Jobs in health and social care need compassionate people with excellent interpersonal skills. If you want to use your career to make a real difference in people’s lives, this path could be the right fit for you.
There are lots of health and social care careers, requiring different skillsets, but they all provide physical, emotional and social support. Healthcare roles are generally focused on helping people with their physical health, while social care looks at supporting vulnerable people in the community (ie in their homes or day centres) so they can have a better quality of life.
These days there are many overlaps between health and social care careers – lots of staff cover both fields, and the skills and personal qualities required are similar. (For example, health staff such as nurses are being given training so they can assess their patients' mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.)
'If you want to make a real difference in people’s lives, a health & social care career could be perfect.'
In this guide to health and social care career paths, we’ll take a look at 7 jobs in health and social care you could do.
1. Occupational therapist
Occupational therapists help people whose health prevents them from doing different activities – it could be getting dressed or running errands.
Occupational therapists need to be good at solving problems and working with others – meaning their patients as well as other social and healthcare professionals. They need IT skills to keep careful records.
To become an occupational therapist, you’ll usually need a degree in occupational therapy that’s been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. Work experience or volunteering that shows you have taken on a caring role will help your university application.
2. Care worker
Care workers help people live more independently – that could mean helping with social and physical activities, booking appointments or helping shower and dress clients.
You could work with lots of different people including adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, substance misuse issues, mental health problems and older people. Lots of care workers work in people’s homes, or in residential centres, making it one of the key care in the community jobs.
Being a care worker can be emotionally and physically demanding. You’ll need to be good at working on your own initiative and managing your time. You’ll need brilliant listening skills, and be able to understand and follow different rules and procedures.
You don’t need any qualifications to become a care worker; though many employers will ask for GCSEs in English and maths. Work experience or volunteering will help show employers you have the necessary skills and values. You can also start a career as a care worker by doing an apprenticeship, where you train on the job while earning a salary. Search for apprenticeship roles here.
3. Rehab worker
One of the lesser known health and social care career paths is rehab worker. They help people live more independently after they’ve been ill or had an accident. Rehab workers support people from a wide range of backgrounds – it could be adults with learning disabilities, people with sight or hearing loss, mental health problems or drug misuse issues.
Rehab workers need excellent communication skills and a sensitive and compassionate attitude. They are also good at working under pressure. You don’t necessarily need any qualifications to become a rehabilitation worker, though it would help to have a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care.
Counsellors help patients work through difficult times in their lives, for instance if they’ve recently lost a loved one or are coming to terms with a long-term disability. Counsellors help them make positive changes and improve their own mental wellbeing.
The transferable skills that counsellors need include the ability to put people at ease and top listening skills. You don’t need a degree to become a counsellor. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy recommend a three-stage training route, which you can view here.
5. Health psychologist
Health psychologists improve people’s awareness and attitude towards health. They help their patients make positive changes in their thinking and behaviour, for example helping them to cut down on alcohol or eat more healthily.
Health psychologists work in different settings, from hospitals and local government to universities.
For this role you will need strong critical thinking skills and research abilities. To become a health psychologist you need several qualifications, including a masters in health psychology. Learn more here.
6. Social worker
When it comes to health and social care career paths, social work is one of the more popular options. Social workers help people and families to live happier, more fulfilling lives. They encourage people (usually called clients or sometimes ‘service users’) to live independently and protect them from harm or abuse.
They work with people at all stages of life, from small babies through to the elderly. Social workers support people on an individual basis, and they also help direct people to other services they might need.
Problem-solving skills are really important for social workers, as they have to advise people and figure out what help they need. Social workers also need to be able to work well in a team. To practice as a social worker you’ll need a degree in social work that’s been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. Learn how to become a social worker.
7. Health visitor
Holding another one of the important care in the community jobs, health visitors are nurses or midwives who have done additional training and qualifications as “specialist community public health nurses”.
This means they have the expertise to assess what health needs different people might have. They work with families, children and the wider community to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent illness. They work alongside lots of other health professionals.
Health visitors are patient, empathetic and can cope with emotionally challenging situations. In addition to being a fully qualified nurse or midwife, health visitors must have completed a course in Specialist Community Public Health Nursing or Health Visiting (SCPHN or HV).