Health and Social Care

Getting in

Do you enjoy meeting and helping people – often using practical skills? Are you able to communicate with, and care for others in a variety of ways? Do you have an interest in a science subject? If any of these sound like you, perhaps you might be interested in a career in the health or social care sector. You could be working with children, young people or adults, people with disabilities, the sick or injured or people with problems.


Work in healthcare includes careers in medical treatment such as doctors, nurses and healthcare science posts, as well as jobs in allied health professions like dentistry and other support roles.

You really can forge a career in healthcare. The National Health Service (NHS) employs up to a million people in England, and the private sector employs many more in places like private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. There are therefore many employment opportunities for many people, no matter what qualifications you have.

Social care

Includes careers working with children, young people, adults, families and older adults. Many people need help in their lives, sometimes for a short while – or over months or years. If you worked in social care it would be your job to help these people – working as a care assistant, support worker or qualified social worker (with degree level qualifications). These are not your average 9 to 5 jobs – they involve dedication and helping others.

You’ll need to have good communication skills and excellent self-awareness. You’ll also need to have respect for the people you’re dealing with.

Routes into this sector

There are various types of qualifications available: 

There are usually opportunities to take qualifications whilst still at school such as a GCSE in Health and Social Care or a BTEC in Health and Social Care.

After school there are many pathways to a career in the health sector.  Your chosen entry route does not mean you have to stay on one pathway it can lead to many different progression routes once you are in employment.   You could choose to go directly into work and train on the job through an apprenticeship or other on the job training and gain vocational qualifications (NVQ’s) and even progress to degree level.

As there are many pathways, it is difficult to define a specific route.  For instance if you want to become a health care professional such as an adult nurse you will have to follow a degree route. Other positions such as nursing assistant can follow a vocational route.

Stepintothenhs is a useful website that provides information on the different roles within the NHS and the entry requirements. There are also video stories and case studies with information from people currently working in a variety of specialist areas.

To find out more about the qualifications needed in this sector go to the sector skills councils' websites as follows:

Thinking about a degree?

Spotlight on becoming a Social Work Assistant

Social work assistants fulfil a vital role.  They support the social worker in their duties offering advice, counselling, support and protection within the community, in hospitals, and other settings. Social work assistants could support work with people who are elderly, disabled, homeless, families, children and people with mental health problems. You may see these jobs advertised under other titles such as social work officer, family support worker, community support officer.  You would work under the supervision of a Social Worker and carry out tasks which would be generally administrative like making contact with clients and appointments, keeping up to date with changes in legislation and liaising with other agencies as well as managing some of the workload such as carrying out visits to assess client needs in a busy, challenging but rewarding environment.

This environment could include shift work as most local authorities and other agencies offer a 24 hour service.  You could also spend much of your time out in the community on visits or in other settings such as residential homes and hospitals. As a social work assistant, you will need to be practical, patient, observant, be able to empathise and have the ability to relate to a variety of people.

What qualifications will you need?

It can be useful to obtain:

Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care

Level 2 Diploma Health and Social Care

Level 2 Award in Employment Responsibilities and Rights in Health, Social Care and Children and Young People's Settings.

Your local college(s) or training providers will provide access to courses you may need.

Additionally gaining some work experience in the community working with vulnerable people is useful as is a good general knowledge of administration and customer service.  You can do this by contacting your local volunteer services or visit

Being a social work assistant can lead to becoming a Social Worker if you continue with education to gain the necessary qualifications.

Visit the National Careers Service for more information on becoming a Social Work Assistant

Social Work Assistant (Project Worker)

Sector factsheet

View/download a fact sheet about Health and Social Care

Websites with vacancies in this sector

Why not try a free, online course (MOOC) in this job area?

Future Learn have lots of free, online courses that will improve your knowledge of this job sector and improve your chances of landing your dream job. e.g. The University of Reading has developed a 4 week course about Obesity: Causes and Consequences.  

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