How to become a care worker
Care worker jobs… did you know?
We live in an ageing society. People are living longer all the time – the Office for National Statistics think that one in three babies born this year will live to see their 100th birthday. As we get older, we will all need someone to care for us, and we can’t rely on robots to do it! Sometimes younger people might need the help of a care worker as well, for example those with certain disabilities.
As a care worker, you support elderly, disabled or vulnerable people with all aspects of their day to day living. This might include physical care (helping with washing, dressing, eating and drinking,) booking and going with them to appointments, helping with medications, and even helping them get to and take part in social activities.
You might work in a care home, support someone in their home, or work in the community by travelling around to see a number of different clients
As a care worker, your job is to help the people you work with live as independently as possible. It can be hugely rewarding work if you enjoy helping people.
Industry: Social care
Care worker job trends
How much money can you make as a care worker?
£12,500 – £25,000 (UK average)
Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £18,579 a year as a care worker in the UK.
Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary as a care worker will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.
When starting out, you can expect to earn £14,000 – £16,000, which will go up as you get more experienced. If you’re hourly, the average pay is £7.85 per hour.
What entry qualifications and training do you need for this job?
You might not need any special qualifications to be a care worker. It’s much more important to be the right sort of person for the role – warm, friendly, a good communicator, committed to equality for people with different needs, and the ability to juggle tasks and manage your workload effectively.
School, college and training
You’ll need good English skills and basic number skills to be a care worker, so GCSE English and Maths are important. You can take these as an adult, through a part time or evening course, if you didn’t get the qualifications while you were at school.
Some employers will want you to have a Diploma Level 2 or 3 (such as a BTEC or NVQ) in Health and Social Care, but sometimes your employer will put you through this qualification while you work.
Degrees and university
You do not need a degree to become a care worker! Sometimes care work appeals to people who have trained as, for example, teachers or nurses and then decided not to pursue those career paths. But a degree isn’t essential and won’t necessarily help you get into this field of work.
Lots of care workers get into the job through an apprenticeship – a scheme where you train while earning a small amount of money (currently £250 – £300 a week.) Apprenticeships usually last between a year and 18 months, and anyone aged 16 or over can apply. Sometimes you are guaranteed a job at the end, but even if you’re not, having done an apprenticeship makes you much more attractive to other employers.
Once you’ve got plenty of experience as a care worker, you might be able to move up into a management role. This could be managing a team of care workers, or managing a care home. If management doesn’t appeal to you (it’s not for everyone!) you could go into a related specialised role – advocacy work, rehabilitation work, working with people with dementia and working as a personal assistant are just some of the possibilities.
You can also take higher level qualifications, such as the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management for Adult Care, a foundation degree or a full degree. Some people start out in care work and later go on to become social workers – you’ll need to eventually do a social work degree if you want to do down this path. You might also decide to retrain as a nurse, occupational therapist or mental health worker – all of which will build on the skills you’ll develop as a care worker.
What experience do you need for care worker jobs?
It can help your application if you have previously done work experience related to caring for vulnerable people. Both professional and life experience are considered relevant to this role. For example, employers will consider it relevant life experience if you have been a carer or provided regular support to a member of your family.
If you do a college course in health and social care, they usually include a work placement as part of the course, which can help you gain experience.
Any work experience where you have demonstrated your healthcare skills can help your application. Visit the NHS Work Experience website to find healthcare work experience opportunities in your area.
Examples of relevant work experience include:
- Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
- Work placements in a company
- Work experience placements on a college or university course
Volunteering and extra-curricular activities
Volunteering is a very caring thing to do because you are choosing to give up your time to help other people. If you have volunteered to help vulnerable people like the homeless or elderly people, this can help your CV stand out to employers.
What skills do you need for care worker jobs?
Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for jobs like this one include:
Organisational skills – you’ll have a heavy workload and probably several different clients at least, so it’s important to stay organised to stay on top of everything.
Communication skills – you’ll need to be a good listener and be able to communicate with all different kinds of people, including vulnerable people and those with learning or communication difficulties.
Be a “people person” – care work is all about people. You’ll need to be smiley, upbeat, positive and friendly, and generally love being around people.
Motivation to help – people get into caring professions because they love helping others and making life easier for those in their care.
Ability to follow policies and procedures – there will be lots of policies and rules you’ll need to learn and be careful to follow. You must play by the rules in a caring profession!
Good writing skills – you’ll need to fill in care plans and paperwork, so a good grasp of English reading and writing is essential.
Sensitivity and understanding – dealing with vulnerable people means you need to be kind and sensitive, tactful and non-judgemental. You’ll also need to be careful about confidentiality – not revealing personal information about others except on a need-to-know basis.
Basic IT skills – you’ll need to use email and you might need to use a computer to fill in forms, maintain service user records and save important information.
Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.
What does a care worker do?
Being a care worker is all about making life easier for the people you work with. You’re there to help them live independently as much as they can.
Examples of what you could do every day as a care worker:
- Helping people to wash and dress
- Preparing meals or helping someone to prepare meals, and helping them eat and drink
- Reminding the person to take any regular medication, and helping as needed
- Light household tasks such as washing up, vacuuming, laundry or tidying up
- Making appointments (such as with a doctor, dentist or therapist) and helping the person get to them.
- Getting shopping or helping the person to do their shopping
- Going with the person to social or recreational events – for example to see friends, go on a trip, or attend a club or society meeting.
- Helping the person with paying bills and managing their money
- Keeping the person company and being a friendly face who cares about them as an individual.
Your first steps into care worker jobs
Care worker jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job:
- Trainee care worker
- Apprentice care worker