Professional Health And Social Care Qualifications Explained: All You Need To Know About Studying For A Career In The Industry
A career in the health and social care sector is hugely rewarding as you help improve the lives of others. To succeed, you’ll need good interpersonal skills, meticulous attention to detail and be ability to remain calm in high-pressure situations.
There are many routes into the sector and a range of jobs available. Below, we outline key qualifications needed for different roles in this fast-paced industry.
There are many routes into social work, but you will need to be educated to the undergraduate level as a minimum and be registered with one of the four regulating bodies to practice in the UK:
- Social Work England
- Social Care Wales
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council
- Scottish Social Services Council
To be accepted on an undergraduate programme, you might need to demonstrate previous work experience in a care setting. You’ll also need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before enrolment to assess your suitability for certain roles which include working with children or adults.
If your undergraduate degree was in an unrelated subject, you’ll need to take a Master’s in Social Work (MSW).
The need for work experience increases when applying at the postgraduate level. To boost your chances of success, try to gain a few work experience placements on both a paid and voluntary basis. During the application process, you’ll also need to demonstrate industry knowledge.
If you’re already working in another industry there are fast-track options available.
Step Up to Social Work is a government initiative covering everything that trainee social workers need to know in 14 months. Typically, you’ll need a 2:1 university degree and at least six months of experience working with children and adults.
To work as a paramedic, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). To be eligible you’ll need to complete an HCPC-approved science qualification.
The typical route to becoming a paramedic is completing a university paramedic science course at BSc Honours degree level. If you’re already working in healthcare, you can take an MSc pre-registration course to become a paramedic. Alternatively, you can apply for a trainee position with an ambulance trust and study while working. Entry is very competitive, and you’ll need a full manual driving licence.
To become an occupational therapist, you must complete an HCPC-approved pre-registration occupational therapy degree at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. If you’ve got a degree in a related subject, you can apply for a two-year accelerated postgraduate degree leading to either a postgraduate diploma in occupational therapy or an MSc in occupational therapy. Entry without a degree is possible if you start as an assistant and work your way up.
To work as a nurse, you’ll need a degree and must complete a pre-registration course to be eligible to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC).
Pre-registration degrees are offered in four branches depending on where you plan to specialise:
- Children (paediatric)
- Learning disability
- Mental health
If you’re looking for a more flexible route to becoming a nurse, you may consider a degree apprenticeship which involves working for an NHS employer as a nursing degree apprentice and some part-time study at university. Degree apprenticeships usually take four years to complete, and the cost will be covered by your employer.
To become a doctor, you must complete a medicine degree recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC), which usually takes up to six years to complete.
If you already have an undergraduate degree in a subject other than medicine, you can apply for a four-year accelerated Graduate Entry Programme (GEP).
Getting your foot into the door can be challenging. Most medical schools will expect you to take one of the following tests as part of your application: University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT).
When you graduate, you’ll need to complete a two-year foundation programme where you will start to care for patients under supervision. The final step is specialist training which can take anything from three years to eight years to complete depending on your career aspirations.