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How To Become A Social Worker


social worker

There are certain jobs that move beyond the need to earn a living. Although we need to fill the food cupboard and pay the rent, some people have a burning desire to make a difference. Choosing to become a social worker means you want to help others. You understand that not everyone finds life easy and not everyone is given the skills or opportunities to thrive.

This guide breaks down how to become a social worker, the skills and qualifications needed, and how you can seek opportunities in this career. If you feel you have the skills and the desire to do this work, you could then make a move to undertake healthcare courses online.

What Is A Social Worker?

The role of the social worker is to assist individuals to improve their life. This might mean helping the individual seek access to services and it might be teaching the skills needed to offer independence.

Direct work with people is only one aspect of the work of a social worker. You will be expected to offer direct counselling to families and groups, but there are other responsibilities. A social worker is expected to understand the different community resources available to patients. They are also expected to fulfil legal requirements, whether this is working as an advocate or merely completing the necessary paperwork.

Therefore, what does a social worker do?' Is a complex question. It is research, policy development, advocacy, counselling and teaching, and possibly a hundred other small skills and tasks.

What Are the Different Types of Social Workers?

Social workers can be expected to work in different circumstances. The types of social workers include:

      • Family, child or school social worker: this involves working to maximise the academic, social, and health welfare of a child. This could include seeking foster homes or working to find a family for adoption. You are responsible for addressing truancy, poor behaviour, drug use, poor grades, and more. You are likely to be the link that joins all aspects of a child's life: home, school, court, protective services, mental health support, and other institutions.
      • Public health social worker: this involves helping people diagnosed with a chronic, life-altering or threatening condition, or similar. The role entails supporting patients with the impacts of such conditions, helping them to cope.
      • Addiction and mental health social worker: this involves working with support services to help those struggling with everyday life. The mental and emotional problems of those requiring support are likely impacting on their day-to-day functioning. You would be expected to provide counselling, intervene during a crisis, offer education, and more.

Where Does A Social Worker Work?

Many organisations employ social workers. You could be based in a hospital, clinic or nursing home. You may be part of a mental health agency, working out of a clinical base. You could work for local and national government agencies, as part of the child welfare agency or the Department of Health. Schools and youth organisations tend to employ social workers where there is a likely need for counselling. You could find yourself working on a military base or in a prison.

Wherever you are based as a social worker, there is a high chance that you will be expected to spend a large proportion of your time visiting individuals and groups. You will be expected to be where your clients are living, working or gathering. The role of the social worker is sometimes to adapt to the needs of those you work with, rather than sticking to a single location.

What Is the Role of a Social Worker?

The role of the social worker is complex. You will be expected to complete a variety of tasks, which will vary depending on the type of social worker.

You will be expected to identify people who require help, whether this is children or adults, whether it is due to mental illness or due to the impacts of poverty. You will then be asked to assess the individuals needs and help to formulate a plan to achieve set goals.

You may be expected to counsel people and help them manage challenges in life. This could involve practical solutions, such as directing individuals to food banks or accessing medical care where necessary. It will more than likely mean acting as an advocate, helping your clients to find the support they need from the government and other programs.

What Skills Does A Social Worker Require?

You will need many skills to be a successful social worker. A sincere desire to help and to care for others is a beginning, though you will need other qualities too.

There are lots of types of social worker, but there are skills that are required no matter what the route you take. For instance, you will need to be an active listener This means you will give your full attention to people and what they are saying. You will understand the points being made, avoid interrupting, and ask questions if appropriate.

You will also need to be perceptive of social cues. You will be able to pick up the reactions of others and understand why they are acting in this way. This could mean reading body language, focusing on how someone is dressed, or listening to the tone of voice.

Speaking is another crucial skill of the social worker. You will need to communicate information effectively. Being an effective speaker is not just about being clear; it is about finding the appropriate tone and register for the individual and group you are working with.

Ultimately, you will need to be a critical thinker and a problem solver. You should be able to respond to each situation, evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and from this discern appropriate action. You will have a desire to keep up to date with all potential solutions, and at times will have the ability to think outside the box.

How Much Does A Social Worker Earn?

