There are a huge variety of options and career paths open to anyone who is interested in working with children and young people. These jobs exist in the private, the public and the voluntary sectors. This factsheet provides a selection of useful resources for anyone considering a career working with children and young people in the UK.
The main sectors that employ people to work with children are education, social work, childcare and early years, but there are many other professions where once qualified, it is possible to specialise in working with or for children, rather than adults - e.g. paediatrician; family lawyer; counsellor; child psychologist; children's nurse; children's librarian. There are also many volunteering opportunities.
The Connexions Jobs4U careers database contains information about career paths and necessary qualifications.
The National Careers Service provides tools and advice for adults on learning, training and work opportunities.
The National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) contains details of all qualifications that are accredited by the government's regulatory organisations in England (QCA), Wales (DELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA). Information about Scotland is available from the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA).
Children and Young People Now produce a guide to courses and training.
The NSPCC provides a wide variety of training on child protection issues for people already working with children and young people.
A Vetting and Barring Scheme has been introduced in the United Kingdom which regulates the recruitment and monitoring practices of people working or volunteering with children. As part of this scheme, anyone working with children needs to be undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check.
Schools employ not only teachers but also a wide range of other professionals and support staff such as teaching assistants, careers advisers, school nurses, learning mentors and librarians.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) is the national agency responsible for the training and development of the school workforce. It provides information on careers in teaching as well non-teaching roles in schools.
Each of the four nations has its own General Teaching Council providing further information about qualifications and training for becoming a teacher:
Social workers work with individuals and families who are experiencing difficulties or social exclusion. The role of a social worker is to help people to help themselves, by ensuring they have access to relevant support services. Social workers who work with children are likely to specialise in child protection, youth offending, disabilities or mental health.
Training to become a qualified social worker requires an individual to undertake either a 3-year undergraduate degree in social work or a 2-year postgraduate course. At least 200 days of the course are spent learning in practice settings. There are bursaries available, depending on the circumstances of the students. Some organisations offer Social Work Traineeships where students are employed and work in a variety of social work settings as well as spending time studying.
In England, the General Social Care Council is responsible for regulating and supporting social work education and training.
Once qualified, all social workers must register with the General Social Care Council in England, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, the Care Council for Wales or the Scottish Social Services Council.
The title 'social worker' has been protected by law in England since 1 April 2005, which means it is a criminal offence for anyone to use the title or operate as a social worker if they are not registered. Qualified social workers who intend to continue practising must re-register every three years. To be able to do so they must meet the relevant post-registration training and learning requirements.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is the largest association representing social work and social workers in the UK. They can provide information and advice to anyone already working in social work, as well as those interested in entering the profession.
The Early Years Workforce works with children before the start of formal schooling (age 0-5). People working within the early years setting can now gain the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS). This status demonstrates an individuals professional excellence, and ensures high standards throughout the profession. It is equivalent in level to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Childcare professionals may also look after children older than five years outside school hours while the parents are at work (e.g. after school or during school holidays). Nursery nurses usually work in nurseries or nursery, infant and specialist schools. They are responsible for the physical care and safety of the children, as well as their social and educational development.
The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) Early years and playwork qualifications database holds information about the relevant qualifications needed for specific jobs within the early years and playwork sector.
Other useful websites for those considering working in early years or childminding include:
Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC): working in early years
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA)
National Childminding Association of England and Wales (NCMA)
Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA)
Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA)
There are many opportunities for volunteering with charities that work with children. See the following websites:
Fostering involves looking after children, usually for a short period of time, who, for whatever reason, cannot live with their own parents for the time being. All foster carers receive an allowance to cover the cost of caring for a child in their home. For further information, contact the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
Youth and community workers mainly work with teenagers, assisting young people in their development. To find out how to become a professional youth worker, contact the National Youth Agency.
The Youth justice system works to prevent offending and re-offending by young people, and to ensure that children who are in custody are safe. For information about working in the youth justice system, contact the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, the Youth Justice Agency Northern Ireland, or the Scottish Children’s Reporter.
Playworkers support children by providing a space for play in places such as out-of-school clubs, play schemes and adventure playgrounds. See the following websites for relevant information:
Although the websites listed here are checked regularly, the constantly changing nature of the internet means that some sites may alter after we have viewed them. The NSPCC is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, the content of these external websites.