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How to Become a Care Worker: Skills & Qualifications Needed

How to become a care worker
Katy Jones profile image

If you’re interested in a career which is challenging and fulfilling in equal measure then you don’t have to look much further than elderly care work. Helping others who require assistance makes for an undoubtedly rewarding experience, particularly for those with a naturally outgoing personality.

Keep reading to learn more about how to become a care worker, the necessary skills and qualifications, advantages/disadvantages of the job and opportunities for career progression.

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Navigate our article on becoming a care worker:

  1. What is a care worker?
  2. What does a care worker do?
  3. Skills required
  4. Qualifications required
  5. Pros and cons of the job
  6. How to become a care worker
  7. Career progression opportunities
  8. Potential salaries

What is a Care Worker?

A care worker (or care assistant) is a trained professional who supports others in every aspect of their daily life. This could include preparing and eating meals, socialising, physical activities and medical/toilet support.

Some care workers directly operate out of a care home while others are contracted to work in the homes of various patients. Similarly, domiciliary carers travel to different people’s homes within a community.

Care workers also lend a hand with life skill support, such as help and advice surrounding cooking and financial budgeting. Finally, carers will often provide emotional support in times of need.

Shared lives care workers will live in the same accommodation as their residents. Occasionally, they’ll welcome others into their home, but more often than not, they’ll live with individuals in their homes. This can take place on a short-term basis - to offer evening or weekend respite care for full-time carers - or can be a permanent arrangement so help is always on hand during the day and night.

What is a care worker?

What Does a Care Worker Do?

The main question then is what do carers do? On a day to day basis, the main role of a care support worker is to provide support for those who require it.

Helping people with their specific needs and daily tasks that they’d otherwise struggle to carry out will go a long way to improving their lives. You could end up working with the elderly, people with physical/learning disabilities or children.

Care support workers need to be flexible in their working hours and always ready for the unknown. Exactly where you work will depend on your employer, but you could work directly at a client’s home, in a day centre, in sheltered housing / warden controlled housing or within a nursing home.

Typically, you’ll travel to the homes of different elderly residents to carry out your care worker duties. Depending on their needs, this could be during the day, on evenings, at weekends or potentially through split shifts.

Here are some of the key duties that a carer can expect to be regularly involved in:

  • Meeting with your client and their family to help them better understand their condition while developing a care plan for the future

  • Providing emotional support to your client and their family/friends. Daily communication with your client and taking a genuine interest in their needs will help them open up on a more personal level

  • Assisting with personal care tasks for your client like washing, dressing, feeding, helping them to the toilet and taking medication

  • Performing everyday chores for your client, including washing clothes, meal preparation shopping, making their bed, generally tidying the house and getting them to GP appointments

  • Aiding with paperwork - such as paying your client’s monthly bills and filling in any forms they’re unable to do themselves

  • Helping to arrange days out for your client (and often going on these trips with them)

  • Above all, ensuring that your client is comfortable, happy and well-cared for at all times

The nature of personal care for the elderly means that no two days are the same, but the above list should provide a handy indicator as to what a typical day might look like.

Skills Required

The foundation of a great care worker consists of a desire to help others and bundles of patience.

Effective communication with your clients is key, which is why those who feel comfortable talking to others will likely thrive in this role. Even if providing elderly care becomes frustrating, you must remain sensitive, tactful and respectful at all times.

Some of the other key skills and traits you’ll need to be a successful care worker are:

  • A passion to work in the care industry and help people daily

  • A friendly nature, an enthusiastic attitude, an approachable personality and near-limitless patience

  • The capability to remain calm when under pressure and dealing with anxious, nervous or aggressive residents

  • A willingness to build strong relationships and trust with clients and their families, while also remaining respectful of your clients’ homes, ways of living and any individual requirements

  • An ability to approach potentially sensitive and embarrassing medical situations with tactfulness and confidentiality

  • An excellent understanding of health, safety and cleanliness

  • Strong problem-solving skills

  • The ability to think independently and use your own initiative

  • Strong communication skills

A huge part of being a carer is the continual development of skills and knowledge, as this is what allows you to take on extra responsibilities and provide your clients with a better service as a result.

Skills required to become a care worker

Qualifications Required

While you can begin working in social care without any formal qualifications, it’s always a good idea to do these first. Academic qualifications like GCSEs, A-Levels or degrees usually aren’t needed, but employers will look for First Aid skills and an NVQ in Health and Social Care, Levels 2 and 3.

These courses are what prepare you for working in social care and teach you how to support individuals with learning difficulties or dementia. Care workers need to travel around during the day, so a driving licence will also come in handy.

Aside from these qualifications, experience itself is crucial, which is why securing voluntary work can make such a difference in the long run. You’ll also require medical and criminal record background checks.

When beginning life as an elderly care worker, you’ll work to earn your Care Certificate and be given training in food hygiene, health and safety and additional first aid.

