The Health and Social Care sector is undergoing radical and rapid change. Developments in frontline health and social care mean there's a demand for well-trained and multi-skilled people across a range of rewarding employment opportunities.
As well as the specific subject knowledge gained from studying for an OU degree, you'll develop many transferable and work-related skills that are highly valued by employers and which will increase your employability.
The OU Careers Advisory Service defines student employability as: ‘A set of capabilities and achievements that support students in developing their careers, raising their aspirations and enhancing their contribution to society’.
Whatever your motivations for study, your goals and career aspirations, you are entitled to supported personal development planning either as an intrinsic part of your programme of study or through signposted optional activities. You can view our full Student Employability Policy Statement on our website.
For Health and Social Care students the employability skills you will develop include the ability to:
These transferable skills are applicable to a wide range of graduate careers both within and outside the Health and Social Care sector.
To see specific learning outcomes related to the degrees in this area visit Study at the OU.
To check which skills valued by employers can be developed from studying a particular subject, look at the Employability Profiles on the UCAS website.
In the UK many graduates enter employment where a degree in any subject would be acceptable. In this instance what they offer the employer is evidence of the range of competencies which have been developed through their academic study, rather than the specific subject content of their degree. This page will focus on careers directly related to health and social care, however, if you want to explore all of the choices open to you, also refer to the Further Resources section.
Given the current economic climate and the increased competition for graduate positions, it is important to consider a range of occupational areas. Bear in mind that many careers require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
Health and social care is a vast service sector undergoing rapid change, with new government initiatives giving it a higher profile than ever. These developments mean there is likely to be a demand for well-trained, multi-skilled people. However, given the cutbacks in public sector funding, the NHS and the social care sector are being forced to face new challenges and to make enormous efficiency savings, which is likely to affect both patterns of working and staff recruitment. Many services are changing radically or will cease to exist; new partnerships and fresh allegiances are being formed, all of which will have an impact on those in the public sector. It is likely that the private and not-for-profit sectors will play an increasing role in delivering health services thus increasing the range of employers in the sector.
There are a range of careers within this sector at all levels of entry. Students can be employed in a variety of areas depending on their qualifications, skills and experience. The jobs below are examples of the type of opportunity that may be worth investigating if you are studying this subject.
Typical job titles will include social worker, social work assistant, nurse, health care assistant, paramedic, emergency care assistant, personal advisor, youth worker, youth offending officer, child minder, residential care worker, health care manager, health promotion officer and counsellor.
New career pathways are opening up in which employees are increasingly taking on new and demanding roles in environments that are continually changing. You can keep up to date with the latest developments in health policy and the NHS via the Health Service Journal. You can also access useful resources, see events and conferences and find out about the latest NHS jobs.
We advise you to research your career choices as thoroughly and as early as possible, particularly in relation to experience required, differences relating to where you live, or where the study choices you make may affect future opportunities.
Use the Prospects website to explore career options related to this subject. Click on your subject to see examples of job roles and get information for further research. Refer also to the health and social care sector information.
You can also view AGCAS Industry Insights for Health and Social Care under the AGCAS tab on our Publications page.
Caring Careers gives information on careers in social work, social care, early years and childcare, covering Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. There is also useful information on the local government jobs website. For additional careers information you might also find it useful to refer to the job profiles on the National Careers Service website, using key words such as 'Health', 'Social Care' and 'Charity' to search the database.
For information on careers in social care in Scotland visit the Social Services Careers pages on the Scottish Social Services Council website. For job opportunities in Scotland, go to the NHS Scotland Recruitment website.
If you live in Ireland look at the relevant information on career sectors and jobs with your degree on the Gradireland website; also the Social and Caring sector information on the Careers portal website. For information on jobs in health and social care, look at the Health Service Executive website. For information on jobs in the public sector, go to Public jobs.
In Northern Ireland jobs in health and social care can be found on the HSC Recruit website.
