A survey published by NHS Careers has highlighted the mixed feelings among undergraduates towards a career in the health service.

The results show that eight out of 10 undergraduates would be proud to work in the NHS. However, three-quarters still said the NHS would not be their first choice employer.

The survey of 999 students (22 per cent were on clinical or healthcare-related courses) at 14 English universities also revealed that 83 per cent of students agreed the NHS would offer them good training and career progression. However, more than a third said it did not offer careers to suit every graduate.

The results were published as NHS Careers launched a new website this month for students and recent graduates that guides them, based on their degree, through the myriad careers available to them. The website also sets out to change students' misconceptions of the health service, such as low pay and the unavailability of careers for all graduates, while giving an honest appraisal of working in the NHS.

Students will find real-life graduates talking about the highs and lows of their NHS careers on the website. Graduates include Andrew McMylor, a public health special projects manager at Richmond and Twickenham primary care trust in Middlesex, and a graduate in business management from the University of Derby.

Making a difference

Talking about why he wanted to work for the NHS, Andrew said: "It sounds like a cliche, but I really think what I do can make a difference to people when they most need help. I looked at many graduate schemes and the NHS scheme was a very good one compared to many in private business. It's well-structured with good support and excellent placements."

The survey also found that:

  • 84 per cent said a career in the NHS would challenge them positively;

  • 93 per cent said they would meet interesting people;

  • 82 per cent said the NHS would allow them to have a life outside of work;

  • One in three said working conditions are better in the NHS compared with other employers;

  • 59 per cent said the NHS pays poorly compared to other employers.

Alan Simmons, a careers consultant for NHS Careers, said: "It is clear the NHS has a lot to do to get the message to undergraduates that to have a future career in the NHS, it does not matter what degree you are studying. With 350 different careers on offer, there is a career for every graduate, whatever their degree. We also have to make them more aware that a starting salary for graduates can be just as good as the private sector and in some cases it can be better.

"The launch of this website will be an important tool in this battle. It also supports students in the important transition from education to work and helps kick-start their career in healthcare. It does not pretend that working for the NHS is all highs. But even when the going gets tough, NHS staff know they are doing a job that makes a real difference to people's lives."

For more information visit www.whatcanidowithmydegree.nhs.uk