Interested in a social work career?
By Luke Aldred
Do you have a strong desire to help others, to support people at their most vulnerable in making important life decisions? If this is you, social work could be a rewarding career choice for you.
It’s also one that offers lots of opportunities for gaining qualifications in specialist areas of support. If you want to become a social worker, you will need the relevant undergraduate or postgraduate social work degree. Why? Because the title of ‘social worker’ is carefully protected and it requires specific knowledge and experience.
Gaining your social work degree
Thankfully, there are many universities in the UK where you can study. You can search for social work courses on the Health and Care Professional Council website. Each curriculum gives students the theoretical and practical skills they need to work as professional social workers. Courses are delivered in partnership with local authorities to ensure that students undertake up to 200 days of practice learning the field.
To safeguard you and the people you support, you will also need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS makes criminal record and other checks to ensure unsuitable people are not allowed to work with vulnerable adults or children.
Student social workers must also register with the correct regulator for the UK country they are studying in. These are:
England – Health and Care Professions Council (soon to be Social Work England)
Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Social Service Council
Scotland – Scottish Social Service Council
Wales – Care Council of Wales
These are also the bodies that qualified social workers must register with in order to be able to practice.
As a Newly Qualified Social Worker you are likely to need further training and guidance during your first two years of work. During this time, you will have a limited workload and be given additional feedback and supervision.
Jobs with a social work degree
Having a social work degree allows you to take on a range of specialist roles in statutory, voluntary and independent social work settings. As you gain more social work experience you will be able to specialise in areas of support, and work in either permanent or locum roles.
As a register social worker, you are likely to support one or more of the following groups of people:
Children or adults with disabilities
Children, teenagers or adults with mental health problems
Adults with learning disabilities
People with alcohol, drug or other substance misuse problems
Refugees and asylum seekers
People who are socially excluded
Children who need to live apart from their families
Foster carers and adopters
People, including children who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or have been abused and neglected
As your career develops you can take on more responsibility in:
Management and leadership roles
Becoming a practice supervisor or educator
Specialist activities, for example child protection chair, senior AMHP, independent reviewing officer
Sanctuary Social Care works with clients throughout statutory, voluntary and independent settings. Typically, most social workers will be placed at local authorities, but there are other more unusual roles such as social work jobs with the national armed forces charity SSAFA.
To find out more, download our Advice and Support document for NQSWs and Students.