Routes into health and social care

There are many different ways to get started in health and care. There are some roles that you can apply for where you don’t have to have previous experience or qualifications, while others may require you to complete an apprenticeship or a degree.

Whether you’re already qualified and looking to return to practice, a school/college student considering your options, a graduate looking for post-graduate schemes, or are working in another area and looking to move to Hertfordshire and west Essex, there are different routes to choose from.

Here we explain the different routes to help you find the one that is right for you.

A Levels and University

Completing A Levels and a university degree is the traditional route into many of the clinical health and care careers and is still a very popular choice. You can hear about the experiences of a number of our staff on our case study page.

When choosing your A Level subjects you may need to check whether the university course you are considering has any specific requirements. The Health Careers and Step into NHS website provide lots of useful information about the requirements for each career. These may vary slightly between different universities so you should still check individual courses.

You can find out more about the university route on our university page.

What if A Levels and University aren't for me?

Traditionally these were the two main routes to get a job in health and care, however there are now many more options. For example, the diagram below shows alternative routes into the NHS.

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T Levels

T Levels are a brand-new, 2-year qualification that you can do as an alternative to A levels, other post-16 courses or an apprenticeship.

They bring classroom learning and an extended industry placement together on a course designed with businesses and employers.

The first T Levels are due to start in September 2020 with the health and care T Level starting in September 2021. To find more information visit the Government T Level website.


  • Do you know that you can complete an apprenticeship to become a nurse?

  • Did you think that apprenticeships were just for plumbers or hairdressers?

  • Do you know that apprenticeships are not just for school leavers?

There are now a range of apprenticeship opportunities which allow you to earn whilst you learn and support you to progress in your career. Apprenticeships are open to anyone of any age and could be an entry level apprenticeship or part of your career development. You can find out what apprenticeships we offer including the Nursing associate apprenticeship by visiting our apprenticeship page, Health Careers NHS website or you can visit the Government website.

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Applying for jobs

Depending on the role, you don’t always need qualifications or previous work experience in the sector to get a job in health and social care. What’s really important is having the right values, behaviours and attitudes to work effectively with people who need care and support.

'Looking back I didn't realise what my change in career would bring. It has started me on a pathway of learning and personal development'

John, Clinical Support Worker

Values are the beliefs and views that people hold about what is right or wrong. They apply to all aspects of life and influence how a person behaves in different situations. Here are some examples of the values and behaviours you might need to work in health and social care.

  • Dignity and respect

  • Learning and reflection – (thinking about what you do and why you do things in a certain way)

  • Working together

  • Commitment to quality care and support

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This website will help you to find information on the various routes into health and care. And if you already work for one of our organisations, we’re making it as easy as possible for you to be able to transfer to a role in another organisation should you wish to.

If you aren't sure what you are looking for, the careers area or the quiz is a great place to start and will give you an idea of what the different jobs are like.

You can view the current vacancies in Hertfordshire and west Essex by visiting our jobs page.

Case studies

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John explains how starting in the NHS as an apprentice has changed his life

The role of a Care Support Worker is often challenging but always interesting, exciting and satisfying.

Read more
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Neil tells us how being a volunteer led to a career as a mental health nurse

Starting out as a volunteer at 16 Neil tell us about his journey into mental health nursing and then into a service lead role.

Read more


There are a wide range of apprenticeships available in health and care. Find out more about these exciting opportunities here.

Careers in Health & Care

You could help make a real difference to people’s lives by choosing a career in health or social care.


Interested in working for the NHS or social care? Find out about current vacancies and how to apply.