To find out about ways of gaining experience through volunteering see our voluntary work pages. You can also use the searchable databases on the following web sites:
Many Health and Social Care graduates and practising professionals undertake further study. Reasons for doing so include wanting to explore an aspect of their subject in more depth, to further or change their career, because a specific postgraduate qualification is either an entry requirement for their chosen career or would be an advantage if entry is competitive.
Postgraduate study within Health and Social Care may bring opportunities to shape and influence future policy and practice within the sector in job roles such as managers, senior clinicians, consultants and educators.
There are a range of Health and Social Care OU postgraduate study options, both taught and research awards, designed to make students better placed to take on the leadership and practice development roles increasingly available within Health and Social Care.
It is important to research further study options comprehensively by exploring the range of postgraduate courses and research opportunities on offer at the OU and elsewhere and funding possibilities to ensure you make the correct choice, for the right reasons and importantly that you can afford it, as funding for postgraduate study is very different to the undergraduate system.
Rigorous academic standards ensure that OU qualifications are recognised and valued by professional organisations and employers.
As an OU student, you can access the Employer Showcase to find out about some of the employers who are keen to recruit OU graduates. Some employers on the showcase that are particularly relevant to Health and Social Care students are:
Gaining relevant experience can be vital in gaining a competitive edge in the Health and Social Care employment market. The Employer Showcase also provides details of several organisations who offer volunteering and internship opportunities in the Health and Social Care field including:
Organisations like the NHS (acute and primary care trusts), local authorities, youth offending teams, residential care homes, independent health care providers and others have in the past sponsored their staff for OU study.
Remember also that many employers recruit graduates from any discipline so it is worth considering a broad range of employers from the Employer Showcase that might also be of interest.
The Graduate Recruitment Manager of Unilever said of OU students
For us it is not so much the degree subject which is important but it is the personal skills and competencies that they develop during this time. We also look for other qualities, such as work experience … and involvement in extra-curricular activities.
If you are a student you might want to see further advice from major employers on applications, the skills they require and the value of OU study. Go to our What employers say pages.
As an OU student you can also register for our online vacancy service and receive email notification about job opportunities.
There are a wealth of resources on the OU careers website. You might want to watch the Guide to the careers site to give you an overview of what it has to offer.
Use the other sections of this web site to
Don’t forget to check the careers home page regularly for news of events, forums, careers fairs and short courses. If you are an OU student you can participate in and read entries on our online forums.
If you are a mature student you may find our tips for mature graduates page useful to help you tackle the graduate employment market.
You may also find it useful to read the publications produced by the OU Careers Advisory Service and AGCAS (available to download from this site), giving further in depth advice and information to help you plan your next steps.
For some graduates, traditional forms of full-time employment are unattractive and increasing numbers of the workforce are turning to alternative ways of working that better fit their work and life values. Find out more about alternative work styles in the Exploring your career options section of this website.
If you are studying with the OU (or finished your studies within the last three years) you are entitled to a careers consultation with a careers adviser in your region or nation. This is designed to help you through the planning process and identify an action plan for your future. (If you are not studying with the OU or last studied with the OU more than 3 years ago, you should go to the Contact page of this website for other sources of careers advice.)
The OU has been the best domain for me and along with my employer has been extremely supportive...
Pauline Bonner, social worker
I am really looking forward to qualifying at the end of this year and being able to call myself a Social Worker.
Julie-Anne Howard, trainee social worker
My promotion to clinical nurse specialist is certainly down to my OU studies.
Jasmina Banicek, Nursing
To see the experiences of other OU students visit 'Student stories'.
All UK graduates are invited to complete the Destinations of Leavers Survey six months after they graduate. Of the OU Health and Social Care graduates who responded to the latest survey
87.1% were in work.
Find out more about undergraduate study in Health and Social care.
Find out more about postgraduate study in Health and Social Care.
More information on the OU Faculty of Health and Social Care.
Find out about all undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications at the OU on Study at the OU.