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How to progress your social work career

By Luke Aldred

​As you gain more experience as a social work practitioner, you may turn your thoughts to career progression – namely, what might you expect to achieve and what to expect at different levels of seniority. Social work is an incredibly diverse profession and offers great flexibility – whilst some practitioners may be keen to rise up the ranks into managerial positions, others are happy to continue working directly with adults or children and families.

With this in mind, we look at what you could expect from your career and how we can help you at every step of the way.

What is the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF)?

The first thing you should be aware of is the Professionals Capability Framework. This is a dedicated resource outlining professional development for social workers in England. The PCF works in partnership with the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) which clearly define what social workers should know and be able to do in different settings and at different levels of seniority.

There are two distinct KSS which refer to adults and children and families. To understand more about how the two resources align together, we highly recommend reading the guidance provided by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).

Starting as a newly qualified social worker

During your first social work job, you will be classed as a newly qualified social worker (NQSW) and will possibly be participating in an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) scheme. Your employer will assess your skills against the PCF and determine whether you are meeting the national standards as required by Social Work England.

What is an advanced practitioner social work job role?

Many practitioners are not tempted by managerial or team manager social work jobs because they want to keep working directly with adults or children and families. For these social workers, advanced practitioner jobs are the ideal blend of experience and progression.

Social workers can move into niche areas from there, such as independent reviewing officer (IRO) jobs or practice educator positions. These roles are about shaping the development of peers and helping to influence how the social work profession will continue to deliver positive outcomes for those in need.

How can I move into social work management?

For those who are keen to benefit from a linear career progression and have ambitions to work as a social work team manager (or higher) then there are plenty of opportunities for career progression.

Whilst team manager social work jobs are about leading teams and ensuring that everyone is working effectively, other roles such as service managers, heads of service and commissioning managers to take on a more strategic role. It’s about evolving and developing services to ensure delivering statutory care is being delivered.

Whatever your ambitions are, we are uniquely placed to help you. To find out how, please get in touch. ​We have also written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your social work career.