Choosing a career path is a very important decision. If you are thinking about going down the path of becoming a social worker, then we have the lowdown on what a social worker exactly is and how you can begin your journey to becoming one.
What is a social worker, and what do they do?
Working as a social worker is a varied profession but the main aim of the occupation is to improve peoples lives. As a part of the job description, you aim to help with peoples social and interpersonal difficulties, as well as promoting human rights and the wellbeing of others.
Social workers mainly protect children and adults with support needs. The day to day duties of a social worker involves assessing peoples needs, working with individuals and families directly with the aim to help them change and solve problems, as well as organising support.
The range of problems they also deal with includes social and emotional disadvantages, poverty or trauma.
How do you become a social worker?
To become a social worker, you can acquire specific qualifications through a university course, apprenticeship or a graduate training scheme. The qualifications you acquire will most likely be approved by Social Work England.
To get on to a university course, the entry requirements you generally need include two to three A-Levels and five GCSE’s graded A to C – including English and Maths. If you are going down the more vocational route, alternative qualifications include a BTEX, HND or HNC, a relevant NVQ, a health or social care based access course or equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.
If you already have a degree – but it is in a different subject – you can take several other routes. For example, you can do a postgraduate qualification in social work, which will take up to two years to complete full time and six years part-time. Another way to do this is by training through the “Step Up to Social Work” scheme, which takes 14 months to complete and combines work and study on this scheme.
Next, we have the “Frontline” scheme, which is a two-year programme that again combines study and supervised practical work in child protection. Or you can similarly apply for the two year “Think Ahead” fast track scheme to become a mental health social worker, blending academic learning and extensive on the job experience.
It is vital that you have experience behind you, such as working with vulnerable groups or children. Before applying for a social work course, you can obtain work through being a social work assistant or as a support worker. It is a great idea to gain the skills and experience you need by volunteering in the community through charity work or paid work.
What do you do on a social work course?
Depending on what course you choose to study social work on, they will differ on what modules you study, but all courses will include: law applied to social work, ethics and values, assessments and interventions, mental health, disability and other issues and practical work with clients and placements in social work settings.
The skills you will learn include: teamwork, problem solving, patience (a vital skill working in this profession), people and time management, organisation, English and numeracy skills, communication, administration, customer service, IT and finally, interpersonal skills.
What happens after you get the qualifications you need?
After you have completed any of the required qualifications to become a social worker, then it is time to try and find a job.
Before getting a job, you need to be aware of the salary expectations of becoming a social worker. If you are newly qualified – which you most likely are at this point – you can expect to receive an average yearly wage of £25,000. The more experience you gain over the years, salaries can reach up to £40,000 or even more, depending on your level of expertise.
Going into a social worker job means you will most likely work for the local authorities, a health organisation such as the NHS, voluntary organisations, charities and also independent and private businesses. This is also times where some social workers will work independently.
If you are wanting to find out more information about becoming a social worker and what it entails, you can find out more information on websites including the:
- British Association of Social Workers
- Health and Care Professionals Council
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council
- Care Council for Wales
- Scottish Social Services Council
So, if you are looking to become a social worker then here is all the information you need to know. Time to make some important decisions…