The Definitive Guide: How To Become A Social Worker
What Is A Social Worker?
If you want to help people and enhance the lives of vulnerable individuals or families, this could be the role for you.
Social Workers work with individuals and families during difficult times, supporting vulnerable people with the intention of improving their situations and lives. This could be protecting individuals or families from harm or abuse, helping people to live independently or support individuals with physical disabilities or mental health.
Typically in England, social workers specialise mainly in adults or children services, where you can specialise in any of the following: adoption and fostering, child protection, young offenders, learning disabilities or mental health. It is a varied and challenging role but also a truly rewarding career.
Social Workers are employed by local authorities, trusts, charities or private organisations so there is quite a lot of choice; working in a variety of settings (depending upon your role), including hospitals, care homes, clinics, hospices or schools and colleges. As a social worker you would typically work with a number of people at one time, this is known as your ‘case load’. You are put in place to assess and identify people’s needs and then put resources in place to better the situation.
Fighting battles for people is of course a relatively tough gig. You get real insight into some terribly sad circumstances. You have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, and be prepared that this is a career that often gets negative press from the media! Having said that, what you are able to offer others and what you are able to do is truly rewarding and fulfilling. It’s a job you would certainly be proud to tell people you do!
Hours of Work
Typically as a Social Worker you would expect to work between 35 and 40 hours a week. There are some circumstances which may involve you working evenings, weekends and national holidays – meeting clients, attending community meetings or during any emergencies. There is quite a lot of paper work involved within this role, which may take up some of your own time; depending again on your role and how many people you are looking after.
So as a social worker, your ultimate goal is to achieve the best personal and social well being for your clients. To do this, you will have to do the following:
- Guide and advocate those in your care
- Make informed decisions
- Counsel and advise
- Interviewing clients and families
- Conduct assessments
- Prepare cases and support plans
- Connect with other human services and organisations
- Attend court hearings and tribunals (where necessary)
- Ensure all records/documents are up to date
- Respond to emergencies
- Remain informed of any updates in legislation
Key Social Worker Qualifications
To become a social worker you will be required to have either a degree or a postgraduate degree in social work. To be able to do a relevant degree you will need to have 5 GCSEs including maths, English and science and 2 A-Levels.
The job title ‘Social Worker’ is a protected title so your degree will also need to be approved by (HCPC), The Health and Care Professions Council. Certain roles will require that you have a MSW, Master of Social Work.
To ensure you continually develop in your profession and stay up to date with news and courses, you could also join the British Association of Social Workers.
Vital Social Worker skills
If you are considering a career as a Social Worker, the most important thing is your personality and attitude, as this is role that truly requires empathy and the ability to care and support vulnerable people.
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
- Listening skills
- Decision making and authoritative
- Be able to work within a team
- Caring and patient
- People management
What Is A Social Workers salary?
Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty…
Salary will depend on location, experience and the area in which you work. Typically a newly qualified social worker could earn circa £20,000 - £30,000 per year. Those in managerial roles can expect to earn £30,000 - £45,000 and those with ten years or more experience can earn up to £60,000.
How To Become A Social Worker
There is a vast amount of information and advice available about a career in social work so ensure you equip yourself fully with what the job entails and what you need to succeed. Aside from that ensure the following:
- Research the various career paths you can take and carefully consider which speciality you would like to work in as there are many to choose from.
- Ensure you have a criminal records check, (DBS)
- Ensure you have a degree or post graduate degree in social work
- Register with the HCPC
- Look for vacancies via specialist job boards or Social Work recruitment agencies
How To Develop Your Social Work career
As a newly qualified Social Worker you will receive lots of guidance and support. The Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE) for example, is a programme offering extra support and mentoring within your first year in a job. With this you will build upon your knowledge, skills and confidence.
As you gain more experience you may then move into a more managerial role. This is a less hands on role and more management of a team so it depends on what your career goals are. You could also specialise in a particular area i.e. senior mental health practitioner or education, teaching university students.
Being a Social Worker will ensure you develop some very employable skills. You could move into policy, education, research or a leadership role.
Social Workers will always be in demand, and their services and need for their services is projected to grow. Due to the number of specialities within the sector, there is real scope for a diverse career. Some of the most popular roles are within: substance abuse and/or recovery, mental health counsellor, school social worker and adoption care social worker. Many Social Workers choose their speciality based on the types of people they want to help and the environment they will work in.
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