Social work qualifications
By Luke Aldred
Since the title of ‘social worker’ is a protected one, you will need to gain certain qualifications before you can practice. Social worker qualifications are regulated to ensure vulnerable people in our communities receive a minimum quality of service. It also means, as a social worker, you have been provided with the right level of education to keep you safe.
Qualified social workers should also register with Social Work England before they start practicing as a social worker.
Most social workers will gain a BA (Hons) in Social Work. As an undergraduate, the qualification needs to be primarily in Social Work, but is can be combined with another subject. As the public sector begins to lean more towards integrated care, it’s not uncommon to find degrees combining Nursing and Social Work or Children’s Education and Social Care.
Social work courses
Believe it or not, there are over 160 social work courses in England with further variations in Scotland and Wales. You’ll need to decide what interests you most – adult or children’s social work and then make a shortlist. At that point you’ll want to carefully consider the entry requirements.
Don’t be put off if you are a mature student. You might find there is some flexibility if you do not have the minimum qualifications. Most universities will expect you to have 2 A-levels though and for you to have achieved an A-C grade in GCSE Maths and English.
If you are studying full-time, the course is usually 3 years costing around £9,000 per year. Part-time studying takes either 5 or 6 years depending on the training provider. During this time, you will be expected to complete practical placements with social work teams.
There are scholarship options available and specialist graduate fast-track programmes.
Most recruiters will want you to achieve a 2:1 or above in your degree. But don’t worry. If you do not achieve a 2:1, you can participate in an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE). An ASYE is a 12-month employer-led programme that will give you additional guidance as a newly qualified social worker. It’s also recommended for those who want a bit more support in their first year.
You don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in social work. Many social workers choose other subjects as their undergraduate degree and choose to do a 2-year Masters in Social Work.
Of course, you can do a Masters in Social Work with a Social Work undergraduate degree. It gives you the chance to specialise in a field.
Step Up to Social Work
Each year at universities and colleges throughout England, the Department for Education runs Step Up to Social Work. It is an intensive, 14-month, full-time programme to train social workers.
If you are a non-social work graduate with a keen interest in supporting people with mental health issues, Think Ahead could be for you. It is the fast-track programme for those considering a career in mental health social work. You must already have a degree and it doesn’t need to be in social work. The programme is taught at several institutions across the UK and is full-time, Mondays to Fridays, for its entire duration – including the Summer Institute, Year One, and Year Two.
We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your social work career.