For many people, life isn’t just about making money. A real wage helps, of course, but if your life needs that little something extra, there are plenty of career choices that will suit a caring and compassionate personality. But what are they, and how do you get started? We thought we would give you ten perfect examples of career moves that might be open to you. Let’s get started with some of the most obvious, before revealing some alternative options.
Make no mistake about it; nursing can be a tough job — particularly in today’s healthcare environment. However, as any nurse will tell you, it’s a vocation— a calling, if you like — rather than a profession. You will need to train in order to become a qualified nurse, and you will need a high set of people skills. Helping others and caring for sick and recovering people will be vital, of course, but you will also need to be able to relate to almost every type of person. Kindness, patience, a good sense of humour — you will need all of those personality traits in what can be a stressful and challenging environment. Regarding money, nurses can be well paid, especially as they focus on more specialist areas. But ultimately, you will be doing your job because you love it rather than the wage packet.
Becoming a physician is a challenge, and only the brightest, most capable students will get access to a medical school. It will also take you a long time to qualify. If you want to be a GP, for example, you have to complete medical school before taking a 2-year foundation course followed by three years of vocational training. If your end goal is to become a hospital consultant, your post-medical school training will take around 7-9 years. It’s expensive, too, with most medical schools charging £9,000 per year — for 4-5 years. However, if you can make it that far, you will have a fantastic career ahead of you, which could see you become an expert in your field. There are so many opportunities for doctors once they have qualified — perhaps more so than any other profession. You can even invent your own pathway once you have achieved a certain level of specialisation. And, ultimately, you will be improving — and saving — people’s lives.
Doctors and nurses would struggle if the healthcare assistant position did not exist. They are integral to the medical profession in all kinds of settings, from hospitals and surgeries to patients’ homes and hospices. We’ll be honest, the work is not fantastically well paid — not as much as it should be, at least. But it is rewarding. You will be working with vulnerable people, helping them to retain their dignity, and looking after them when they are very sick. With the right attitude and personality, you will be in a position to make a genuine difference to patients’ lives, becoming a valuable link in the chain of many different care pathways. It’s also worth pointing out that working as a healthcare assistant can lead to moving up into other areas of the medical profession. If you are a mature student with designs on medical school or nursing, for example, the admissions team will often expect you to have worked in a caring environment. It’s not unusual for aspiring doctors and nurses to get experience in a retirement home, hospice or hospital, working as general healthcare assistants.
Care and compassion don’t just apply to humans, of course. Animals and pets also need medical help at times, and as a vet, you will be there for them — and their ‘parents’ — in the animal’s hour of need. In fact, it’s fair to say that as a vet, you must show just as much compassion to the owners, treating their companions as members of the family. However, like any other healthcare qualification, it can take a long time to qualify to work with animals. You will need more than ‘a love for animals’ to get on a course, too. You have to focus on health and welfare, be a self-learner, and be passionate about science. It’s also worth looking at doing some business training so that you can run your vet surgery and make a profit, rather than go out of business after a year or so.
These days, teaching is a tough job with a lot of bureaucracy behind it. But beyond the politics and endless testing, the profession still has the same principles it always had — helping children make the best of their abilities. You will get a lot of joy from making a difference to young people’s lives, whether they are in reception class or studying for their GCSEs. Like nursing, teaching is a vocation rather than a job, and while pay rates are OK, you will be working for more than just the money. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to be a mentor to children from all kinds of backgrounds, with many different talents. And your ultimate aim will be to maximise their skills and help them on their way to becoming productive, happy adults.
Childcare is becoming increasingly important these days. More households than ever before have both parents working, and rely on excellent childcare facilities — and assistants. There is a broad range of settings you can work in, from being a nanny in a private household to working in a local nursery. You may also end up working in summer camps, or before and after school clubs. Access to working in childcare tends to be relatively easy, although you will have to ensure that you have your DBS checks in place before anyone lets you anywhere near children. The work can be rewarding, but it is also challenging. And, like working as a healthcare assistant, childcare can give you the experience you need to get on a course in other subjects, such as medicine or teaching.
Do you like listening to people’s problems? If so, you could make a good career out of it by becoming a counsellor or therapist. You could end up working with all kinds of people, from children with particular difficulties all the way through to victims of trauma. Qualifying as a trained therapist doesn’t have to take long — but it can be a harsh ride. You will be expected to go through all the same processes that you will use on your patients, and it can have a significant emotional impact on you. That said, it can be an incredibly rewarding career — you will be helping people with mental health issues to develop their own set of tools for overcoming their problems.
Social workers get something of a bad press these days. But the truth is, without them, who knows how much worse our society will be? As with many other caring and compassionate professions, you will need to think the best of people — but also deal with being confronted with the worst. Social workers are often exposed to some horrific scenarios and incredibly damaged people. Your task is to work with them so they can lead independent lives and remain productive members of the community. You will need to train before starting a career in social work, but there are many vocational courses out there. Some councils may even run on-the-job training for certain areas, so get in touch with them and see how you get on.
Have you got what it takes to work for the police force? Your primary aim when working for the police is to keep people safe, by preventing and reacting to crime. Again, working for the police can often be a selfless task — there will be moments of danger, and you may find yourself shunned by old friends. That said, the force provides an excellent life where every day is different, and there is a lot of camaraderie between officers and detectives alike. It also opens up a lot of career pathways, all of which are incredibly different. When you qualify to do your two years on the beat, some of your class will go on to become detectives; others will join the mounted police. There will be some that move into forensics, some that join an armed response unit, and others might go undercover. The point is, wherever your interests lie, there is an opening for you in the police if you have enough spark.
The pub landlord
Finally, if all else fails, why not open your own bar? The traditional pub owner has always been there for their patrons, acting as a therapist, friend, and problem solver to many people in the community. And, if recent news is to be believed, there is still a lot of room for the traditional pub in British towns and cities. Again, it’s a lot of work — the most important thing to understand is that you need to be a people person to become a successful landlord.