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How to land your dream career in the health and social care industry

January 26, 2024
Healthcare student

Working in the health and social care sector is known to be one of the most rewarding and impactful career paths to take! It has a huge variety of job roles that suit all types of skillsets, and the industry is rapidly growing. So, if you want a career where you can make a positive impact on people’s lives, then one way to get started is through Middlesbrough College! Figuring out what it is exactly you want to do and what qualifications you need to gain isn’t always easy, so we have created this blog to help you!

So, let’s take a look at the different sectors in the health and social care industry! The healthcare system is split into four broad categories by the NHS: primary care, secondary care, tertiary care and community care.

Primary care:

Primary care is usually a patient’s first point of contact. This includes general practice, community pharmacy, dental and optometry (eye health). There are so many different careers in primary care, ranging from receptionists to doctors! Here are some more examples:

Health care assistant – A HCA works under the supervision of a registered nurse and other higher-up healthcare professionals. This job can include collecting blood samples, assisting with medical procedures, maintaining patient records, keeping the healthcare environment tidy and so much more! Formal qualifications are not always required, however, knowledge in this field – such as completing a Level 3 Health and Care qualification – will put you an extra step ahead. Salaries start around £22,000 per year and can go up to £28,000 with experience!

General practitioner – A GP is the first point of contact for a wide range of different health concerns. Being a GP includes diagnosing and treating common illness and injuries, prescribing medication, providing preventive care and managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Becoming a GP is a journey you must commit to, but one worth doing if you want to help a wide community every day!

To qualify as a GP, you need to attend medical school, complete a five-year undergraduate degree and two paid years of foundation training. After completing that, you can apply to three years of paid GP specialist training.

To get into medical school, you must complete a mix of science A Levels, but the most highly recommended are Biology, Chemistry and Maths which you can complete at Middlesbrough College’s Sixth Form (If you are able to do 4 A Levels, this is even better!).  Once qualified as a GP, you can earn roughly between £68,000 and £108,000 – and this gets higher as you build experience! For more information on becoming a GP, follow this link! General practitioner | Health Careers

Dental hygienist – A dental hygienist’s main role is to prevent dental problems in adults and children. This includes carrying out tasks such as scaling, cleaning and polishing teeth, developing X-rays, and assisting dentists in their procedures. If you think you’ll work well with patients, be good at providing care and have a passion for dentistry, then this role is a great fit!

Dental hygienists’ entry salary is between £33,706 and £40,588, and it’s a career that allows you to progress if you want to! The most common way of becoming a dental hygienist is to complete science-based and related A Levels or BTEC qualifications before applying to University (entry requirements can differ depending on the University).

If you didn’t gain A Levels the first time around, don’t worry! Being 19 and over means that you can apply to an Access course with Middlesbrough College. We offer an Access to HE Diploma in Science which will get you on the right path to going to University and completing an undergraduate course in Dental Hygiene. An alternative way to get into the dentistry field is through an apprenticeship in dental nursing. This role does have different responsibilities to a hygienist, as you will mainly be supporting the dentist in procedures and managing equipment rather than carrying out treatments to a patient individually, but it’s still a great way to enter the dental industry!

To view apprenticeship vacancies, follow this link to our Northern Skills website: Apprenticeship Vacancies Archive – Northern Skills

Secondary care:

Secondary care is care from a professional who specialises in whatever the patient’s illness or injury might be. This includes planned/elective care (usually within a hospital), urgent and emergency care, and mental health care. Some examples of secondary care job roles are:

Paramedic – Paramedics work in ambulances and respond to 999 calls by stabilising and assessing patients to see if they need to be taken to hospital for further care. Tasks for this job will usually include providing care at the scene of an accident or emergency, performing CPR, and using ventilators and defibrillators.

In this job role, you’ll often be faced with helping a patient who is in a life-threatening situation, so being able to stay calm, effectively communicate, and work under high pressure is important. Even though it can be challenging, it can be so rewarding to be a frontline hero of medical care! There are different routes to becoming a paramedic, but the most accessible way is to attend University and complete a degree in Paramedic Practice/Science. Here are some relevant courses that could kick-start your career as a paramedic:

Both courses will teach you topics that will be useful at University, but which course you choose just depends on what works best for your skillset! If you aren’t a school leaver, you can still get into University through completing one of our Access courses, which are both recognised by UCAS! (Always double check with your top-choice Universities first).

