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How to become a Social Worker

Social work is a rewarding career path that, while challenging at times, offers the chance to positively impact the lives of people in your community. With a number of different social work jobs available in the field, your career could see you providing a range of support and assistance to individuals, families or communities. 

To become a social worker, you’ll need to follow a specific educational and training pathway in order to register for this regulated profession. This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to get into social work, how long it takes, and the entry requirements for social work courses. 


Why become a social worker? 

Social work is a broad professional field that offers dedicated and conscientious individuals the chance to make a positive impact across many parts of society. It’s a great choice for empathetic individuals who are passionate about helping others. 

It’s a popular career choice as it offers diverse career paths. You might find yourself working in areas like child protection, supporting vulnerable or older people, working with hospitals or in the fostering sector. Employment prospects are generally good as there is often a need for additional social workers. 

Though being a social worker can sometimes take you into stressful, high pressure or potentially upsetting situations, the satisfaction of being able to help people through some of the most difficult times in their lives is invaluable. You’ll gain confidence in yourself and develop a wide range of transferable skills that will make you highly sought-after for a large range of social work jobs. 

How do I become a social worker? 

A major goal on the route to becoming a social worker is to become registered with Social Work England (or the equivalent body in whatever country you’re looking to work in). There are several academic routes to getting registered, including: 

  • An approved undergraduate degree in social work 
  • A postgraduate degree in social work 
  • A degree apprenticeship in social work 

You’ll usually need to have between two and three A levels, as well as five GCSEs at grade C or above (or equivalent), to qualify for an undergraduate programme in social work. 

You might be wondering how long it takes to become a social worker. It’s going to take you at least three years, but if you decide to do a master’s course as well, providing you with further training and opportunities for practical experience building, you may be looking at five or six years. A master’s will be required for any student who is moving into social work from a different academic background, and usually takes two years. 

There are other ways to qualify if you already have a degree in a different subject. The Step up to Social Work, Think Ahead, and Frontline programmes offer routes to registration that combined practical working, usually supervised, with academic study. 

What are the entry requirements? 

Getting onto a postgraduate course in social work will be subject to satisfying the entry requirements set out by your chosen university. The admissions criteria for postgraduate programmes will differ depending on the university, specialisation and level of your chosen study option. 

Generally speaking, master’s courses in social work look for applicants to have a previous degree in any subject—typically at 2:2 level of above. In many cases you’ll need to evidence a minimum amount of professional or personal work experience in a health or social care setting. In some cases, professional social work qualifications will be accepted in place of an undergraduate degree. 

Doctoral research qualifications, such as a PhD, will typically require a master’s degree in social work. 

What skills do I need to become a social worker? 

Social work is a demanding role that places a strong focus on interpersonal communication, empathy and understanding. Throughout your studies and in the career that follows, your ability to understand people’s circumstances and emotions will be paramount. You’ll also need to have a sincere desire to improve your clients’ quality of life, as this will give you the drive to work through potentially challenging or stressful situations. 

Working well under pressure is another useful skill for social workers, as well as the ability to effectively manage a flexible and varied workload, deal with and defuse conflict, and negotiate with various stakeholders. 

Personal attributes such as analytical thinking, an eye for detail, being organised, and personal resilience will help you thrive as a social worker. 

What universities offer social work courses? 

There are over 175 postgraduate courses in social work on offer at universities in the UK. With such a diversity of choice when it comes to social work qualifications, our course search tool is a perfect way to easily browse your options and find your perfect programme. 

Next: Search for postgraduate social work courses


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