Tags: Nursing, Health & Social Care, health-and-social-care...

By Chris Pritchard

In part 2 of this series, we took a close look at some of the opportunities to progress in the healthcare sector. In my 3rd and final part of this series, I continue to guide you through the various pathways in which you can develop their career! 

Social worker

From 2003, professional training for social workers in England changed to an honours degree in social work. The degree is usually a 3 year, fulltime, course which involves course

work and a minimum of 200 days spent in work place settings. Some Universities may offer this on a part time basis or if you already have a degree in another subject, a shorter postgraduate course may be available.

Another option is to consider a flexible or modular study option, such as that offered by the Open University or if you are in existing relevant employment you may be able to apply for an employment based degree route. This usually takes 4 years and you need the support of your employer as students are required to be given weekly study leave by their employers.

A high proportion of social workers come to the job as a second or third career.

Admission criteria varies, but your previous experience will be valued and may be considered in place of formal academic qualifications. Contact your University Admissions

team for clarification. Alternatively you can do an Access to Higher Education Certificate. This is a recognised route for mature students into higher education. Contact your local further education provider for more information.

Once qualified you will need to register with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC), which is responsible for regulating the workforce. As a qualified social worker you will then have the opportunity to specialise and continue with further training under a post-qualifying framework.

Skills you will need:

  • Excellent communication and listening skills

  • The ability to build working relationships with families, groups and professionals

  • Tact and understanding

  • The ability to remain calm in stressful situations

  • Problem solving and report writing skills

  • The ability to make decisions and use your professional judgement

  • Administration and organisational skills

  • IT skills


Although care support work is not a way of fast-tracking into nurse training, it does give candidates an insight into nursing and useful experience when applying for training courses.

You could start working as a healthcare assistant or in a medical or health support role before working your way up to a level where you can apply for a degree course. Some applicants may prefer to take the route of simply going straight to a University Course to study as a nurse. The NHS tries to encourage applicants of all ages and backgrounds, by offering bursaries and paying tuition fees. You may be surprised to find that you're eligible, so make a point of checking this point out.

If you've never worked in a healthcare environment before, it is always a good idea to try to gain some level of work experience. Work experience can also include working in a voluntary capacity. This will not only provide you with an insight and experience into certain aspects of nursing, but also go a long way in showing that you are committed to a career change and progression in nursing.

There are also many different pre-registration programmes to choose from to suit your needs. If you are only able to study part-time, there are many university courses available that will take around five or six years to complete part-time. This career route is available for staff working within the NHS, most commonly those who have gained an NVQ Level 3 working as associate practitioners or assistants.

If you have been qualified in the past with a health-related degree, or are returning to a career in healthcare, there are also opportunities to undertake an Accelerated Programme for around 2 years. However, these can be restricted to certain universities, so it is best to check out UCAS for more details to see if this route will suit you.

Skills you will need:

  • Excellent organisational and time management skills

  • Good practical skills

  • The ability to inspire confidence and trust in people

  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

  • Good teamwork skills and the ability to work on your own initiative

  • Excellent listening and communication skills

About the author

Chris Pritchard is the Associate Director for Search Medical, Health and Social Care. Covering offices in the North West England, Chris manages six individual teams covering temporary and permanent recruitment for nursing and social care roles, both in the private and public sectors as framework suppliers of Social Workers to Local Authorities and Nursing to NHS Trusts. He has been with Search for almost seven years, and working in recruitment for twelve years. He is passionate about helping clients in the sector attract a diverse workforce into the health and social care industry from entry level roles up to qualified specialists.

Looking for a job in Health and Social Care? We can help!

Whether you’re a qualified nurse, healthcare professional or social worker looking for your next opportunity, our expert team of recruitment consultants are looking for quality candidates to fill health and social care roles across the UK. For more information you can contact Chris Pritchard on [email protected]. To see our most recent vacancies, click the button below: