How to Become a Social Worker
Do you want a job where you can help vulnerable people to live a happy, healthy life? As a social worker, You will be helping adults and children at risk and supporting people to live independently. This career is perfect for those who enjoy assisting vulnerable people and working with those with disabilities, mental health issues, or simply struggling to get on their feet. See what being a social worker entails and how you can begin on the road to this rewarding career.
What do social workers do?
Social workers dedicate their time to working with people who might be in abusive situations, unable to live independently, or struggling with specific issues. As a social worker, you might specialise in working with a particular group of people. However, you will likely gain experience working with a range of people, including the elderly, children, young people, people with learning disabilities, vulnerable families, people with mental health problems, and young offenders.
Your daily responsibilities may include:
You might work in a statutory role whereby you have a duty to abide by and enforce laws to protect clients, or in a non-statutory position whereby you will be employed by a charity or in specialist roles where your main focus is on supporting clients with issues such as substance misuse or mental health issues. This type of social work also focuses on early interventions to help clients before legal problems arise.
What academic qualifications do social workers need?
Social workers need to have a bachelor’s or master’s in social work. This social work degree will also need to be certified by one of the four regulators covering England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These include Social Work England, Social Care Wales, Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC), and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).
To study social work at university, you are also likely to need five GCSEs, grade A-C, and three A Levels. However, entry requirements can vary depending on where you study as well as if you have previous work experience or alternative qualifications such as the Health and Social Care Level 3 Diploma.
Are there any social work apprenticeships available?
If you wish to take a more practical route, you can also complete a social worker degree apprenticeship. Undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships take three years to complete full time, whilst master’s degrees take 1 year full time. If you want to take the part-time route, then the time to complete your degree (postgraduate or undergraduate) will double. Following your degree or apprenticeship, you can join the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).
There are also work-based social work programmes which you can undertake if you have an unrelated degree. These professional development training programmes include Frontline and Step Up to Social Work for children’s social work and Think Ahead for mental health social work.
What skills do social workers need?
Qualified social workers work hard to help those in need, and as such, need to have specific skills. Some of these soft and hard skills are outlined below.
Empathy and understanding
Great communication skills
Excellent active listening skills
Legal knowledge and the ability to apply this to real-life cases
Problem-solving and critical thinking
What are the career prospects for a social worker?
As a social worker, you might choose to specialise in a particular area of social work to provide support primarily to one category of vulnerable people. For example, many people who want to work with children choose child protection social work. Others choose to work with those with mental health issues or people with disabilities.
Employers are often looking for social workers, and they are always in high demand, so you are sure to come across plenty of vacancies for social work jobs. You could find yourself working for private healthcare providers, care homes, charities, GP practices, social services, or working for the NHS. If you are unsure about which area to specialise in, don’t worry, the best way to decide which area of social work suits you best is by gaining work experience.
Do social work students need work experience?
Yes, experience is vital before you begin studying at postgraduate level or working as a qualified social worker. Undergraduate degrees will usually include a compulsory or optional placement module to experience life in social work practice. You might work as a social work assistant during this time or alongside support workers to gain insight into the industry and valuable experience working with vulnerable people.
Suppose you are currently exploring postgraduate social work courses or want to apply for an apprenticeship. In that case, you can also seek work experience to add to your application and increase your opportunities. You can contact your local social services department or any other local providers who offer support for vulnerable people and gain experience either directly in social work or an area similar or example as a support worker. There are people in need of help all over the UK, and working to help these people will demonstrate a desire to learn about social work as an industry and a desire to help others, which is at the heart of the social work profession.
Through work experience, courses, and hard work, you can embark on this incredible career today. Social workers are in high demand as they are such an essential part of many people’s lives. As a social worker, you can work every day to protect the vulnerable, assist people who are struggling and help those in need to live independently.
Whether you choose the university route and get an honours degree or get your social work qualification through an apprenticeship, you are guaranteed to enjoy a rewarding, future-proof career that you love.
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