JOB PROFILE: Social Worker

Qualifications and courses

Qualification is with an Honours degree in social work, approved by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) or Scottish Social Care Council (SSCC). The degree takes 3 years full time and approximately half of the course will consist of work-based training. There are also options to study part time. Entry requirements are usually 2 A levels/3 H grades and 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England), including English and Maths.

If you already have a different degree you can take an HCPC- or SSCC-approved postgraduate course in order to gain the appropriate knowledge required. You will need a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree to be accepted onto this.

Both the degree in social work and the postgraduate degree usually require relevant work experience for entry. This can be gained through paid positions in community care centres or by volunteer work. Some universities request a specific period of experience.

To work as a social worker you will need to pass checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and register with either the HCPC or the SSCC. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland registration with the HCPC takes place after completing your degree. In Scotland, you will need to register with the SSCC when you are accepted onto the degree and then again when you finish.

Some local authorities may also sponsor employees working in a social care support role to take a social work degree part-time or as part of a distance learning programme.


What the work involves

Working at a senior level, you will interview your clients and assess their complex problems and needs.

You will then advise on the best package of care for your client.

Your goal is to support people to live independently and thrive in their surroundings. This might involve helping families to stay together, protecting vulnerable people or helping the excluded to be a part of their community.

You will keep detailed records of all your work.


Type of person suited to this work

You should be culturally aware, non-judgemental and able to engage with clients of all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds.

Caseloads can be heavy, so you need to be organised. Excellent communication skills are important.

At times your clients may become difficult and you must be confident at resolving conflicts. You also need to remain professionally detached in emotionally tense circumstances.


Working conditions

You will often work within a team from other disciplines including psychologists and therapists and will be office based. However, most of your time will be spent visiting clients at their homes.

A driving licence is essential.

You will work 37 hours a week but this may include evenings, early mornings and weekends. You may be on call on a rota basis.


Future prospects

There is currently a demand for qualified social workers so job prospects are high. You will most likely work for a local authority social services department or for children's or adult services departments within the National Health Service. Jobs may also be available with armed forces support groups.

After gaining experience you can vary your role by changing your speciality or by moving on within your speciality. For example, you could move from child protection into foster care.

You could also become a senior practitioner or manager but this will mean you will deal more with finances and bureaucracy rather than directly with clients. Lecturing and self-employment opportunities are also possible.

Recent and prospective cuts to social care funding may make your job more difficult. You may have to reduce the services you can offer due to a lack of resources, which may be frustrating.


Advantages/disadvantages

No two cases will be the same, keeping your work interesting.

It is rewarding to see people reach their full potential, solve their own problems and improve their lives.

Social work systems can be bureaucratic and frustrating at times.

Your work can be emotionally distressing and may put you in vulnerable situations.


Money guide

Starting salaries vary between £19,500 and £30,000 per year, depending on where you are working. Salaries starting out in the NHS could range between £28,050 and £36,644.

With experience, you could earn up to £40,000. Managers can earn £42,000 or more.

Many employers offer additional benefits such as car allowances and child care.


Further information


Content generously provided by Indigo Trotman.


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