Your social work career path
By Luke Aldred
Social work is often described as a “passion” and a “calling”. Our community regularly talk to us about why they chose to join the profession; with many saying it’s because they had a desire to help those at their most vulnerable.
As experienced recruiters, we know that you don’t just have a passion for your job, you’re ambitious to take steps along your career path to challenge yourself. We know that you’re keen to learn new skills because you know that it will help you to become better practitioners. And this is where we thrive; we do what we can to support our social workers at every stage of their career, from the moment they graduate through to the day that they decide to retire.
With that in mind, we want to shine a light on how varied a career in social work can be. It excites us that there are so many opportunities to continually push yourself, and we’re proud to be by your side as you take that journey.
Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW)
For the first few years of your social work career, you will be officially classed as an NQSW. This means that you’ll be provided with additional training and development opportunities. Within your first twelve months, you may participate in the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) - which is a twelve-month programme of support and assessment coordinated by your employer.
During the year, you’ll be continually assessed against the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Once you’ve passed the assessments, you’ll be provided with a Fitness to Practice certificate which will confirm that you meet a national set of standards.
Once you’ve completed your AYSE and you have gained a few years’ experience, you can start to see new opportunities opening. You may consider whether you want to move into a more specific role, and this is where you can begin directing your professional opportunities in different directions.
For instance, you may find that there are specific teams that you want to work in – examples include Integrated Neighbourhood, Learning Disabilities, Looked-After Children or Referral and Assessment Teams. There is a wealth of different teams available and each one will require a different element of social care support. You will quickly develop a specialism which will keep you motivated and professionally challenged.
Experienced Social Worker
As you become more experienced, you can start to see new duties emerge and more opportunities to develop new skills. Experienced social workers can often work more autonomously, and you may be given more complex caseloads which will really push you.
At this stage of your career, you may be leaning towards gaining managerial or leadership experience. You may be interested in pursuing opportunities to chair meetings or lead multi-agency working. You may even be starting to look at opportunities to lead by example and work as a team manager.
At this level, you may notice that your duties start to take you away from frontline social work into management. If you’re looking to challenge yourself yet remain working closely with families, then you may benefit from looking at principal social worker roles, which bridge the gap between frontline practice and strategic management.
Advanced practitioners are often expected to provide leadership and promote innovation amongst their teams. It’s an ideal career path for those who are keen to participate in processes and help to develop policies and strategies.
Whilst many social work job roles at this level may focus upon managerial positions, you can expand your horizons with specialist opportunities such as practice educators, independent reviewing officers or senior AMHP roles.
For those who are keen to work in a managerial capacity, there is plenty of opportunities to progress even further thanks to Service Manager roles, Head of Service, Strategy/Commissioning Managers or even Director/Assistant Director opportunities.
These high-pressured roles are about leading by example. There is little frontline work involved as you will be expected to take responsibility for entire departments and ensure that all services are able to deliver statutory care.
As you can see, there are a wealth of opportunities to enjoy a fulfilling social work career and we’re proud to be able to offer a greater number of job opportunities than ever before.