Social worker: job description

Social worker: job description

Social workers provide appropriate advice, support and resources to individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties to help them overcome their problems.
A professionally recognised qualification is needed to become a social worker.

What does a social worker do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Social workers work with specific groups of clients including children, the elderly and people with mental health problems. Generally social workers specialise in either adult or child social care. The nature of the work varies according to setting.

Typical duties include:

  • assessing, counselling and offering advice to clients
  • arranging appropriate care, resources or benefits
  • liaising with relatives, colleagues and other professionals
  • report writing
  • budgetary and managerial administration
  • attending or contributing towards court cases

Unsociable hours are common, and in certain settings this may include shift work. Promotion is possible through specialisation, research positions or managerial roles. Ongoing professional development is an important feature of the work.

Typical employers of social workers

  • Local authorities
  • Health service trusts
  • Local education authorities (LEAs)
  • General practices
  • Hospitals
  • Health centres
  • Charities
  • Private nursing homes

Vacancies are advertised in a variety of publications including local authority job lists, The Guardian, The Independent, Community Care, Nursing Times, Opportunities and their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

Only graduates can become social workers. To become a social worker you will need a qualification that is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This means either doing a BA undergraduate degree in social work or, if your first degree is in a different subject, completing a postgraduate qualification. The HCPC publishes a list of accredited courses on its website.

Graduates who have an undergraduate degree in any subject other than social work are eligible for work-based postgraduate programmes, such as:

  • Frontline
  • Step Up to Social Work
  • Think Ahead

On these programmes you will work towards postgraduate qualifications while gaining practical experience in social work. Paid or voluntary experience in social work and care is advantageous when applying for these programmes.

If you don’t want to do a social work degree but still want a career where you can support people and make a difference to their lives, you have other options. You can take on a social work assistant role as a school leaver. There are also opportunities for school leavers to work and gain qualifications in the wider field of social care (as opposed to social work). If you are a school leaver who is considering a career in social care, see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for social workers

  • Commitment
  • Patience
  • Flexibility
  • Able to cope with traumatic situations
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical skills
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