce in the NHS."

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