A social worker salary is probably not going to be your primary motivation for wanting to enter this career. This is a job people enter because they have a deep sense of duty and desire to fulfil a vocation. However, a social worker salary does offer a degree of comfort. As a newly qualified social worker, you can expect to earn £22,000 per year. If you progress up the pay scale and take on extra responsibilities, you can expect to earn a social worker salary of £40,000.

If you work for the NHS, you will begin working on the NHS pay scale at Band 6. This means your salary will be between £26,565 to £35,557.

What Qualifications Does a Social Worker Need?

Social work is a profession that requires graduate status. This means you will need an honours degree or a post-graduate degree in social work. Your degree will need to be approved by one of the following regulators, depending on where in the UK you will work:

      • Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC)
      • Social Care Wales
      • Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
      • Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

DipSW (Diploma of Social Work) has is the past been adequate for entry into social work. However, this is no longer recognised as a sufficient qualification for new entrants to the profession.

A degree in social work is desirable. However, studying law, politics and government, social care and the social sciences will also increase your chances of entering the profession. A social worker undergraduate course will last for three years of full-time study and work experience. There is a requirement to complete 200 days in practical placement. You will need to gain a 2:2 if you are to succeed in becoming a professional, though most employers expect a 2:1.

There is a Step up to Social Work programme for those seeking to enter social work without committing to a three-year degree. This is a 14-month intensive course for trainee social workers for those who already have a degree. You will work in the local authority, gaining hands-on experience while completing academic learning. There is a £20,000 bursary for those seeking to study to be a social working in this way. 80% of graduates of this course have gained employment as a social worker.

As you will be working with children and people in vulnerable situations, you will be expected to undergo a DBS check. This is a check on your police record, disclosing any offence that may bar you from working in certain situations. This DBS check will need to be renewed annually.

What Are the Working Hours of a Social Worker?

The hours of the social worker, in theory, revolve around normal office hours. This means that the average working week is between 35 and 40 hours per week. The role of a social worker cannot be limited to the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. People may need help on evenings, at weekends and on national holidays. It could be that the individual presents with problems that require you to stay until a solution has been found, as their safety depends on it.

Most social workers have to be conscious of work/ life balance and management of personal emotional resilience.

Step By Step Guide On How To Become a Social Worker

      • Study towards a Bachelor Degree in Social Work. You could also study towards a related degree and then complete a postgraduate qualification in social work.
      • If you are completing a social work degree you will be offered practical work placements. If your degree is not a specialist social work qualification, you should consider gaining work experience with young people or people who need support in your area of interest.
      • Consider post-graduate study, as there are many areas of specialism within social work and you could increase your chances of your ideal position with a specific qualification. Some positions, with a high degree of responsibility such as clinical social work or psychiatric social work, may demand proof of post-graduate before you can be considered for this post.
      • You will need to be registered to work as a social worker. The body you register with depends on where in the UK you hope to work. In England, you will be expected to register with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).
      • Seek employment.

How Can a Newly Qualified Social Worker Get a Job?

You can choose to become an apprentice social worker. If you choose this route, then you should receive the minimum wage at least. Most employers of apprentice social workers will offer to pay a significant amount more than the minimum wage. If you visit the Skills for Care website it gives details of the apprenticeships offered.

You may choose to work for the NHS. As one of the largest employers of social workers, the NHS will offer a degree of job security and career progression. You can find jobs for a social worker at the central site for jobs with the NHS.

Alternatively, you can visit the British Association of Social Workers, where there are jobs regularly posted.

Career Advancement Opportunities

The role of a social worker is complex and there are many ways to advance your career. The obvious career advancement for a social worker is through leadership in social service agencies or within clinical mental health professional settings.

It is also possible to focus on your work as a counsellor, developing the skills and additional qualifications needed to specialise as a therapist. You may also seek to teach other social workers, working in a college or as a mentor within social work practice.

Are There Any Unions for Social Workers?

The SWU is the union for social workers and is an organisational member of BASW. The aim of the union is to protect and support professionals, which is essential in a career where the individual is placed in vulnerable situations. Being part of a union is highly recommended, for insurance and job protections, as the union offers advocacy.


The role of a social worker is highly rewarding. The salary of a social worker may not be as high as other graduate professions; however, the sense of reward is high. You will be helping people at a point in their life when they cannot cope on their own. You will use your skills to guide them back to independence and a more fulfilling day to day experience. Sometimes our sense of personal achievement is worth more than money in the bank.