• Background South West

  • career-training

    Sector Overview

    Health & Social Care

    • The average life expectancy in the UK is 80 years old but the healthy life expectancy is 64 (how long someone lives without any health problems)

    • There are 8,000 GP practises in the UK and 2300 hospitals

    • 34,000 more nurses are employed by the NHS now than ten years ago

    • There are 23,000 adult social workers in the UK and 22,000 child social workers

    • The amount of care homes in the country is at around 21,000

    Work in the health and social care sector is grouped into either private or public sector organisations. The biggest employer in the health industry is the NHS, which has around 1.7 million colleagues in the UK. Private sector jobs tend to have much higher wages and different working hours (than hospital workers who are often expected to work unsocialable hours), but you will be employed by a business rather than the NHS so your actual job and contract may different to what you might expect with public healthcare.

    Work in social care can also be very varied, and can depend on what kind of care you are offering. Many choose to work in residential nursing homes, helping to look after the elderly or long-term ill, but you can also choose to travel to patients’ homes. Child care-workers might help out parents in caring for their children, or could be trying to find a suitable home for an orphaned or abused child. Many people in this sector choose to work for charitable organisations and some even offer up their services as voluntary work.


    Health & Social Care

    Adult Social Care

    Caring for adults is all about helping people who want to go out and live life, but for varying reasons couldn’t do it by themselves. It’s not about being a form of babysitter; it’s about helping people live their lives with dignity and independence. Some people are full time carers for family members, or look after several people during the course of their week. Salaries vary depending on your role and, perhaps more poignantly, when in the week you work. Night shifts, bank holidays and weeks usually pay much more than regular working hours, but normal starting salaries are around £13,000.

    Allied Health Professions

    This covers some of the more specialised career paths within the health sector; radiographers, therapists, dieticians, psychologists and optometrists all come under this section. Your average starting salary is around £17,000 – £21,000 and will increase as you progress in your field.


    Children require plenty of care; if left unattended they can draw on themselves, drink paint, catch fire and fall victim to any number of problems. Childcare is all about making sure children are looked after in a safe, friendly and fun environment; the variables of this are dictated by the age of the children you are caring for. Your day might involve planning activities, providing meals, monitoring playtimes and leading basic educational sessions. You can expect to start on around £10,000, but after experience you can earn more and push on for a managerial role, which can earn you upwards of £22,000.


    Going to the dentist isn’t everybody’s favourite thing to do, but dental hygiene is very important to our overall health. The human mouth acts as a gateway to the rest of our body, so if it’s not working properly, then our body won’t act properly either. The dental industry is a highly skilled trade to be in, so therefore you need to have good attention to detail and a good, reassuring nature (not to mention a steady hand!). Dental nurse salaries start out at around £16,000, where as fully qualified dentists can earn upwards of £30,000 in their first year.

    Healthcare Science

    Medicines, vaccines and other medical related chemicals are all created in a laboratory somewhere by our top healthcare scientists. This is less about surgery and patients and more about working in a lab with chemicals and data, which can be exciting if you enjoy chemistry. This also covers the pharmacists you get medicine from; they are responsible for choosing the right amounts of the right medicines that are prescribed by the doctors. Most starting salaries in this area are around £21,000 and will increase with experience.

    Health Information

    Researchers, analysts, IT professionals…the list of people required to store the vast amount of health information is huge. These individuals are responsible for keeping a record of literally everything that goes on in the hospital, from prescriptions and surgeries to patient records and medical histories. A hospital without health information would be absolute chaos; this is for those who want to work in a medical environment but don’t want to do anything science related. Your salary depends on your role, but it will usually start at around £15,000, at the top end of the ladder you could expect to earn over double that.

    Nursing & Midwifery

    Nurses assist doctors with complicated procedures, while also tending to the needs of the patients. In some situations, patients will be referred to nurses for simple surgical procedures or for blood sample collection. So it goes without saying that with all this patient interaction you’ll need to be smiley and approachable so that people feel safe letting you poke and prod them. Midwives are responsible for patients who are about to have (or have just had) babies. This involves both the patient’s and the baby’s well being, so if you love being around babies, this is definitely the career for you. Salaries usually start between £15,000 and £20,000, but can rise to £30,000 and beyond.

    Social Care

    Social workers work closely with young people and families helping with various issues such as behaviour, parenting, education and fostering. They also work with people just released from prison, helping them integrate into society. You might be working in hospitals, prisons or anywhere in the local community. Salaries can range from £19,000 to £22,000 when you start out, but most qualified social workers are on £32,000 and over.

