It’s a tough job and the starting pay is nothing to write home about yet, for many, being a care assistant is the most rewarding job going.
With our aging population, care assistants have never been more in demand – there’s never been a better time to show you care…
So, what will I actually be doing?
As a care assistant, you will work with vulnerable individuals to help them live their lives to the full. It is the ultimate ‘people job’ – you are another person’s lifeline and you are often the only professional they establish any sort of relationship with.
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The nitty gritty
Your daily routine will be as varied as the needs of people you are looking after. You will often be helping people to wash and dress, eat and drink, and go about their daily activities. You might be cooking for them or taking them shopping, filling in their forms or simply lifting them into a more comfortable position in bed.
You’ll often be the first to alert nurses or doctors about new health problems – and you’ll be liaising with these other professionals to work out the right care plan for your clients.
Money, money, money
As a beginner, you’re likely to think your pay hardly reflects the social importance of your work. In many cases junior care assistants are paid little more than the national minimum wage, with £6-£7 per hour or annual salaries of around £11,000 commonplace.
Local authority care jobs tend to start at £12,000-£14,000, but with experience and qualifications this can rise to between £18,000 and £21,000 – more if you move into a managerial role. There are often opportunities for overtime, with night shifts and weekend working paying a slightly higher hourly rate.
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Is there study involved
In most cases, there’s no demand for any formal academic qualifications. Some employers, both in the public and private sector, will expect you to have some experience, perhaps as a volunteer. You’ll require a medical check, CRB clearance and (for visiting home care assistant jobs) you’re likely to require a driving licence.
In most local authority jobs you will be given basic induction training in health and safety, hygiene and lifting techniques. Many employers will encourage you to work towards qualifications such as the NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
The good points...
Once you have gained the basic skills of a care assistant, a wide variety of more senior jobs in the expanding care sector open up to you. The public sector offers a clear career structure – and caring in the community is now big business, requiring experienced and skilled managers at local levels.
There are also opportunities to specialise by gaining qualifications in areas such as mental health care, or for children with learning difficulties. As often in this business, personality and eagerness to take responsibility will sometimes take you further than any number of certificates.
...and the bad
You won’t get rich doing this.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
You could be working in a nursing home, a day centre, children’s centre or a hospital, or be visiting clients in their own homes, and you are on the frontline of the multibillion pound care sector.
You have to be able to get on with people of all ages and from all backgrounds, and to be a good communicator. It’s a hard job and one that can be emotionally challenging so you have to be prepared, but you are gold-dust to your employer. Care assistants are one of the UK’s listed skills shortages.