Finally, you’ll need to take part in a 12-week induction scheme that covers topics like inclusion, safeguarding and equality while ensuring you meet the national minimum standards of care for the UK.

Residential and Nursing Care

A Level 2 Health and Social Care Qualification will be perfect if you’re looking to start as a care worker who will mainly operate under supervision. This qualification provides an introduction to health and social care, covering topics like safeguarding and protection.

The majority of employers will allow for study time at a local college outside of working hours. Another option is apprenticeship positions that are offered by some employers to become qualified in-house.

Senior Positions

Senior care workers will usually look to study for a Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care. Having this qualification will help carers to develop the skills and knowledge required to provide a leading role within their organisation.

This job role is often seen as the natural career progression for care workers after completing their Level 2 Diploma.

Care Home Management Roles

Anyone looking to enter a Registered Manager position will need to take a Level 5 Diploma in Health and Social Care. This is a Care Quality Commission (CQC) requirement to be considered qualified for a role of this level.

This qualification is aimed at people who are already working in health and social care as Registered Care Managers or Deputy Care Managers. This diploma aims to aid in developing managerial knowledge and the care skills required to successfully lead a team.

Pros and Cons of the Job

There’s no doubt that if you’re the right fit in the first place and consider yourself to be a caring people-person then this line of work can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll be given the chance to make a genuine difference to the lives of people that require support.

Working in adult social care also guarantees a dynamic working environment. Rather than being cooped up in an office, you’ll instead be able to travel to various locations throughout the day, meeting lots of different people in the process.

The chance to develop relationships with clients is another strong pull for many. You’ll hopefully find that after a few months of working with the same clients, they’ll start to become far more receptive to you, lowering their guard and becoming chattier in the process. Not only does this make your job easier, but it’ll also go a long way to brightening up your day!

Pros and cons of being a care worker

With that being said, you do need to be aware of some of the challenging situations you could face - this job isn’t for everyone. Care workers need to be able to deal with taking patients to the toilet, changing their clothes and ensuring they’ve properly washed, along with any other situations that could suddenly arise.

When starting with a new resident, you may be met with hostility from an individual who feels anxious, stressed or worried. In these cases, try to remain positive, calm and enthusiastic every time you visit. Just remember that it usually has nothing to do with you, so shouldn’t be taken personally. If you’re worried, speak to your manager.

How to Become a Care Worker

Once you’ve decided that care work is the career for you, you then need to start taking steps towards achieving this goal. These five actions will help you head in the right direction to gaining qualifications and getting hired as a care worker:

1. Make sure you have the necessary skills and qualities

Once you’re sure that providing elderly care is a career path you wish to walk, you need to establish whether you have the right skills to succeed. Along with patience, compassion and a friendly nature, you’ll also need first aid training, an organised mindset and an NVQ in Health and Social Care (Levels 2 and 3).

2. Consider specialised areas of social care

Are there any specialised areas you’d like to go into, or specific groups of people you wish to work with, such as disabled children or the elderly? If so, then check whether you need any extra qualifications to work with these groups.

3. Enrol on a course

The most important step is sourcing and enrolling on a series of courses that’ll help you on your way to becoming a qualified care worker.

4. Find a position

Once you’ve got the necessary qualifications, you then need to find a job. Careworkers can either operate at a care home, through an agency or as a freelancer.

5. Build your reputation

Be sure to put some effort into building a respected reputation within the care industry. A great way to do this is by obtaining written referrals and letters of recommendation from patients in your care. When working on a freelance basis, try advertising online and utilising your network to find new opportunities as your career progresses.

Career Progression Opportunities

It’s a smart idea to always be on the lookout for ways to continue your professional development and learning as a carer.

Once you’ve worked in the social care sector for some time and have built a network of contacts, you can then start to think about applying for better-paid positions with added responsibilities, such as becoming a supervisor of other care workers. Specialist positions are also an option, including caring for people with complex needs and ailments. Going down this route will likely make you more in demand.

Some of the most important training courses and qualifications for progression as a care worker are:

  • Adult Care Diploma
  • Positive Dementia Care
  • End of Life Care (which is often offered in a palliative care home)
  • Mental and Social Care
  • Health and Social Care
  • Social Care with Families

Potential Salaries

Care workers can expect to start earning around £12,000 - £16,000 a year, depending on where in the UK you’re based. With some additional experience and a few of the qualifications we’ve discussed under your belt, your salary should then rise to within the £18,000 to £21,000 range. Meanwhile, a registered manager can expect to earn over £30,000 annually.

In some cases, accommodation may be provided as part of the job’s benefits. When working overtime - such as evening or weekend work - you might find your hourly rate going up.

Searching for an elderly care home can be a stressful and time-consuming operation. Thankfully, Lottie removes much of the difficulty from this process by connecting elderly people to the UK’s very best care homes through smart technology and years of human expertise.

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