How to qualify as a graduate social worker

Last updated: 25 Jan 2023, 13:38

Everything you need to get started on your path towards a social work career, from entry requirements and qualifications you need to become a graduate social worker to information on available funding.

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You'll need a degree in social work to get a job as a social worker, but don't worry if you don't have an undergraduate degree in the subject. You can do a postgraduate course (a diploma or a masters) at a number of UK universities, and once you've completed this, you can register with Social Work England as a qualified social worker.

What postgraduate courses involve

Most postgraduate social work courses are full time and made up of academic study and work placements. You'll explore topics such as law and policy, research methods, communication skills, and social identity and citizenship. You can complete a postgraduate diploma in around 14 months; a masters will take at least two years.

Your course provider will organise work placements for you and make sure you get the support you need while you're on placement.

What are the entry requirements for a social work postgraduate course?

Most course providers ask for at least a 2.1 in your undergraduate degree, occasionally in a social science or related subject, and some relevant work experience. Application requirements vary, but in England you'll probably also need GCSEs at grade 4/C or above in maths and English.

Applications and funding

Most universities process postgraduate applications for social work through UCAS. You may be eligible for an NHS bursary: these are handled by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). Some universities also offer scholarships and bursaries for social work students.

Graduate schemes in social work

There are other ways to gain your postgraduate qualification in social work – you can also learn on the job through a recognised 'fast-track' scheme.

Step up to social work is a 14-month, full-time programme. You'll work in a local authority and get hands-on experience alongside academic study towards a postgraduate qualification. Applicants need at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree, or a 2.2 alongside a postgraduate degree (eg a masters). Living in England is also listed as a requirement.

Frontline is a two-year leadership development programme based around hands-on social work with children. In the first year, you'll work in a local authority supported by a mentor and study towards a postgraduate diploma in social work. In the second year, you'll be a newly qualified social worker and work towards a masters in advanced relationship-based social work practice. You'll also receive leadership coaching in your second year.

You'll need at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree to apply (or a 2.2 plus a postgraduate degree). Applicants are also required to be living in England when the scheme starts.

Think Ahead is a two-year graduate programme for people who want to become mental health social workers. In your first year, you'll work alongside an experienced social worker in a small group and study for a postgraduate diploma in social work. In your second year, you'll be a qualified social worker and study for a masters. Those with a grade C in GCSE maths, along with a 2.1 undergraduate degree, are eligible.

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