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Health and Social Care skills and careers

Career opportunities

In the UK many graduates enter employment where a degree in any subject would be acceptable. In this instance what they offer the employer is evidence of the range of competencies which have been developed through their academic study, rather than the specific subject content of their degree.

Given the current economic climate and the increased competition for graduate positions, it's important to consider a range of occupational areas. Bear in mind that many careers require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.

Professions and job roles

There are a range of careers within this sector at all levels of entry. Students can be employed in a variety of areas depending on their qualifications, skills and experience. The jobs below are examples of the type of opportunity that may be worth investigating if you are studying this subject.

Graduate level

  • Health administration
  • Care management
  • Further Education teaching
  • Community development
  • Charity Officer
  • Social work
  • Nursing
  • Health therapies
  • Youth work.

Non-graduate level

  • Social work assistant
  • Therapy assistant
  • Medical technician
  • Health care assistant.

You can find out more about some of the careers available in both the health and social care sectors on your Study Home website (OU computer username and password needed).

Health and social care labour market

Health and social care is a vast service sector undergoing rapid change, with new government initiatives giving it a higher profile than ever. These developments mean there is likely to be a demand for well-trained, multi-skilled people. However, given the cutbacks in public sector funding, the NHS and the social care sector are being forced to face new challenges and to make enormous efficiency savings, which is likely to affect both patterns of working and staff recruitment. Many services are changing radically or will cease to exist; new partnerships and fresh allegiances are being formed, all of which will have an impact on those in the public sector. It is likely that the private and not-for-profit sectors will play an increasing role in delivering health services thus increasing the range of employers in the sector.

New career pathways are opening up in which employees are increasingly taking on new and demanding roles in environments that are continually changing.

Keep up to date with the latest developments in health policy and the NHS via the NHS Future Health and Care Update.

We advise you to research your career choices as thoroughly and as early as possible, particularly in relation to experience required, differences relating to where you live, or where the study choices you make may affect future opportunities.

The Career options with a Health and Social Care degree podcast discussed making the most of your degree within the health and social care sector. You will need your OU computer username and password to access it.

Health and character requirements for health and social care professionals

To work in some professions you need to have a ‘fitness to practice’ or pass a ‘suitability test’. This means you have the skills, knowledge, character and health to practise safely and effectively. This is particularly relevant if you have a health issue or disability or have a criminal record.

You need to be registered with a professional association, council or regulatory body. The register shows the public that practitioners are part of a profession with nationally recognised standards set by law.

Becoming a health and care professional If you have a health issue or disability

The HCPC has information and advice for people with disabilities thinking about becoming health and care professionals regulated by them. It outlines the steps that need to take place from both course providers and individuals, before and during any necessary training period, right through to undertaking employment.

Social work

An honours degree in social work is now the professional award for all social workers. As long as you meet conduct and competence conditions, once you have successfully completed the award you will be entitled to register with the relevant professional organisation as a social worker. For example, in Scotland this would be with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

The OU offers a work-based learning route to the honours degree in social work. Although some modules in the programme are available to all students, the full programme is currently restricted to students living in England, Wales and Scotland who are being supported in their practice by their employing agency. You have to enter this study through the employing agency – you cannot apply direct to the OU.

The requirements for the degree in Scotland are different from those in England and Wales. In England and Wales, students must complete 360 points to qualify whereas in Scotland they need 480 points.

If you're studying a different degree, you can still qualify as a Social Worker by doing an approved Postgraduate Diploma or Masters qualification. The Open University offers a Postgraduate Diploma and Masters in Social Work. The full Masters programme (including the PG Diploma) is available for study in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Republic of Ireland.

More information about the OU's offering and other institutions that offer social work programmes can be found online

Health and character requirements to become a social worker

To find out about the health and character requirements to be a social worker across the UK and Ireland, check with each nation’s regulatory body.

Postgraduate study

Many Health and Social Care graduates and practising professionals undertake further study. Reasons for doing so include wanting to explore an aspect of their subject in more depth, to further or change their career, because a specific postgraduate qualification is either an entry requirement for their chosen career or would be an advantage if entry is competitive.

Postgraduate study within Health and Social Care may bring opportunities to shape and influence future policy and practice within the sector in job roles such as managers, senior clinicians, consultants and educators.

It is important to research further study options comprehensively by exploring the range of postgraduate courses and research opportunities on offer, and funding possibilities to ensure you make the correct choice, for the right reasons and importantly that you can afford it, as funding for postgraduate study is very different to the undergraduate system.

Further useful links

Last updated 11 months ago