Skip to main content

Social and Pastoral Care

Many students at Exeter are interested in pursuing a career in this sector and are often attracted to it as a result of previous voluntary or community work. The sector itself is very large, employing more than 1.5 million people across the UK and offers a wide variety of options including social work, counselling, advice and guidance, and youth and community work. Job roles are very varied, and each have their own requirements in terms of required work experience and for some, qualifications. To learn more about the wide range of jobs roles within this sector visit the Prospects website.

Some graduates enter this sector to help support a particular group in society such as children, refugees, the elderly, those with mental ill health or alcohol or drug dependency. Whereas other graduates are motivated more by a cause they feel passionately about such as education, housing or prisoner rehabilitation.

The main graduate employers in this sector are charities and non-profit organisations, local authorities, the NHS, HM Prison and Probation Service and residential and non-residential care organisations. A range of social and pastoral care roles are also found within schools, colleges and universities.

The Career Zone runs a range of employability schemes to help increase your work experience and networks in this area:

  • Career Zone Internship schemes – internships can be extremelyuseful, so try and get relevant vacation work or placements.  
  • Ask an Alum – a fuss-free way to connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask careers questions.  
  • Career Mentor Scheme – a popular employability scheme which matches a student or graduate with an experienced professional, for sector insight and one-to-one careers advice and guidance, over a 6-month period. 
  • Professional Pathways – a suite of sector specific training courses and paid week-long internships that take place in June.  

Videos: Watch the following videos to get a feel for some of the roles within the sector:  

Webpages: If you would like to do further research into this sector, the following webpages may be useful:

To see if there are any Exeter alumni working in this sector that you can get in touch with, go to the LinkedIn Alumni tool.

Internships and work experience opportunities in the sector can be difficult to find, often due to the sensitive nature of the work. As many charities and voluntary sector organisations are heavily supported by volunteers, finding experience via a volunteer role is usually the best way to get experience. Many charities have details of volunteering roles on their website. If you are unsure if there are volunteer opportunities available, it is a good idea to enquire directly with the charity. Search for charities online by using key words e.g. 'homeless charity Devon' or browse through over 160,000 charities listed in the Charity Choice database

For general information about finding graduate opportunities, please visit our Graduate Jobs page, and for a list of general job search engines please visit our general job sources page. You could also have a look at Handshake, our vacancy database with employers who are targeting University of Exeter students.

For sector specific job listings, the following resources may be particularly helpful:  

As jobs are not always advertised, it can be useful to develop your networking skills and also apply speculatively.

There are only a small number of graduate schemes in this field, and most graduates enter the profession through a paid job. Here are the schemes available within the sector: 

  • Think Ahead – a two-year programme for graduates who want to become mental health social workers.
  • Frontline – a two-year programme for graduates wishing to become children’s social workers.

Professional bodies, associations and societies are a great source of information and advice. They exist to promote and further a career and the people who practice in it. Being a member of a professional body is voluntary however, it can be valuable for developing networks, continuing your professional development, and generally keeping up to date with what's happening in the sector. Many offer student memberships for free or a very low rate. 

Social Work and Child Care 

Counselling and Psychotherapy 

Other 

Given the range of roles within social care, entry requirements vary considerably, and further qualifications may be necessary. A few jobs within this sector that require a relevant qualification include working as a Social Worker, Counselling Psychologist and Play Therapist. However, there are of roles within social care that do not require a relevant qualification including working as an advice worker and community arts, development or education officer/worker. For these sorts of roles, relevant experience is often more important than a holding a relevant qualification. Further information about entry points including required postgraduate training and professional development can be found on the relevant Social Care job profiles on the Prospects website. 

If you would like to pursue postgraduate study before entering this sector, please visit our Postgraduate Study information page for more information about choosing further study.