Before considering how to become qualified as a carer, think about whether caring is the right profession for you. A good carer is at their happiest when caring for others. They are friendly and approachable and usually have a good sense of humour, which is helpful on the job. Are you a people person? Would you find it easy to build relationships, both with clients and their families? Carers require qualities of patience and sensitivity and need to have an ability to remain calm in all situations, as clients may become anxious or aggressive. To become a good carer you need to be an excellent communicator. Clients may find it difficult to communicate so finding ways of making yourself understood, as well as doing your best to understand your client is a valuable asset. It helps to be physically fit too, as much of the work is physically demanding, including lifting and moving and general household duties. Above all, acting with compassion and respecting a client’s dignity is the most important skill a carer can possess.

Do I need formal qualifications?

Before starting a job as a carer you will be required to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service test (DBS), as you will be working with vulnerable people. Carers starting in a new job are also required to undertake Care Certificate training as part of their induction. The Care Certificate sets minimum standards for carers, to ensure that all workers in the industry share the same knowledge, skills and behaviours creating a level playing field.

The care certificate covers topics such as:

  • Duty of care
  • Equality and diversity
  • Communication
  • Privacy and dignity
  • Fluids and nutrition
  • Mental health, dementia and learning disabilities
  • Safeguarding children and adults
  • Basic life saving
  • Health and safety
  • Handling
  • Infection control and prevention.

Getting yourself up to speed on the Care Certificate can assist you when looking for a job.

Can I access formal training?

Some jobs may offer formal full time training such as NVQs in Care and Management or Health and Social Care which are learned and assessed on the job. You may also be able to access day release training or part-time college courses but this will be dependent on your employer’s policies and discretion. However it is widely accepted that ongoing training and learning is important for the personal development and professional skills of people working in health and social care.

How important is experience?

Experience is something that potential employers will value above all else. If you’re keen to become a carer, whether as a home help or in a home then gaining experience can be invaluable in developing your career. A good way of gaining experience is to volunteer in the community. Good places to approach for volunteer work include charities or social enterprises, as well as residential care homes or day care centres. Although volunteer work is unpaid, it may help you get live in care jobs that you want in the future so can be an excellent investment of your time.