Starting your career

It doesn't matter about your background or how old you are, if you want to help people there's a social care job for you. 

You don’t necessarily need any qualifications or previous work experience to get a job in social care. What’s really important is your values and attitude towards working with people who need care and support. 

If you’re new to social care, there are lots of routeways into the sector. Download our poster and our guide to find out more.

Starting your career in social care

Follow Vicky, Julian, Priya and Matt on their social care journeys, from leaving school to progressing their careers.

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There are lots of ways you can start work in social care, including doing an apprenticeship or traineeship, finding a job through your local Jobcentre Plus, or applying for roles online. 

  • Read our guide about starting work in adult social care, including opportunities to train and do work experience. 
Become an apprentice

If you’re new to social care, an apprenticeship is a great way to gain work experience, achieve a qualification and earn a wage. Apprenticeships usually last between 12 and 24 months and are mainly work based - so you can develop your skills on the job. 

They're a great way into the sector for people of all ages and there are different levels depending on your skills and experience.

Read more about social care apprenticeships, including how to find one here

Do a traineeship

If you don't feel ready to do an apprenticeship, a traineeship might be a good option for you. They're for 16-24 year olds who aren't in employment, and will help you develop skills such as CV writing, English and maths skills and include a work placement. 

Search for local opportunities here.

Apply for an advertised job 

Jobs might be advertised on job websites such as Fish4Jobs, Indeed, Jooble or Guardian jobs.

Care organisations might also advertise vacancies on their website or on their social media accounts such as Facebook; you can find local care organisations on the CQC website or NHS Choices. Your local council might also have social care roles advertised. 

You could also keep an eye out in your local newspaper or on jobs boards in the community.

Join a care sector-routeway with your local Jobcentre Plus

The care sector-routeway is a six week programme run by your local Jobcentre Plus. It's for people who are unemployed and gives you the opportunity to gain a qualification, develop your core skills, do work experience and get a guaranteed job interview at the end. 

If you're unemployed and interested in a career in social care, speak to your local Jobcentre Plus to find out more. 

Volunteer or do work experience

If you're new to social care and want to find out if it's the right career for you, it might be useful to do some work experience or volunteering.

Your school, college or jobcentre might be able to help with this or you could contact organisations directly or look on to find local volunteering opportunities. 

In social care you'll be helping people to live more independently and have a better quality of life so it's really important you have the right values. 

Here are some of the values and behaviours you might need to work in social care. 

  • Treat people with dignity and respect.
  • Good at working with others.
  • Committed to quality care and improving lives.
  • Willing to learn and develop at work. 

Here are examples of how these values might look in your everyday work. 

  • You spend time listening to people to get to know them and their needs.
  • You respect people's right to make their own choices and decisions.
  • You're committed to working as part of a team.
  • You give people your full attention and help people when they need it most.

What values do I need to work in social care tells you a bit more about what type of person you need to be, and there are short activities to help you think about whether social care is right for you.

You could also do A Question of Care online quiz that shows you what a career in care can really be like and asks you what you’d do in different situations. At the end you’ll get a personalised report which can help you decide whether social care is right for you. 


Some of the skills you need will be specific to the job you're applying for. However, everyone working in social care needs English, number, digital and employability skills, including problem solving and team work - together these are known as core skills. 

What core skills do I need to work in social care outlines some of the skills you need and has short activities to help you think about transferable core skills from your previous experiences. 

English skills, including the ability to:
  • read
  • write
  • speak
  • listen. 

They can be used to communicate with people, write a care plan and read and follow a risk assessment. 

Number skills, including the ability to:
  • do calculations
  • record numbers
  • understand measurements
  • use timetables and plan work. 

They can be used to record fluid intake, count medication, measure and record weight and calculate staff wages. 

Digital skills, including the ability to:
  • find and manage digital information
  • use digital technology with people
  • complete eLearning. 

They can be used to update digital handover notes, send emails, use remote appointment systems and use assistive technologies. 

Employability skills, including the ability to:
  • problem solve
  • work in a team
  • plan own learning and development
  • manage own health and wellbeing. 

They can be used to prioritise workloads, manage work/ home life balance, respond well to challenging behaviour and adapt to changing demands at work. 


You don’t necessarily need any qualifications to start working in social care; what’s really important is your values.

Most social care qualifications can be done once you start your role as they're specific to the job you’re doing and the skills you need to do it; these are known as vocational qualifications.

Before you start 

You don't necessarily need any qualifications to start in a role in social care. However there are some you might want to do to get a taster of what it's like to work in the sector. 

  • Level 1 Award in Preparing to work in the care sector
  • Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to work in the care sector
  • Level 3 Certificate on Preparing to work in the care sector.

You could find a training provider and pay for this yourself, or your local Jobcentre Plus or college might help. 

For some roles such as social worker or occupational therapist you'll need a degree to get a job. Or for some senior roles such as a manager or counsellor, you might need to have a relevant qualification. Read more about what qualifications you need for different roles on the Job roles pages

When you start 

When you start you should get a thorough induction which includes the Care Certificate. This is a set of standards that everyone needs to do their role. Your employer should also ensure you have mandatory training relevant to your role such as fire safety, moving and handling and first aid. 

Whilst you’re working 

The current qualification in health and social care are diplomas, which have replaced NVQs. Many workers will still hold NVQs which are valid for working in the sector. 

These qualifications range from level 2 to level 5 and are evidence based so need to be done whilst you're at work. 

You could also do smaller qualifications or training to help you develop specialist skills. This could be in things like:

  • dementia care
  • autism
  • communication skills
  • stroke 
  • end of life care
  • activity provision
  • team leading. 

You could speak to your employer about doing qualifications and training. You could also find short courses online, with a local charity or community group, or choose to pay for training yourself through an Advanced Learner Loan


Now you know what values, skills and qualifications you might need, have a look at what jobs are available in social care.

There are:

  • direct care roles such as a care worker, personal assistant or activities worker
  • other social care roles such as advocacy worker or housing support officer
  • management roles
  • regulated professional roles such as a social worker, registered nurse, counsellor or occupational therapist
  • support and ancillary roles such as chef, driver or administration.