How to Become a Social Worker

Budget 2016

Social workers play a crucial role in overseeing the safety and wellbeing of others in society and finding answers to some of the most complex problems in life. The main role of the social worker is to protect the vulnerable from abuse, care for the elderly and support the disabled, so they are able to live an independent lifestyle. There are various roles in the social work sector, so it would be worth finding out which roles are better suited to your strengths and skillset.

There is a growing demand for social care workers, so now would be the right time to discover how to get on the career ladder.

In this guide, we’re going to provide some useful information on how to start your career as a social worker:

1. Get qualifications

To become a social worker, you’ll need to be educated to at least a bachelor’s level degree. There are multiple courses that will give you an opening into the field (the main one being social work), however, it would be valuable to explore different academic institutions and research which courses are offered.

If you have already been to university and studied an unrelated degree, there are still options. You could decide to study a Master’s qualification, which will teach you theoretical principles to handle almost every situation in social care work. This qualification can be studied from the comfort of your own home on an online basis, so you don’t have to physically attend lectures.  Click here to find out more information.

This form of study is extremely convenient if you are currently employed and can’t afford to give up your job to go back to university. This course will open doors to several social work occupations, including an administrative social worker, public policy social worker and crisis worker, amongst many others.

2. Find work experience

Without the relevant work experience, it will be difficult to secure a place onto a relevant Master’s course. If you’re serious about getting into the social sector, now would be the time to start looking for placements.

Firstly, contact different agencies to find out whether it would be possible to shadow a member of staff for a short period, but don’t be alarmed if your query is refused. Due to the sensitive nature of cases that are often lawfully kept confidential, work experience placements aren’t always accepted. Taking the time to build a network and develop relationships with other professionals may give you a better chance to gain work experience placements which may not be open to others – after all, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

3. An apprenticeship or internship

It’s now possible to become a social worker through a social work degree apprenticeship, however, these positions don’t come up too often. The apprenticeship will take approximately 3 years to complete and will be made up of on-the-job learning and degree-level study. The benefit of an apprenticeship is that you’ll be paid a small salary despite still being in education and you won’t have to fund the course fees yourself.

Similarly, there may be internships advertised in your local area. Even if you can’t find an internship that’s social work focused, getting experience in a similar field will equip you with the relevant skills and knowledge to gain a career in the sector in the future. Be specifically on the lookout for internships based in clinics, hospitals and GP surgeries.

  1. Volunteering

Volunteering is a valuable way to get your foot in the door to social work and gain an insight into what the job role entails. Keep your eyes peeled for openings that involve working with vulnerable groups or the elderly, as this form of experience is usually essential to get accepted on most social work-related courses. Volunteering for mental health and elderly adult charities or homeless shelters will make you more employable as a social worker once you have qualified.

While you won’t be getting paid for your time, volunteering gives you the chance to try out an array of skills and find out what a social work career may entail before you decide to put all your eggs in one basket. It will also boost your confidence and make you seem more interesting when the time comes to answer common interview questions after applying for a social work role.

5. Develop essential skills

To work in the social care sector, you need to be able to prove you are skilled in the following:


You’ll be talking to clients daily; therefore, you need to be able to show that you’re a good listener. Aim to listen more than you talk so you don’t lead the conversation when a client is opening up to you. Pay close attention to the finer details and be aware of your body language so the other person can see that you’re focused on what is being said.

Setting boundaries

Emotions can run high when you’re dealing with harrowing cases, so you need to develop emotional resilience to hard-hitting information. You must be able to remain professional and draw boundaries, so you don’t feel obliged to get involved with cases on a personal level.

Creative thinking

Creative thinking is the ability to look at things from different perspectives and come up with unique ways to solve complex issues. Often, you’ll be expected to think on the spot and make quick decisions based on the information you have been given. You’ll need to refer to your case training, theoretical knowledge to become a successful creative thinker.


You need to show that you can communicate effectively. In social work, you’ll be expected to deal with a variety of people from several backgrounds, both in written form and verbally. Dependent on the situation, you’ll be speaking to clients face-to-face, via phone and formulating written letters.


Social workers have an intense workload to manage and tend to juggle several cases at any one time. Having organizational skills is vital in order to manage under extreme pressure, so you don’t get overwhelmed too quickly.

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