Starting your career in
adult social care

The first question you need to ask yourself is ‘Am I right for a career in adult social care?’ Read on to find out if a career in care is right for you.

Martin Taylor

“To have a successful career in social care, you need to be understanding, friendly, empathetic and flexible. I’ve definitely developed both professionally and personally.”

View Martin’s story

Man PC

If you have the empathy, compassion, patience and understanding that this job requires, then the answer is yes. If you’re unsure you have what it takes then try the Question of Care quiz. It shows the kind of decisions social care workers have to make on a daily basis. At the end of the quiz, you’ll receive a detailed personal values profile. Some employers use this challenge during interviews.

In addition to the core qualities like compassion, empathy and patience, there are also some essential skills like listening and writing, creativity, and problem solving that could really help you get a job in social care. You may have transferable skills from previous employment, like relationship building, money management, health and safety which would set you up well for a career in care.

Social care requires a skilled workforce. Most social care workers gain a qualification in work, but you don’t need a qualification to get started in your role. The majority of job roles in social care (except Personal Assistants) in Scotland need to register with the SSSC (Scottish Social Services Council) within the first six months of starting their post. To maintain their registration, social services workers must have or be working towards a relevant qualification and gain it within five years. This gives you plenty of time to become confident in your role before demonstrating what you have learned through completing a qualification.

The training and experience you gain while working in adult social care are extremely valuable, but there are also many free learning materials used by social service workers that you can access now. This means you can see what’s available and develop your knowledge before you start work. We recommend having a look at Introduction to a Career in Social Care and signing up for a SSSC Open Badges account to keep a digital record of your learning. The SSSC also has a free smartphone app called MyLearning that you can store your badges in. Just search for SSSC MyLearning in the app store.

Finding a role

You can use our partners’ sites to search for roles near you, see the links below.

MyjobscotlandS1 JobsIndeedGood MovesMy World of WorkDepartment of Work and PensionsDepartment of Work and PensionsYoung Person's Guarantee

View job roles

There are many different roles within adult social care. Have a look at the range of job titles and their responsibilities to see which one might suit you best.

The best way to tell is to look at the job description for each post, including the list of skills and experience required in the job description. Some posts will require some experience in a similar role, but many employers will hire you based on personal qualities, positive attitude and commitment to the role. You may also have highly relevant lived experience, for example, unpaid carers who have supported family members or friends. This kind of experience is valued by employers.

We would suggest looking at Support Worker or Care Assistant roles first, but you may find other roles with slightly different titles and similar job descriptions. It’s also helpful to identify if SSSC registration will be required, as this will help you understand the level of responsibility you’ll have.

More senior roles will ask for additional relevant experience, but no matter where you start there are excellent opportunities for career progression.

Now that you’ve settled on which role to apply for, you need to think about preparing thoroughly for your interview. We’ve got advice and tips that can help you with this.

Interview questions

Clair Anderson

“I’ve always been keen to learn throughout my career and the number of training opportunities in adult social care are endless.”

View Clair’s story

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Training opportunities for careers in care

Though you do not need a qualification to start a job in social care, you are supported when taking on this new role. Induction programmes can look different depending on where you work, varying from online resources to on-the-job shadowing. There is also a range of free learning opportunities, with support available to guide you through these training resources. The SSSC open badges programme, for example, allows you to pick and choose training areas that you feel would be useful in your day-to-day work.

It’s a personal choice and there’s plenty of flexibility to make whichever option works for you. You can go to college first and help boost your confidence before you start work, or you can go straight into work and pursue education while working. Opting for education first will give you a better understanding of the role and the confidence to make it a success, however you may have prior experience that means you can pick these up on the job.

The free Introduction to a Career in Adult Social Care course will help you consider whether a career in social care is right for you and provide you with a good foundation to help with job applications and interviews. This short, six week course is delivered locally by colleges and is taught fully online, with support at each step of the way.

Consider doing a Modern Apprenticeship which will give you valuable experience while being supported to gain skills that will support your future career. There are Modern Apprenticeship opportunities in social services and healthcare to help accelerate a career in social care.

Foundation apprenticeships are also available to those who are still in school.

Arrow Right Mini Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare

Arrow Right Mini Modern Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare

Arrow Right Mini Modern Apprenticeship in Care Services Leadership and Management

There are employability services run by local councils. It’s worthwhile contacting your local employability partnership for more information and see what’s available near you.

It is also worth considering contacting the Prince’s Trust to see if they have any specific training or programmes. Their Explore and Get into programmes for people under 30 are often a good place to start.

Where can I seek further help?

The SSSC website has information about registration and the different activities of the SSSC. Careersincare has information about qualifications, routes to work and how to prepare. Personal Assistants Network website has information for Personal Assistants, and is the only website in Scotland created for people who work directly for the person they support.

If working with the Jobcentre, your Jobcentre Plus Work Coach can give you more information on support to help you prepare for your career in social care. Jobcentre Plus can give you training, guidance, work placement programmes and schemes such as work experience and volunteering.

Fair Start Scotland is Scotland’s devolved pre-employment support service providing flexible and individualised services to remove barriers to accessing work. The service offers up to 12 months in-work support and has helped to support participants into roles in social care. Fair Start Scotland can support you if you have struggled to find a job which meets your needs. Participation is completely voluntary and choosing to take part won’t affect your existing benefits. Visit the Fair Start Scotland website or call the Fair Start Scotland Information Line on 0800 804 8108. The line is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday.


“I love my job and I love helping those I support. I always learn a lot from them too! Yes, it’s a rewarding job but it’s so much more than that. Being able to understand things differently when you support people from all walks of life has made me more confident.”

View Craig’s story