    Wider Healthcare

    As with the Health Information team, the hospital wouldn’t run without the various caterers, porters, maintenance staff, gardeners and cleaners. Hospitals have to be kept clean to avoid infection spreading; many cleaning staff undertake courses to become sterilising specialists who clean down rooms and equipment. Salaries start out at around £12,000 and will increase with experience and added responsibility.


    Health & Social Care


    If you are aged 16 and over you could enter an Apprenticeship, which would teach you the skills you need while you work and earn a salary. You’ll spend half your time in the classroom and half out on the job. Listed below are the apprenticeship frameworks for this sector, which when completed will give you a Level 2 qualification in the form of a BTEC, Diploma or NVQ:
    Health and Social Care • Health (Pharmacy Services) • Health (Informatics) • Health (Healthcare Support Services)

    Advanced Apprenticeships

    These are the equivalent to A-Levels and can usually be joined after completing the associated Intermediate Apprenticeship. They are ideal for people who want a practical role as they learn while gaining valuable employment experience. People with Advanced Apprenticeships tend to progress up the ladder a lot quicker than those without, as the skills they learn are more suited to management and supervisory roles. Here are some of the Apprenticeship Frameworks for this sector and all of these will result in a Level 3 qualification such as a BTEC, a Diploma or an NVQ.
    Health and Social Care • Health (Allied Health Profession Support) • Health (Clinical Healthcare Support) • Health (Dental Nursing) • Health (Healthcare Support Services) • Health (Maternity and Paediatric Support)


    A-Levels are the most popular gateway into university and are sought after by employers. They will be useful to getting into this sector, especially science based qualifications. Here are the relevant A-Levels for this sector.
    Physics • Biology • Chemistry • Health and Social Care • IT • English

    Foundation Degrees

    A Foundation Degree combines university lifestyle with practical, hands on work. It’s sort of like a cross between an Apprenticeship and an Honours Degree. They are often used as gateway qualifications to a full time Degree as they count towards the first two years of an Honours Degree. They usually take two years to complete and you’ll be both in the work place and on the university campus. There are a wide range of Foundation Degrees available for this sector, such as Health and Social Care and Nursing.

    Vocational Qualifications

    Vocational qualifications, such as BTECS and NVQs, are a great way to get straight into the specific areas of this industry that wouldn’t be covered by other qualifications.

    More Info

    Health & Social Care

    Case Studies

    Health & Social Care

    Skills for Care

    Find out what it’s like to work in the Health and Social Care sector
    with this wide selection of case studies from Skills for Care.

    For more information on how to start your career in Health and
    Social Care, please visit www.skillsforcare.org.uk/icare

    After completing an Apprenticeship in health and social care, Hannah became a Community Care Worker with Hertfordshire County Council

    Hannah knew she wanted to work in the care sector, but was unsure whether she wanted to go into teaching, nursing or care. After doing some work experience whilst at school, Hannah decided to pursue a care related career and went on to study a care related course at college. It was here that her tutor suggested she went to the council’s Apprenticeship programme open day.

    During the open day, Hannah realised she liked the idea of a more practical programme and was successfully accepted on a health and social care Apprenticeship.

    For her first six months, Hannah was placed at the Stevenage Resource Centre, a day service for adults with a variety of needs. To help ease her in, Hannah had a mentor in the service, as well as access to Paul Rainbow, the learning and development officer in charge of Apprenticeships at the council.

    For her second placement, Hannah worked in a residential home, experiencing shift work for the first time. For her final six-month placement, Hannah chose another day service, since she felt a real affinity for this kind of environment.

    Once her 18-month programme was complete, Hannah continued to work at the resource centre as an agency worker, waiting for a permanent position to open up. In October 2007, this chance arose; she successfully completed the interview process and was offered the job of day service support worker.

    More recently, Hannah has been enjoying helping the newer apprentices, offering them support and guidance on their coursework. Hannah’s long-term goal is to be a social worker, and she is taking her first step towards this dream through her new role as a community care worker within the council.

    Commenting on her Apprenticeship, Hannah said: “It’s such a great programme, a real door-opener. Its set me up for following my career goal, and I would never have got there otherwise.”

    Hannah works as a part-time home trainer/administrative assistant in adult social care, and is quickly working her way up the career ladder.

