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Career Options in Health & Social Care: School Leaver

What is the industry about?

Working in the health and social care industry doesn’t mean you’ll spend thousands of years training to be a specialist doctor or surgeon. At the same time, it’s not as straightforward as putting a few plasters on your younger sister’s knee after a trip in the park. There are loads of jobs you can do – from nursing to dentist, physiotherapist to speech and language therapist, sexual health adviser to surgeon.

You should be caring (duh!) and have a genuine desire to help others. Don’t just become a doctor because of the money! As Jessie J says, ‘It’s not about the money, money, money’... but less pop music and more health and social care advice. So, we mentioned that you should be caring and you really need to have good communication and teamwork skills. As you can imagine, performing critical surgery with several others in the room will require some good, clear chat between the surgeons. We don’t want any Holby City style slip ups, do we?

The health and social care industry is vast, with so many specialist sectors, meaning that your career path options are vast. However, be warned, the working hours are often long and it’s more than likely you will be on shift rotation. The work can also be stressful and emotionally draining, but the feeling of reward and achievement can be high.

What opportunities are available to me?

- Intermediate Apprenticeship

- Advanced Apprenticeship

- Higher Apprenticeship

- Further and higher education

Intermediate and Advanced Apprenticeships are available for a number of roles in the health and social care industry. If you see yourself as a healthcare assistant or a support worker for the disabled, Intermediate Apprenticeships are available for these roles, where you learn how to perform well in a job role and also get paid.

Advanced Apprenticeships can be undertaken for roles such as social services officer and pharmacy technician if you fancy providing safe and correct medicines to patients. Additionally, Higher Level Apprenticeships, which can be the equivalent of a foundation degree, are available for roles such as assistant practitioner, who works alongside other health professionals such as nurses, doctors, therapists and radiographers. Assistant practitioners can also either specialise in a certain role or assist a variety of professions, creating a hybrid role.

However, if you want to be a dentist, doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, speech and language therapist or midwife, you will need to go on to study at further and higher education. Unlike other industries such as advertising, marketing and PR, the ability to switch roles and take on extra responsibilities is less fluid as there is less room to learn skills on the job. Think about it, you wouldn’t want your teeth removed by a dentist who didn’t have a degree in dentistry!

Setting the school leaver record straight

You may have heard that you can’t get into the health and social care industry without going to university, but we can confirm that this information is FALSE! There are plenty of opportunities out there to school leavers but it may be the case that your school or parents don’t know much about the Apprenticeships available. But as mentioned, there are loads of roles you can do as an Apprentice if you decide that more education isn’t the route for you. From family support worker to mental health support or outreach worker, there’s loads of specialist roles you can take on.

Formal education: should I stay or should I go?

Though there are loads of Apprenticeships you can undertake, if you want to be a health and social care big dog, you’re going to need to go to sixth form/college and university to study dentistry, medicine, nursing and the like. It may be worth studying the science subjects at A level in order to get a good knowledge of human biology and similar subjects. Additionally, be warned that getting into medical school can be a long process, with few getting in the first time they apply. Therefore, you have to be really committed to a career in health and social care, as getting there may take a while! 

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