With more people needing help from care or support services, social care is one of the UK's fastest growing sectors. Find out about roles in this highly rewarding and personally satisfying career

What areas of social care can I work in?

Employment opportunities in the social care sector can be grouped into:

  • advice and guidance;
  • child care and early years;
  • child protection;
  • community work and day care;
  • counselling;
  • fostering and adoption;
  • housing;
  • occupational therapy;
  • probation;
  • psychology;
  • residential care;
  • supporting independent living;
  • therapies (e.g. art, music, drama);
  • youth and community work.

You could choose to provide care for a specific group such as: adults; children; elderly people; families; or those with mental ill health; physical disabilities; learning disabilities; or alcohol or drug dependency.

Social workers are employed in a variety of the above areas and in larger organisations there are management roles in HR, finance, IT and marketing.

For examples of roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in social care.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Social care roles can be found with a wide range of employers. These include:

  • local authorities - e.g. social services;
  • the NHS - e.g. hospitals, mental health trusts, community based settings;
  • charity and voluntary organisations - such as Age Concern, Barnado's, British Red Cross, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, Save the Children, Sue Ryder, YMCA;
  • residential and non-residential care organisations;
  • private or independent organisations;
  • schools, colleges and universities.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the social care sector can expect:

  • opportunities to work in a wide variety of settings;
  • to work unsociable hours, such as evenings and weekends, particularly in residential care and community work;
  • to deal with stressful or emotionally difficult situations, helping clients who are upset or angry;
  • to work in a multi-disciplinary team, perhaps alongside health workers;
  • to work one-to-one or with groups of clients.

What are the key issues in the social care sector?

With an ageing population there is an increasing need for care and support services for older people.

Government initiatives have increased the provision of community services to enable more people to live independently in their own homes. This means there has been an increase in community care and support roles working in people's homes, which includes helping clients to use assistive technology (AT).

Getting into social work as a newly qualified social worker (NQSW) has been difficult in recent years. Graduates have found it hard to secure work immediately after university, with some having to initially take non-social work positions, such as fostering services and family support roles or voluntary work in the charity sector. However the signs are that this is improving with more employers now recruiting NQSWs.

The assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) is a framework designed to give NQSWs in the public, private and voluntary sectors regular support in their first year of work. The scheme enables NQSWs to develop their knowledge, skills and professional confidence. It was revised in 2015 following the government consultation on knowledge and skills for social workers, with adult services now separated from those working in children and family settings.