Social workers help to protect vulnerable children and adults from harm or abuse, and support people to live independently.
Salary range: £24,000 to £40,000
How to become a social worker
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- a graduate training scheme
You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in social work approved by Social Work England.
You can also do a 2-year postgraduate degree in social work, if you have a degree in another subject.
You may be eligible for social work bursary.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You can complete a social worker degree apprenticeship, which takes around 3 years.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
Volunteering and experience
Experience of working with vulnerable groups or children is essential for most courses and jobs.
Before becoming qualified as a social worker, you can apply to be a social work assistant or support worker. You can also get skills and experience by volunteering in the community, with a charity or through paid work.
You can get more information on volunteering opportunities in your area from Do-it.
You can apply to do an intensive, work-based training programme for graduates if you’ve got a first or upper second class degree in any subject except social work. The programmes are:
- Frontline for children’s social work
- Step Up to Social Work for children’s social work
- Think Ahead for mental health social work
- you’ll need to register with Social Work England
It’s possible to do a degree in social work and learning disabilities nursing. You’ll need to check that the course is recognised by the relevant professional bodies. Course providers can advise you on this.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
- sensitivity and understanding
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be flexible and open to change
- knowledge of sociology and an understanding of society and culture
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- active listening skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
A driving licence and your own transport will be useful though not always essential.
What you’ll do
Your duties will vary, depending on whether you work with children, families or adults. You could:
- offer information and counselling
- put together support plans for clients
- keep records and write reports
- discuss your cases with your supervisors
- support clients’ safety and take appropriate action to protect them when necessary
- work closely with communities, health professionals and other agencies
- help clients to develop and maintain independent living skills
- hold meetings and assessments with individuals and families to review their situation
You could work in an office, in an NHS or private hospital, at an adult care home, at a children’s care home or in the community.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.
Career path and progression
During your first year in work your employer may offer you professional development, for example the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (AYSE). This includes extra support like:
- regular supervision
- a training and development plan
- time to meet your training and development needs
Each local authority will have a career pathway, with some offering the chance to study for a postgraduate MA in Advanced Professional Practice.
With experience, you’ll find opportunities to move into management, research or study for a PhD. You could also become a practice educator and train and mentor students from your partner university.