Diagnostic radiographer – If you are looking into a career that is on the innovative side of healthcare, becoming a diagnostic radiographer may be the way forward! Radiographers use advanced technology such as X-ray machines and CT scanners to take images of the inside of a patient’s body. Carrying out this role includes being able to use and control the machinery, communicating with the patients, and understanding the causes of illness through the images to create effective treatment plans. Radiography has such high importance as it’s often the first step to diagnosing a patient and starting that path of treatment/recovery, so you will be changing people’s lives with your work every day!

Radiographers typically earn around £30,000 per year and to do this, you must complete a recognised degree in Diagnostic Radiography. Many Universities accept science related A Levels or BTEC qualifications – here are some suitable courses at the College that will help prepare you for University:

If you aren’t a school leaver, you can still go to University through completing a relevant Access course with us first, such as:

Mental health nurse – Mental health nursing is a job role in high demand – and the demand is expected to get higher in the future! This type of nursing plays a vital role in supporting patients suffering with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders, bipolar disorder and more.

Mental health nurses will work alongside psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to help understand a patient’s symptoms and history to recognise and help treat any conditions or disorders. Another uplifting part of the job is that you will also help and advocate your patients through counselling methods, education and support. You’ll be working across multiple settings, such as hospitals and residential facilities, with many different people, so you must have strong communication skills, patience and be understanding. So, if you know you have those qualities, working as a mental health nurse means you’ll improve many people’s quality of life!

Salaries for this role vary from £25,000 to £34,000 depending on experience and the practise you work in. To begin your training, you have to study a recognised degree in Mental Health Nursing. Here are some courses that will put you on the path to University:

A Levels with Applied Psychology (Mix it up) – Level 3 – Middlesbrough College (mbro.ac.uk)

A Levels with Health and Care (Technical Extended Certificate) (Mix it up) – Level 3 – Middlesbrough College (mbro.ac.uk)

If you are over the age of 19, you can complete the Access to Higher Education Diploma-Health-Day-Level 3 – Middlesbrough College (mbro.ac.uk) to progress to University!

Tertiary care:

Tertiary care is given to patients who need highly specialised treatment for more complex injuries, illnesses or disorders. This can include neurosurgery, transplants, lab research, and forensic mental health services. Here’s an example of a career in tertiary care:

Clinical laboratory scientist – This role is different to what is usually expected in the healthcare field as you don’t work directly with the patients to help with their treatment, but it is one of the most crucial contributions! Clinical lab scientists diagnose and manage diseases through analysing samples of the human body, such as blood and tissue. Tasks will include running tests by using highly advanced equipment, interpreting the results to recognise if any diseases or infections are present, and discussing results with doctors and other medical professionals, leading to diagnosis and treatment.

As you can probably imagine, this job role is heavily science based and requires a lot of preparation and training! The best way to start is by completing science-based A Levels such as Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. These courses will help you prepare for a relevant University course such as Biomedical Science, Genetics, Biology, or Biochemistry.  If you are not a school leaver and you’re over the age of 19, Universities often accept a qualification from an Access to HE diploma in Science.

After completing an undergraduate degree, many people complete a master’s degree in a more specialised area, or complete pre-registration training and gain practical experience with a registered scientist. After this, you will be able to register with the HCPC and practice professionally in the U.K. As the modern world of science is always changing, you will be continuously learning and developing your skills!

Community care:

Community care includes a range of services that patients receive in their homes or communities to help prevent more intensive care needed in residential or hospital settings. An example of a job role in community care is:

Care worker – There are various types of care workers that are trained to meet different patients circumstances and needs, but overall, a care worker will support patients outside of the hospital so that they are still receiving the care they need whilst also having independence. Tasks in this job role can include bathing, dressing and feeding a patient in their home or residency. It can also involve keeping on top of a patient’s medication and monitoring their health to recognise if they are responding well or not.

Care workers are often on the move quite a lot, and work with so many different patients that being compassionate, outgoing and caring are key attributes that make the most positive impact! There are often entry-level training programmes that you can enter to progress to a care worker position, but courses that can help you prepare for this role are:

Care workers, depending on the experience and sector, can earn between £19,500 to £32,000 per year. These careers are just a few examples of the broad range of opportunities available in the healthcare sector that make a difference to bettering and changing so many people’s lives! To find out more information and for other job roles in the healthcare industry, visit the NHS healthcare ecosystem website