How to Get Into Health and Social Care?

Are you interested in starting a career in health and social care? The opportunities are endless. Although careers in this sector can be extremely challenging they are also highly rewarding. If you’re caring and want to make a difference in the lives of others, it could be the right sector for you. 

About health and social care

Health and social care professionals are key workers and given the world of today, they have been working in exceptional times as they are fundamentally fighting for people’s lives and helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Providing care and support is at the heart of the health and social care sector. 

Health care workers are at the forefront of providing quality health care and crucial services like promoting health, delivering health care plans and treatments, as well as preventing diseases. Social care workers provide support and care to vulnerable people. They work with a range of people from children, elderly people and families in crisis. 

What can I do?

There is a broad range of jobs available in health and social care. Working in the sector can involve being employed by the NHS or a private organisation. 

You will be helping people from all walks of life: the elderly, adults, children and babies. You could be providing support to people with mental health problems, physical and learning disabilities as well as people suffering from other medical conditions or helping to combat COVID-19. 

Below is a list of just a few of the opportunities in health and social care*:

Nurse

A career as a nurse involves providing treatment and support to patients who are injured or sick. They also give emotional support to patients and their families while organising care plans, analysing and recording patient conditions and assisting the doctor.

On average, nurses get paid a salary of £36,400 and work 39 hours per week. The workforce is projected to grow by 10.4% with a further 54.5% expected to retire by 2027. This will see a total of 485,000 job openings.

Care workers and home carers

Carers look after people of all ages, from young to old, those who are suffering from illnesses, have a disability or unable to cope by themselves. A carer will help them with everyday tasks like shopping, cleaning, washing, dressing, cooking and laundry. 

The average annual salary for a care worker is £21,320 and they typically work 42 hours per week. The workforce is estimated to grow by 13.4% and 57.9% of the workforce is expected to retire by 2027. This will create approximately 660,300 job openings.

Doctor and senior man wearing facemasks during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Virus and illness protection, home quarantine. COVID-2019

Medical practitioner

Medical practitioners are also known as consultants, GPs and doctors. They diagnose, treat and care for patients suffering from illnesses, infections and diseases, as well as looking after patient wellbeing. 

Medical practitioners on average earn £76,440 per year and work a 42 hour week. This career is expected to grow by 10.4% with 54.5% of the workforce estimated to retire by 2027. This is projected to create 193,400 job openings.

Midwife

A midwife is responsible for delivering babies and providing antenatal and postnatal advice as well as support for women, their babies and family.

Midwives get paid an average annual salary of £37,440 and typically work a 38 hour week. The workforce is estimated to grow by 10.4% with a further 54.5% expected to retire by 2027. This will create around 35,900 jobs.  

*Statistics provided by LMI for All.

Health and social care skills

To work in the health and social care sector, you will need a range of skills, but most importantly you will need to be caring and passionate about helping people. Other skills can include:

  • Sociable
  • Understanding
  • Resilient
  • Able to deal with emotionally charged situations
  • Hardworking
  • Work as part of a team as well as independently
  • Time management
  • Good communication

If you don’t possess these skills already, many will be developed as you qualify and while working on the job.

Pathways and qualifications

Each health and social care career will have different pathways to qualify. It all depends on your personal preference and the career you’re keen to pursue. Let’s take a look at a few of the routes available to you:

Vocational qualifications

There is a diverse range of health and social care qualifications you can do without having to go to university.

Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Adult Social Care
  • Healthcare Science
  • Maternity support work

This is not an exhaustive list but it gives you an indication of the routes available. 

Some NVQs and BTECs can also pave the way for a degree. Many can be done part-time, which means you can work and study. Have a look at the following organisations: 

IHM (Institute of Healthcare Management)
RCN (Royal College of Nursing)
SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) 

Health and social care apprenticeships

The level of Apprenticeship available varies slightly depending on the part of the sector you enter. Broadly, though, there are four levels:

Level Two (Intermediate) – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades

Level Three (Advanced) – equivalent to A Levels / Highers

Level Four / Five (Higher) – equivalent to Foundation Degree / Advanced Highers

Level Six / Seven (Degree) – equivalent to Bachelor’s or master’s degree

Health and social care apprenticeships are ideal for young people looking to learn on the job. You will combine on the job training with theory relevant to the health and social care sector. A few health and social care apprenticeships include:

  • Adult Care Worker
  • Ambulance Support Worker
  • Healthcare Practitioner
  • Nurse
  • Midwife
  • Lab Technician
In the Hospital Midwife Gives Newborn Baby to a Mother to Hold, Supportive Father Sitting Near Wife. Happy Family in the Modern Delivery Ward.

A Levels, Highers and Bachelors Degrees

A Levels

Health and social care studies at A-Level will help you to expand your knowledge in health, early years covering care and education and social care. Studying health and social care will also help you to gain an insight into what issues are affecting the industry while also investigating real-life situations.

Do you already know that you want to go to university? Head to UCAS and find out which qualifications will be needed for each course. There are hundreds of variations and combinations, so look carefully!

Degree programmes

Degree level qualifications include higher national diplomas, higher national certificates, foundation degree, bachelor and master degrees. A wide variety of universities offer degrees related to health and social care, such as:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Paramedic
  • Medicine
  • Radiography

Technology in health and social care

Technology is transforming the health and social care sector in many ways from how professionals treat patients to developing new cures. It sounds futuristic, but 3D printing, robotics and health informatics are just some technologies already in use. Who knows how technological advancement will impact the health and social care sector in the future! 

Emerging technologies are set to change the health and social care sector while saving thousands of lives in the process. As technology unites with health and social care services new job roles will occur. For instance, 3D printing will become essential in healthcare. Imagine creating living organisms such as skin. And the ultimate aim is to create vital organs which will save so many lives. What was once a fantasy is quickly becoming a reality!

Health and social care careers behind the scenes

Health informatics is at the heart of improving healthcare outcomes, we caught up with NHS apprentice Sarah Rule to discuss her role as a Cyber Security Analyst apprentice:

I am currently working in the Cyber Security Team as a Cyber Security Analyst for NHS Wales Informatics (NWIS). I started with NWIS as an apprentice after applying for one of four places available. The job role not only included working with the Cyber Security Team but it required me to study for a Cyber Security and Networking Degree alongside it, which is funded by WG. This was a fantastic opportunity, and allowed me the opportunity to study for a degree while learning on the job, and better still earning while I did it all.

While approaching my GCSEs, I was unsure of what I wanted to do after Year 11. Apprentice jobs weren’t advertised as much as they are now. I knew that I would have much preferred this way of learning and earning if I had more information while in school. 

I wasn’t in love with the idea of staying in school for another 2 years then going to university. As much as I wanted to keep learning, I really wanted to work as well. I wanted both. Even though it wasn’t straight after finishing school, the apprenticeship gave me the opportunity I was looking for all those years ago!

I highly recommend going down the apprenticeship route, it has allowed me to learn new skills as I learned ‘on the job’. It has given me the confidence and knowledge where, after a two year apprenticeship, I am a full time permanent member of staff with NWIS.

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