Delivering Excellence in Lifelong Learning

Top skills you need to succeed in Health and Social Services



Healthcare has experienced rapid growth in recent years. The aging population (along with an aging healthcare workforce), a global health crisis, the digitalization of healthcare data and other issues have prompted an intense need for industry professionals with specific hard and soft skills.

Whether you’re just starting out your career, a newcomer looking to acquire Canadian clinical experience or a seasoned healthcare professional seeking to maximize your career opportunities, the right credentials will catch the attention of employers who are in need of qualified workers.

Where the jobs are

/_uploads/images/buttons/Screen-Shot-2021-03-29-at-110620-AM.png More than a quarter of businesses in the healthcare sector said they expected to experience labour shortages in 2021. That's almost 7% more than the average for all sectors, demonstrating that healthcare businesses are more worried about labour shortages than other Canadian firms.

/_uploads/images/buttons/Screen-Shot-2021-03-29-at-110620-AM.png A recent study showed that healthcare is the biggest contributor in boosting Canada’s major job market growth. In British Columbia alone, the Health Care and Social Assistance industry, already the largest employer in that province with 312,600 workers in 2019, is projected to have 141,700 job openings over a 10-year period to 2029. Over half of those job openings (58 percent) are a result of replacement demand for retiring workers.

/_uploads/images/buttons/Screen-Shot-2021-03-29-at-110620-AM.png A 2018 study shows that over 80% of Canadians surveyed stated that their top concerns with our system are related to the need for more skilled healthcare professionals. Issues included wait times, availability, shortage of doctors and staff, and the aging population.

Both hard and soft skills are needed in healthcare

Health professionals fulfil various roles and, like most challenging and rewarding careers, require a balance of both hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are measurable, teachable capabilities, often technical or practical. They include the knowledge, strategies and steps needed to fulfill specific tasks relating to a job function. These skills are often focused on such processes as the use of tools, equipment or software. Hard skills can be acquired through courses, practical clinicals and on-the-job training. Soft skills are a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one's relationships in a professional environment.

So, how do you measure up?

For healthcare hard skills:

  • Computer technology 
  • Project Management
  • Data management and analysis
  • Healthcare protocols
  • Credentials, certifications and licenses

For healthcare soft skills:

  • Strong work ethic
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Flexibility
  • Time management
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership 
  • Emotional intelligence

Advance your career in health with in-demand skills and knowledge

Today’s job market offers a wide variety of choices in healthcare. Doing an honest assessment of the soft skills you already possess and knowing which hard skills you need to acquire are the first steps to opening new opportunities.

For example, imagine working on developing new medications, or testing new treatment devices and methods. Pursuing the study of applied clinical research would allow you to contribute or initiate studies that could impact the future of healthcare.

Does gaining new technical skills and working with information systems appeal to you? If so, consider exploring health informatics and learning to use technology, clinical guidelines, information systems, and data management practices to optimize the collection, storage, and use of vital health information.

Or, choose health analytics and learn how to analyze healthcare data. Mastering statistical tools and software programs for analysis and data visualizations could be key to a new or advanced career for you.

Professional certification and designations are an indicator of knowledge and competency to employers. Choosing a line of study designed to earn a certificate in less time, could jumpstart or advance your career.

Enrich your knowledge in healthcare for a rewarding career

It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare as there are so many paths to choose from. If you are a healthcare professional looking to expand your existing training while gaining marketable skills, consider pursuing professional development programs.

Programs that focus on addiction studies are an ideal choice for professionals already working in mental health, counselling, law enforcement, nursing, social work, or child and family services. 

The legalization of cannabis in Canada has impacted many industries, including law enforcement, education, transportation, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and legal services. A certificate in the science of cannabis can prepare you to be a critical thinker on the use of medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis and its potential risks in healthcare settings and beyond.

If you’re a nurse or licensed healthcare professional who wants to empower people suffering from incontinence with the dignity to lead an independent life, studying continence care from a nursing perspective can enrich your existing skill set.

Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? When you choose a health ventures program you can learn to develop the skills needed to identify opportunities and bring your health innovation concept to market.

Whatever career path you choose, lifelong learning can help you achieve your goals

With so many paths to embark on, be sure to choose the program(s) that meet your professional aspirations. McMaster Continuing Education has a wide variety of flexible, online health and professional development programs to help you enter or advance in healthcare while conveniently fitting your busy schedule.


Learn more:

Enter the rewarding field of Applied Clinical Research
Health Informatics. Where health and information technology intersect
Optimizing healthcare delivery through Data Analytics
Get certified faster to advance your Health Information Management career
Gain holistic skills with a Professional Addiction Studies diploma or certificate program
Separate fact from fiction with the Science of Cannabis
Learn best practices in Continence Care
Bringing your innovations in health to market



2 Bloomberg News 

Vancouver Public Library


Health Quality Ontario