    24-year old Hannah Young left school at the age of 16. She initially went into further education but after six weeks made the decision to seek employment, preferably in a healthcare environment. Hannah’s personal experience of caring for her grandmother who had Parkinson’s disease had given her a valuable insight into care.

    Hannah approached one of Barchester Healthcare’s homes, Winchester House, and started working at the home in a domestic cleaning position.

    Winchester House provides 24-hour nursing and residential care alongside expert care for people with dementia. It also supports younger people with physical disabilities. Over the next three years, Hannah became familiar with the workings of the care home and enjoyed the opportunity of meeting people with various care needs and from different backgrounds.

    Hannah went on to secure a receptionist position at Winchester House and started a customer service Apprenticeship. Hannah then progressed even further within Barchester, successfully completing a Business and Administration Apprenticeship and being promoted to administrative assistant.

    Now aged 24, in her current role of part-time home trainer/administrative assistant, Hannah works three days a week, due to family commitments. She has taken advantage of the flexible working opportunities that Barchester Healthcare provides.

    In her home trainer role, Hannah is responsible for mentoring new starters. One day a week, she confidently delivers training sessions, including fire and moving and handling. She has also been assigned to ensure that the team is competent in the latest healthcare legislation.

    Over two days a week, Hannah also offers administrative support to both the management and regional management teams. Managing two roles can be somewhat challenging at times, but Hannah says that the continuous support and mentoring at Barchester Healthcare really helps.

    “The Apprenticeship scheme allows you to apply your positive and caring attitude in a hands-on working environment. It’s not all about qualifications, more about gaining skills and experience in the workplace.”

    Since becoming an apprentice in administration, Hayley has found a rewarding career in the social care sector.

    Hayley Farr, 24, was 18 when she first started on her Apprenticeship journey. Since then she’s won an award, has a permanent position and couldn’t speak more highly about the benefits Apprenticeships can offer young people.

    But Hayley never really imagined her career panning out like this. Aged 18, Hayley had already completed two years at college. Despite doing well – obtaining a GNVQ in Intermediate Business Studies, and re-taking her GCSE Maths and English – Hayley was starting to get bored of studying.

    At her local careers office, Hayley heard about Apprenticeships and was interested in the prospect of a combined work and study programme.

    Originally wanting to work in finance, Hayley decided to accept an Apprenticeship placement at C&S, a care services company, and embarked on a new career path.

    Hayley worked full time during the week at C&S and studied in her own time, attending college one evening a week. An assessor would come to observe Hayley in the workplace as she worked towards a level 2 qualification in Customer Services. After two years, Hayley had successfully completed her initial Apprenticeship and was invited to stay on permanently.

    Within six months, she had begun an Advanced Apprenticeship, starting her level 3 qualification. By this stage, Hayley had moved into a referrals administration role in the company, acting as the first point of enquiry for those wishing to procure the company’s services. As she completed her Advanced Apprenticeship she gained a promotion and was appointed as referrals co-ordinator, and now heads up the team.

    In the current climate, Hayley’s sure that her choice to work, study and earn means that she now has a job whilst others her age are out of work and hugely in debt.

    Far from becoming bored of further study, Hayley’s now developed a love of learning and is keen to start working towards a level 4 qualification, and can’t imagine moving out of the care sector.

    Hayley’s hard work was rewarded in 2009 when she was nominated for the Skills for Care and Learning and Skills Council’s ‘Made to Measure’ awards (West Midlands). Being recognised as a ‘Worker who has made a difference in the workplace’ was a huge achievement in itself. But more success was to come Hayley’s way; in 2010 she was awarded West Midlands Advanced Apprentice of the Year in the National Apprenticeship Service awards.

    Hayley said: “When I look back at what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved, I don’t know why more people don’t take up Apprenticeships.”

    Mervyn works as a Head Chef, at the same care home he first started his Apprenticeship with

    Mervyn moved to London from India in 2002 at the age of 21, arriving with no formal qualifications and needing to find work. Without any clear idea of what he wanted to do, Mervyn joined Barchester Healthcare as a kitchen assistant at the Queens Court care home in Wimbledon.

    Recognising that Mervyn was a hard worker with great potential, the care home offered Mervyn the chance to begin an Apprenticeship. Shortly into his Apprenticeship, Mervyn realised that working in care was his calling, and he never looked back.

