Social Care

If you are passionate about empowering people and are looking for a career that can be challenging but also rewarding, then this sector is well worth exploring. The sector helps two million UK users access support through 30,000 provider organisations, and there are a wide range of roles which aren’t just limited to that of a social worker. There are I.48 million people who work in social care in a range of settings – including the community, hospitals, hostels and shelters, health centres, care homes, education and advice centres and clients homes.

Two main distinctions exist in the social care field, as the work splits between Adult and Child & Family social services.

Working with adults

Includes support for the elderly, people with mental health issues, learning and physical disabilities, alcohol and substance abuse problems, the homeless, and victims of domestic abuse.

Working with children, young people and families

Involves work in fostering, adoption and child protection, with young offenders, with child protection issues, and with youngsters who are unemployed, homeless, or who have learning and physical disabilities.

There is increasing overlap between social care and healthcare roles. Similar values and qualities are needed in both. For work in the NHS, see NHS Careers.

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Examples of roles in this sector include:

Further information about these jobs, and others in this sector, can be found under Graduate Jobs in Social Care on the Prospects website. For an overview of the sector, see Prospect’s Social Care webpage. You can also find out about the range of roles within social care on the Skills for Care careers webpage.


Skills needed

Relevant experience is usually necessary (see below), however, the fundamental skills needed for most roles include:

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in a crisis
  • resilience
  • flexibility to adapt to new roles, tasks and situations
  • initiative
  • strong observation, analytical and listening skills
  • the capacity to absorb legal/procedural information
  • the ability to negotiate/mediate/interpret on behalf of clients

Getting experience

If you haven’t previously worked in a social care-related role, volunteering is an excellent way to explore the world of social work and social care, and to demonstrate your ability and enthusiasm when you’d like to take it further.

There are plenty of volunteering opportunities available at Oxford:

  • Oxford Hub is the focal point for students interested in social and charitable causes in Oxford. They give students advice on volunteering opportunities based on their areas of interest. You might also wish to sign up for ‘The Week’, their regular email of opportunities.

There are also opportunities directly with charities, such as:

In addition general volunteering can often demonstrate similar skills:

It is worth checking the vacancies on our website by logging in to CareerConnect and searching by the job function ‘Health and Social Care’. Also come to our Careers Fairs as local organisations which offer part-time and full-time care work sometimes attend.

For more on work experience for a career in social work see the TargetJobs webpage.

If you do arrange work experience, there is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Given the wide range of roles in social care, the entry requirements vary considerably, and further qualifications may be necessary for some roles (eg. counsellor, play therapist and social worker), whilst for other jobs building up relevant experience is more important than further study (eg. advice worker, community development worker, community education officer). Further information about entry points across the sector can be found at Graduate Jobs in Social Care on the Prospects website.

Social work

To enter the field of Social Work the qualifications you have need to be accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council, HCPC  - you can search for approved courses on the HCPC website.

For all courses relevant experience is vital (see ’Getting Experience’ below).

Bursaries are available to train as a social worker and these are administered by the NHS Business Services Authority. If you have any queries about bursaries or student funding - for instance, if you wish to know whether you will be entitled to a bursary, or how to apply for one - then you should visit their website or call them on 0300 330 1342.

A small number of these courses are for those currently in employment and training to be a social worker. Bursaries are not available for these courses.

Graduate Schemes

Frontline offer a two year programme for graduates wishing to become children’s social workers. Keep an eye on their website - where you can sign up for updates - for application details and deadlines. The two year programme includes 12 months intensive on-the-job training and education, followed by a second year working as a newly qualified social worker. Participants will be paid during the programme and will complete a master's degree over the two years. Check out their career events page where you can find out more about their programme. They also offer graduate 6 month internships with their recruitment team  - these are usually advertised around January time. Frontline often attend the annual Oxford University Careers Fair in October.

Think Ahead is a fast track two year programme for graduates to become mental health social workers. Participants will focus on adult mental health, will qualify as social workers in their first year, and finish the programme after two years with a master’s degree in social work. Look out for them at our annual Oxford University Careers Fair which is held in October.

Step Up to Social Work is a 14 month tailored training programme designed for graduates or career changers which enables trainees to work towards a qualification (Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work) to practise as a social worker whilst gaining intensive hands-on experience. Trainees will have their course fees paid for and bursaries are available as well. The programme usually starts in January, with applications made by early April of the previous year.


  • Becoming a Social Worker – Global Narratives, Viviene E. Cree
  • Starting Social Work – Reflections of a Newly Qualified Social Worker, Rebecca Joy Novell

Sector vacancies and information

Regulators, associations and institutions

General vacancies

Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and Insight events and many are being recognized for their approach to being inclusive employers. To find out the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in, explore their equality, diversity and inclusion policy. Search their website to see if they have any specific staff networks, look out for external accreditation such as whether they are a Disability Confident employer, a Stonewall Diversity Champion or part of the Mindful Employer charter promoting mental health at work. Check to see if they are partnering with organisations such as Rare Recruitment, SEO London, MyPlus Students' Club (disability), EmployAbility (disability and neurodifference) and there are many more that are working for specific communities. A key place to look is to see what they do to celebrate diversity on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability,  gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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