School of Health and Social Care


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The world is your oyster

You may feel that a healthcare degree will mean you can only work in a hospital, or that a social work qualification will only lead to jobs with local authorities. But health and social care jobs can be found in all sectors.

Your nursing qualification could lead to a role helping private sector employees return to work after a period of serious illness, or a degree in speech and language therapy could enable you to support someone with a head injury to learn to swallow again. Working in oral health as a hygienist or dental therapist can also take you outside of your dental practice – you could visit schools as part of preventative and advice programmes.

Social work staff hold roles with charities that help individuals from marginalised communities access essential services, while occupational therapy graduates can support injured service personnel during their physical rehabilitation. Clinical Psychologists are likely to work in hospitals, community settings, schools and prisons, as well as alongside Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners in delivering IAPT services in locations such as healthcare centres, or community venues likes libraries and leisure centres.

Further education such as a postgraduate degree or a Continuing Professional Development module can help you move into more specialised roles in your chosen career path.

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Public sector

For many health and social care graduates the most obvious careers paths involve joining an NHS Foundation Trust, or the social work department for a Local Authority.

However, the public sector covers a broad collection of large and small government bodies. This means that there are other employment opportunities for graduates that let you use your skills and experience in other ways.

Some public sector roles you would be suitable for include:

  • Service Reviewer – Public services need strong oversight to ensure that members of the public receive appropriate treatment or level of care. As a service reviewer you will help hold care providers to the high standard set by legislation. You could work as a Mental Health Act Reviewer for the Care Quality Commission, where your expertise in mental health care will help support inspectors visiting mental health facilities. You will need an in-depth knowledge of the service you are working in, as well as analysis skills and experience in using databases. You may find that completing some postgraduate modules helps develop these skills if you wish to move into this area of work.
  • Workforce Development Manager – Roles like this can be found in larger government bodies such as the Department of Health and Social Care. The needs of the public are always changing, and your role will involve working with education providers to ensure that healthcare and social work staff are receiving training appropriate for their future roles. Along with knowledge of health or social care you will also need some experience in education or workforce development, as well as project management and report writing skills. A Masters degree or other postgraduate qualification could be particularly helpful for these types of roles.
  • Placement Co-ordinator – Universities and colleges that provide healthcare and social care courses manage professional placements for their students. As a Placement Co-ordinator you will help identify and recruit organisations that can offer placement spaces, ensure that they are set up to provide a suitable training experience, and work with students to resolve any problems and issues they experience while in placement.
  • Healthcare roles in the Ministry of Defence – The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is one of the largest public sector employees in the UK. Due to the nature of their work they advertise many civilian healthcare roles through the NHS, but many are based in or near military facilities such as naval bases or army barracks. Healthcare jobs with the MoD include dental hygienists, nurse managers, and social workers with a focus on rehabilitation.

Private sector

You may think that the private sector has little to offer someone who wants to work in healthcare or in a social work setting.

But roles that require experience in areas of healthcare and social work can be found in plenty of companies and organisations outside of the public sector. These roles use the same skills you would need for professional practice but put them to use in different ways or to give different results.

Some of the roles you will find that align with your experience are:

  • Occupational health – You can find a range of occupational health roles in large companies and human resources consultancy organisations. You will help employees return to work after a period of sick leave, ensure that new staff with health conditions are given appropriate support, and advise line managers on how best to support their staff. You will need to be a Registered Nurse and some roles may also need an additional qualification in occupational health.
  • Specialist school support – In the UK some private schools are specialise in educating children with disabilities or conditions such as autism. These schools often have therapy departments in which speech and language therapists or occupational therapists carry out one-on-one therapy sessions with students or provide larger teaching sessions for a whole class. You will also manage case notes for individual students, provide feedback on progress, and work as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure students are getting the support they need to thrive. Alternatively, social work graduates who hold Qualified Teacher Status can also train to take up a SENCO role, ensuring that children with Special Educational Needs receive tailored support in line with their diagnosis.
  • Training provider – Many companies in industries such as construction and private care homes are required to provide additional training for staff. This can include first aid, moving and handling people, and safeguarding vulnerable adults. These training sessions require specialist knowledge and are often provided by private training provider companies. These roles can be very interesting as you will meet new people every day and put your healthcare or social care experience to different uses. You may need an additional teaching qualification for these roles and may have to travel to different sites to deliver training sessions.

Third sector

The “third sector” is a term used to describe organisations that fall outside the scope of the public and private sectors. It includes charities, community interest companies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and social enterprises and co-operatives.

Third sector roles are often advertised through specific online platforms that focus on charity jobs. You may find that the experience and skills required, even for very similar-sounding roles, varies significantly. Some of the jobs you will find in the Third Sector include:

  • Hospice and End of Life Care – Hospitals aren’t always the best place for end of life care. Around the country hospices can offer terminally ill patients and their families a comfortable and supportive environment. Alternatively, some charities offer support that allows people to remain at home during their final weeks, such as those focused on people with cancer. These roles can be a great alternative for nursing graduates. Palliative care undoubtedly can be emotionally challenging, but it can also be very rewarding to be a key part in facilitating a positive end of life experience.
  • Client Engagement Officer – Charities that focus on specific groups of clients, such as those who are homeless or people with disabilities, often look for Client Engagement roles to ensure that they are supporting people effectively. You will work with clients to understand their needs and help develop programmes that will support them effectively. You’ll also write case studies to show impact and help support future marketing or fundraising activities. This role requires candidates who are used to working with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, such as social work graduates.
  • Link Worker – These roles can be found in both public and third sector roles. The most common is a Social Prescribing Link Worker. These roles will often work with primary care providers such as GP surgeries to help patients access local support services and community groups. You don’t need a specific medical background but an understanding of how the NHS or support services work is very helpful. The most important skills needed are communication, empathy, and taking a non-judgemental approach.

Specialist roles and Continuing Professional Development

The successful completion of Continuing Professional Development modules can lead to you moving into more specialist roles where you work with patients with specific health concerns.

You could become a diabetes nurse, helping patients monitor and manage their conditions to help prevent further health issues in the future. Or you might focus on dementia and learn how to support patients with a range of symptoms and help their families navigate the process of diagnosis and symptom management.

Overseas roles and professional qualification recognition

If you are an international student or if you’re thinking of emigrating in the future, then you may find that your healthcare or social care qualification enables you to take up paid employment in another country without further education.

Some professional bodies in the UK have reciprocal agreements in place with their counterparts abroad. These agreements mean that both countries recognise that the teaching and skills learned are of a similar professional level and quality, and that graduates from one country can work in the other country without further study.

These agreements can change so you need to review any information very carefully and ensure you are up to date on the latest guidelines and requirements. You can often find the most up to date information on the website for the professional registration body for the country you are moving to. You can also email these bodies for more information if you have specific queries.

Alternatively, you may find that your undergraduate degree doesn’t get you quite the same role in another country, but a postgraduate course will make you more suitable. You may also need to pass some exams to demonstrate your language fluency and numeracy skills before you can register as a professional in your new country.

If you are a registered professional in the UK and plan to return after working abroad then you should also check what steps you will need to take in order to retain your UK registration.

Our graduates

Ijeoma Okolo, photographed in black and white, wearing a lace-sleeved top
Class of 2020: Ijeoma Okolo

Coronavirus has turned lives upside down around the world but it has also given Ijeoma Okolo, who graduated with an MSc Adult Nursing, an opportunity to take up a paid placement working with COVID patients.

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