    During Mervyn’s Apprenticeship, he attended the chef’s academy for workshops a few days a week, and carried out his assessments back at the care home. At the same time, Mervyn was supported by the Barchester training team in gaining his foundation qualifications in Maths and English.

    After one year, Mervyn was taken on as a permanent member of staff and went on to complete the Barchester five-star dining course and begin a City & Guilds multi-skill hospitality award.

    This was his first ‘front of house’ role, requiring Mervyn to communicate with residents and guests. Looking back, Mervyn sees this contact as a vital aspect of being a good chef, in that it allows him to offer residents a true five-star dining experience, based on understanding their personal needs and wants.

    When Queens Court care home was selected to pioneer a new catering menu, Mervyn was promoted to the position of head chef and head of hospitality. He was given the responsibility to design menus based on fresh and locally sourced foods which would meet the resident’s personal requirements.

    Since then, Mervyn has attained his City & Guilds Professional Cookery award, a professional cookery Apprenticeship and a leadership Apprenticeship.

    He has also won the Barchester Chef of the Year award and the Barchester Apprentice of the Year award.

    Throughout his career at Barchester, Mervyn has kept in touch with the other apprentices who started on the same programme. Out of the original group of nine apprentices, five are still in the organisation, and several, like Mervyn, have made it to head chef at their care home.

    Mervyn said: “It’s been a life-changing experience – a real opportunity to create a great career and learn something different.”

    While Danielle was in her final year at high school, she was sure that she wanted to work with older people, having been inspired by the care that her grandmother was giving to her 95-year old great-grandfather and the work her sister was doing on a dementia unit.

    Danielle was just as sure that she didn’t want to go into further education, the prospect of two further years of study with limited practical application of her learning did not appeal. When her school social worker told her about Apprenticeships, Danielle realised that the combination of on the job learning and study would be perfect for her.

    After visiting her local job centre and enquiring about specific Apprenticeship opportunities, Danielle attended interviews and was offered a placement at Manor House, a residential home for older people.

    From her very first day, Danielle was given real work to do and she quickly adapted to her new role, learning new skills including the management of residents’ personal care, showering and bathing, feeding and carrying out activities with residents.

    One of Danielle’s key challenges was learning how to speak to residents. With little experience of older people, she felt shy and unsure initially, but soon learned from her mentors, and from the residents themselves!

    Working four days a week at the home, Danielle attended college on Tuesdays to study for a level 2 qualification in health and social care. The new experiences she had encountered at Manor House were invaluable, bringing practical knowledge to the theory she was learning on the course.

    Just under one year after starting her Apprenticeship, Danielle was delighted to be offered a permanent full-time position at Manor House, and is rightly proud of her new title of ‘health and social care assistant’.

    Danielle said: “If I had just done my qualification at college, I wouldn’t have been able to do the work as well as I do it now – it was so much better for me to learn on the job.”

    She’s now preparing for further study and is determined to continue and progress in this field. She’s proud of her achievements, and that she has such a satisfying job.

    After completing an Apprenticeship in health and social care, Sam works as a healthcare assistant, and has ambitions to now complete a nursing course.

    Sam’s career story started when her and her mum returned to the UK, after living and studying in Spain for over 10 years. Sam’s mum took a job in a care home, and although Sam had no previous experience in the sector, she knew she had the right attitude and values to also work in social care.

    After looking round one of the care homes, Sam felt a great empathy with the residents, most of whom were receiving stroke rehabilitation care. Sam decided that a career in nursing would be a great option for her.

    With only Spanish recognised qualifications, Sam received a lot of support from the care home and from a training provider in completing her GCSE English and Maths. Sam studied for these qualifications whilst working as a full time healthcare assistant in the home, before starting her Apprenticeship in health and social care.

    Having not studied for a while, she was unsure about how well she would do, and was not initially very confident about her abilities. However, she slowly gained confidence when she realised that her work was meeting the required standard time after time and that her managers and assessors were more than happy with her progress.

    Sam found that the academic aspect of her Apprenticeship helped a great deal with her job; the case studies that she was required to document helped her to challenge and improve working practices in her workplace.

    Sam was delighted to have completed her Apprenticeship and is now being supported by the care home in the completion of her nursing application.

    Sam soon realised that she was achieving something significant, and just how much she has grown in confidence in a short space of time. She believes her Apprenticeship was a great foundation for her nursing training and is really looking forward to applying her new-found confidence during the next phase of learning.