Professional Comment

Redefining Care As A Career, Not A Stepping Stone

By Laura Pennington, Managing Director of Mash Group (

In the landscape of job seekers, careers in care have often found themselves lumped together with entry-level roles like cleaning and supermarket work. However, it is high time that this perception was challenged and care was acknowledged as a career in its own right, rather than just a stepping stone between other jobs. After all, how can stacking shelves or cleaning toilets be compared to the life-changing work of a care professional?

Care isn’t just a job; it’s a calling, offering numerous rewards, growth opportunities, and skills development that surpass many other professions.

Three main factors play a pivotal role in changing the narrative around care as a career: pay, flexibility, and the misconception that “no skills are required.” Let’s explore each of those in a little more detail.

The Perception of Pay

Care work has often been associated with low pay, which has contributed to its diminished status in the overall job market. While it is true that some care agencies and homes offer minimum wage, comparing it to cleaning or supermarket jobs presents a limited view of the situation. In a recent report from job board giant Indeed, the national average hourly rate for care workers stands at £11.77. This places care work on a par with supermarket assistant roles, which average at £11.30, and slightly higher than cleaner roles at £10.73. However, these figures can significantly fluctuate regionally. In some areas, such as the South West, supermarket positions pay over £1.40 per hour more than those in care.

We can regularly have conversations with job seekers who are interested in all three job categories (cleaning, retail and care) and something that we like to highlight is that there IS career progression whilst working within care – but experience would suggest that job seekers aren’t aware of this. Considering the substantial responsibility and skill required in care work, it becomes evident that this profession deserves better recognition and compensation.


Care assistant jobs often offer 0-hour contracts, providing employees with flexibility to manage other commitments. This makes care a welcoming field for parents with young children, offering a balance between work and family life. However, for these individuals, the question remains: what career prospects can be explored when their circumstances change? In this situation, it is not uncommon for care workers to turn to other industries that they deem to be offering better prospects. It is crucial for the care industry to address this concern and provide a clear path for career progression, ensuring that experienced employees are retained within the sector.

Skill Development and Career Progression

One common misconception that deters people from considering care as a career and not just a stepping stone, is the notion that “no experience is required.” Most social care job listings include this statement because care providers offer in-house training programs that are typically rolled out over the course of one week, on average. These programs equip individuals with the skills necessary for an entry-level role in the care sector. While the certificates obtained may require annual renewals, they can also be leveraged for future career progression. Some certificates can be used against future roles, but in general a new employee would be required to complete the training of their current employer.

More education is needed to showcase the skills that are gained (and necessary) within a career in care, so that jobseekers stop viewing the sector as a low-skilled, low-paid path. It is quite the opposite. The path to career progression in care is well-defined and supported by industry bodies like Skills for Care. Individuals looking to advance in their care career can take advantage of qualifications and training readily available to support their journey.

In fact, the social care sector offers more than 50 vocational qualifications at varying levels, covering everything from practical skills to the all-important knowledge needed to be the best care worker possible. Apprenticeships, which can be funded by employers through government-backed Advance Learner Loans, offer a well-defined entry path into the care industry, whilst Level 2 and Level 3 Diplomas in Health and Social Care open doors to more senor roles in the sector.

You see, care is far more than just a “job” or an entry-level role that should fill time whilst jobseekers figure out what they really want to do with their working life. This is a profession that demands dedication, skill and compassion and has tangible qualifications to support career development; a career that has far more specialisms available than I think jobseekers truly realise, spanning areas such as activity coordination, rehabilitation, dementia care, leadership and many more.

Care workers are the unsung heroes who make a profound difference in the lives of vulnerable individuals. They provide essential support, comfort, and companionship to those who need it the most. Their work goes beyond just providing a service; it involves building trust, forming lasting connections, and enhancing the quality of life for those they care for.

Society needs to recognise and appreciate the value of care professionals. A big share of the responsibility to change perceptions sits with the care industry itself; this is one particular career sector that seems to have a marketing issue on its hands and educating jobseekers is vital. By challenging preconceived notions and actively promoting career progression within the care sector, we can ensure that care is acknowledged for what it truly is—a noble and fulfilling career.