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How to become a communications officer

You’ll need a college or degree-level qualification in communications, journalism, public relations, or marketing to become a communications officer in the NHS.

What is a communications officer?

Communications officers help NHSScotland Boards to engage with their local communities, employees, other health and social care organisations, schools, the Scottish Government, and the media.

They also provide public health information and promote health and social care services, education, and training initiatives to internal and external audiences.

Communications officers use different types of media, including:

  • press releases
  • websites
  • social media
  • video and podcasts
  • email marketing
  • intranets
  • TV and radio

They are employed in all NHS Boards across Scotland.

Starting your career as a communications officer

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a college or university course that could lead to a career as a communications officer, useful subjects include: 

  • Media
  • Administration and IT
  • Business Management
  • English
  • Maths

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Workplacements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, so you could apply directly from school or go to college first.

At college, useful courses for a career as a communications officer include:

  • HND Media and Communication
  • HND Practical Journalism

Widening access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need. 

Degree programmes

If you choose to go to university, relevant degree subjects include:

  • Communications
  • Journalism
  • Public Relations
  • Marketing

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Modern Apprenticeships

Another route to a career as a communications officer is to apply for a Modern Apprenticeship. You'll get the training and experience you need for the role, and an industry-recognised qualification.

Modern apprenticeship opportunities:

  • Creative and Digital Media
  • Digital Marketing

Find out more about becoming an apprentice.

Get to know the role

As a communications officer, you'll be the lead contact for engagement, marketing, and communications for an NHSScotland Board.

You'll work in a team, with other communications and marketing professionals, including digital marketing assistants and public relations managers. 

Tasks include: 

  • create high-quality patient information resources
  • produce videos and take photos
  • manage social media campaigns
  • update staff intranets and external websites
  • take enquiries from journalists
  • write press releases
  • engage in local health campaigns and events

You'll need these skills:

  • communicating
  • teamwork
  • attention to detail
  • creativity
  • time-management
  • organisation
  • leadership
  • collaborating

As a communications officer, you'll work with: 

  • employees across your Health Board
  • patients
  • press
  • politicians
  • government employees

Communications officers work in an office, or remotely.

Learning and development

During your career, self-directed learning will provide opportunities to learn new skills and gain qualifications. You’ll be able to apply to more senior roles as you progress.

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