1. Business

How to get your first job in health care

Published Aug. 15, 2013

When you're trying to find your first job as a health care professional, it may seem the cards are stacked against you. After all, employers prefer job candidates with health care experience, and you can't get that requisite experience unless someone hires you, right? It's a vicious circle, but you can escape it. With some patience and persistence, you should be able to work in your chosen health care profession. New health care professionals talked about how they landed their first jobs — and how you can, too.

Build your network

If your health care education included an internship or clinical rotations, you made valuable contacts that can probably help you in your job search. "Don't be afraid to talk to people and ask for help," said Christine McElroy, who lined up a job while still in graduate school for her master's of science degree and began working as a genetic counselor at Children's Hospital Oakland in June 2000. Your school adviser or internship supervisor can inform you of health care job openings, expand your pool of acquaintances and be a valuable reference.

Get involved

McElroy interviewed with just two employers before accepting her current position. She learned about the first opening from a former classmate who called to tell her about a position in her workplace. She learned about the other opening through the National Society of Genetic Counselors Listserv, which periodically posts job listings. While a student, she also attended the society's meetings, and she said the events were "hot spots" for meeting others in the field. "Don't be shy about networking," she said.


Besides networking through professional health care associations, you can demonstrate your dedication to potential health care employers by getting out into the field and volunteering. "There's no better way to find a job than to volunteer first," said occupational therapist Julie Henderson, director of restorative services at the Human Rights Initiative in Dallas. "You're looking for a job anyway, so why not go volunteer a couple of hours a day at different places within your field?"

Be innovative

As a student, Henderson worked with classmates to develop a new occupational therapy program geared toward the homeless population, and she knew she wanted to continue with community work. Although she took some part-time home-health contracts to pay the bills right after she graduated, she knew she didn't want to do that full time. "I didn't think I'd be effective as a health care professional if I didn't like my job," she said.

Holding out for the right fit was a good strategy for Henderson. She ended up taking the place of another occupational therapist at the Human Rights Initiative who remembered hearing about Henderson's program for the homeless. Henderson now works with political refugees and people who have been granted asylum by the U.S. government.

Henderson sees clients in the community most days. When she is in the office, she's surrounded by attorneys. "I'm the only medical professional in a law office. It's unique," she said. Henderson advised other health care professionals to consider such alternative paths. "Just find the nontraditional stuff and sell yourself," she said. "It's the easiest way to get a job. You're not fighting anyone else for a job, rather creating one."

Weigh your options

If you're lucky enough to have a health care degree currently in high demand, such as pharmacy or nursing, you're likely to receive multiple health care job offers. Be sure to weigh the decision carefully, and don't be blinded by big money, said Michael Dietrich, assistant professor for pharmacy practice at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy in Glendale, Ariz.

"My advice to students is to keep an open mind," Dietrich said. Unless the offer is significantly below market level for other such health care jobs, "I tell students that they need to remove money from the equation and figure out what is going to make them happy as a professional," he said.

To ensure you're choosing a good fit for your health care career, Dietrich suggests you ask yourself "Will I be happy here?" and "Can I do what I want in this system and succeed?" before "How much will I be making?" and "Will I be able to buy that car and house now?"

© 2013 — Monster Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on To see other career-related articles, visit For recruitment articles, visit


  1. Jeffrey D. Senese was inaugurated as Saint Leo University's 10th president. Pictured, Monsignor Robert Morris (left), Class of 1979, and a member of the board of trustees, and D. Dewey Mitchell, chair of the university’s board of trustees, bestow the presidential medallion on Senese. Renee Gerstein and William Speer, Saint Leo University
    New and notes on local businesses
  2. Dr. Manjusri Vennamaneni (center) was awarded Businesswoman of the Year by the Indo-US Chamber of Commerce. With her are Matt Romeo, President of PrimeCare (left), and Dr. Pariksith Singh, CEO, Access Health Care Physicians. Vince Vanni
    News and notes on local businesses
  3. Tampa Bay Lighting host a watch party on the beach at the Tradewinds resort on St. Pete Beach in February. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    TradeWinds is the biggest resort in Pinellas County.
  4. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  5. The Whole Coffee Company makes Dunkin’-branded Coffee Thins as well as Tim Hortons Double Double bars and its own Whole Coffee Company-branded nudge coffee bars. (Photo courtesy The Whole Coffee Company) The Whole Coffee Company
    The Whole Coffee Company, which is based in Miami, was previously known as Tierra Nueva Fine Cocoa. ProspEquity Partners of Tampa owns a majority stake in Whole Coffee.
  6. The Corona Cove opens as the Florida Aquarium's new outdoor bar. The beer company is pledging continued donations to aid conservation efforts. Florida Aquarium
    The beer company also has pledged donations to aid conservation efforts.
  7. The Triton cantaloupe, created with help from Eckerd College. Eckerd College
    The St. Petersburg college teamed up with a central Florida plant breeder to create the Triton cantaloupe.
  8. FILE - In this May 14, 2019, fiel photo, containers are piled up at a port in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province. China’s economic growth slowed to a 26-year low in the latest quarter as a tariff war with Washington weighed on exports and auto sales and other domestic activity weakened. The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.2 percent in the three months ending in September, down from the previous quarter’s 6 percent, data showed Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. AP
    Growth in the world’s second-largest economy slipped to 6% in the three months ending in September, down from the previous quarter’s 6.2%, data showed Friday.
  9. Ryan Cummings, 23, left, and Alex Frey, 25, both of Tampa, rent Spin electric scooters from a corral located along Zack Street in May. St. Petersburg hopes to soon launch it's own scooter program. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The city wants to avoid other cities’ mistakes. Scooters will not be allowed on sidewalks and must be parked in designated corrals.
  10. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.