How to start a career in social work
By Luke Aldred
Social work is an incredibly diverse sector with plenty of room for progression. It is a rewarding career choice for those who want to help vulnerable people and make a real difference.
What qualifications do I need to work as a social worker in the UK?
In the UK, 'social worker' is a protected title meaning you must have an accredited qualification and professional registration to call yourself a social worker.
You must have a degree in social work (either undergraduate or postgraduate) through an ‘approved’ course; this will ensure that you have access to work placements where you can integrate your theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
Approved courses can be found online via the four professional regulators; Social Work England (SWE), the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) , Social Care Wales (SCW) and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISSC).
If you’ve previously worked in a similar role (perhaps probation, or within a social care setting) then you may be able to benefit from a fast-track programme. Initiatives such as Frontline, Think Ahead or Step Up to Social Work have been specifically designed to help increase interest in social work jobs.
What skills do social workers have?
To be a children’s or adult social work practitioner, the following skills are considered essential:
Good communication (both written, and oral)
Mediation and negotiation
What other jobs can I do with a social work degree?
A social work degree is a broad-ranging subject. Whilst it will lead you directly into a social work job role, it will not restrict your access to similar roles.
You could move into family support work, advice work, counselling, mental health, probation, youth work or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services.
How do I register as a social worker?
Before you start your first job in social work, you must register with a professional body. The regulator takes responsibility for maintaining standards as well as learning and development.
In the UK, we have four distinct regulators. Social Work England (for social workers in England), the SSSC (for Scottish social workers), Social Care Wales (for those in Wales) and the NISSC (for social workers in Northern Ireland).
How much can I expect to earn as a social worker?
Your earning potential will depend upon your experience, but newly qualified social workers can expect to earn anything between £25-30k per annum.
Senior social work roles and management positions will have much higher earning potential.
We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your social work career.