With an estimated workforce of 1.48 million and an increasing number of graduate career opportunities, a job in the social care sector is challenging and highly rewarding

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 of people such as: adults; children; the elderly; 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 while in larger organisations there are management and administration roles in HR, finance, IT and marketing.

There is also increasing cross-over between social care and healthcare roles so you could, for example, work as a nurse in a social care setting such as a care home for the elderly.

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 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, Barnardo‚Äôs, British Red Cross, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, Save the Children, Sue Ryder, YMCA;
  • residential and non-residential care organisations;
  • the Prison Service and probation services;
  • private or independent organisations;
  • schools, colleges and universities.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the social care sector can expect:

  • to find employment opportunities throughout the UK, with the highest concentration of jobs in large towns and cities;
  • opportunities to work in a variety of settings including care homes, clients' homes, community centres, hostels, probation offices, homeless shelters, schools, Jobcentres, council or charity offices etc.;
  • to work unsociable hours, such as evenings and weekends, particularly in residential care and community work;
  • to work on temporary or fixed-term contracts depending on your role - many jobs are subject to the renewal of funding;
  • to deal with stressful or emotionally difficult situations, helping clients who are upset or angry. This could particularly be the case in child protection, counselling and social worker roles;
  • to work in a multi-disciplinary team, perhaps alongside health workers;
  • to spend a substantial amount of time in the office, particularly in roles such as care manager, counsellor, psychotherapist and social worker;
  • to frequently work one-to-one or with groups of clients;
  • to travel locally between appointments or work settings.

What are the key issues in the social care sector?

A lack of knowledge about the adult social care sector among graduates is a real issue for the industry and one that Skills for Care, the sector skills council, is trying to address with its Graduate Management Training Scheme. The scheme aims to raise awareness of adult social care roles and attract more graduates into this particular area of work. For more information on the scheme see getting a graduate job in social care.

People who need care and support have increasingly complex needs that require a team of professionals to support them and due to an aging population there is an increasing demand for social care services and social care jobs. A 2015 Size and Structure Skills for Care report estimates that there will be an additional 275,000 adult social care jobs by 2025.

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).

When it comes to social work there has been a drop in the number of graduates entering training. This could be down to the bad reputation that the profession has received in the media in recent years, and the government's threat to scrap social work bursaries. Getting into social work as a newly qualified social worker (NQSW) has never been easy. Traditionally graduates have found it hard to secure work immediately after university, with some having to initially take non-social work positions, in fostering services and family support roles. However, due to the industry's increasing workload - the number of children in care in England is at its highest in 30 years - social workers are in demand and employers are now keen to attract graduates.

Breaking into social work could be made easier in the future thanks to Skills for Care supporting a bid to be submitted to the Department for Education for the creation of a new degree apprenticeship for social workers.

Another development to take into account is the increased integration of social care and healthcare roles. This is creating new jobs and joined up working across both sectors. A caring attitude is no longer enough to secure a job and graduates with strong management skills will be particularly well positioned to take advantage of new opportunities.