A career in social care is perfectly suited to those who want to help others in their community. Contrary to popular belief, your job is not all about looking after elderly or infirm people in care homes, there are many other avenues you could take as you develop your career.
Healthcare and social care – What’s the difference?
This is an extremely broad career field. There are many opportunities for people from every conceivable academic and social background. Healthcare careers usually require a mixture of on-the-job medical training and further study, whilst social care careers begin with on-the-job training with the possibility of working towards further professional qualifications as your career progresses.
Whilst most people have to call upon the skills of healthcare professionals at some point in their lives, many never have cause to interact directly with social care workers even though their work makes a huge difference to society as a whole.
Social care professional’s qualities
The key word to consider when deciding on this career path is ‘care’. The work at times is not easy and can be emotionally and physically demanding. If you don’t really care about making a difference to people’s lives, you’ll never gain true job satisfaction or thrive in a career in social care.
A very important skill that you’ll need to have in order to succeed in a career in social care is the ability to build relationships with those using the service and their relatives. It’s all about building trust and dependence and to do this you must be patient, friendly and extremely good at communicating with different types of people.
Not everyone is grateful for the work social care workers do, so as well as being compassionate and caring, you’ll also need to develop a very thick skin to deal with some of the more challenging members of society!
Career options in social care
The choice of possible career paths in social care can be a little overwhelming. There are a number of different environments in which you could work:
- residential care homes
- patients’ own homes
- homeless shelters
- young offender institutes
Where you work will largely depend upon the area you have chosen to specialise in and the type of people you’ll be working with, for example:
- the elderly
- people with disabilities
- people with mental health issues
- victims of domestic violence
Social workers deal with the complex problems of those with critical social needs. Their work involves assessing the individual requirements of service users and providing expert support and advice. As a social worker, you’d work closely with social care workers providing them with directions as to what specialist care the service user might require.
Social care workers
As a social care worker, you would be more actively involved in working with service users and providing a hands-on, personal care service. As a social care professional, you could choose to specialise in many different fields including:
- providing physical support to those with mobility issues
- working as a counsellor providing advice and support to those with mental health problems
- providing assistance to elderly and vulnerable people in their own homes
- working in a residential care home looking after the needs of residents
- working as an advisor to couples seeking to foster a child
There are other areas of social care that require support staff who do not work directly with service users. These roles include administrative staff and managers.
Whatever area of social care you decide to move into, you’ll be working with vulnerable people. It’s clearly vital that anyone entering this sector has a high degree of honesty and integrity so you’ll have to undergo a standard Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.
Working in social care is one of the most challenging career options you could choose, but it will also be extremely satisfying. There’s plenty of scope to develop your career whether you want to stay in a hands-on role working with people ‘in the field’, or move into management.
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