Social Work

A social worker works with people who have been socially excluded or who are experiencing crisis. Their role is to provide support to enable service users to help themselves. They maintain professional relationships with service users, acting as guides, advocates or critical friends.  Social workers work in a variety of settings within a framework of relevant legislation and procedures, often working in multidisciplinary teams, supporting individuals, families and groups within the community. They follow a Code of Ethics, established by their professional body the British Association of Social Work   Settings may include the service user's home or schools, hospitals or the premises of other public sector and voluntary organisations.  Qualified social work professionals are often supported by social work assistants. They also work closely with other health and social care staff.

The skills required by a Social Worker are very explicitly identified in the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).  A social work degree combines studying with 200 days of assessed practice to gain essential practical skills for the role of social worker and to work as part of a social care workforce, increasingly in integrated teams alongside professionals in the NHS schools, police and housing. You will develop skills of judgment and become more reflective critical and evaluative.  Social workers need a specific mix of personal skills to carry out their frequently challenging roles.  These include:

  • excellent people skills /an ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds and gain their trust
  • ability to analyse situations and solve problems
  • ability to manage conflict
  • advocacy skills
  • ability to work as part of a team / to take a practical and flexible approach
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in a crisis
  • resilience
  • flexibility to adapt to new roles, tasks and situations
  • strong observation, analytical and listening skills
  • the capacity to absorb legal/procedural information
  • empathy, combined with a genuine desire to improve the quality of the lives of service users
  • ability to think on your feet and make difficult decisions under pressure

Social Workers work with a variety of people including

  • Children or Adults with disabilities, physical and mental health problems
  • Vulnerable older people
  • Young offenders
  • People with drug ,alcohol or other addictions
  • People who are socially excluded
  • People moving towards independent living
  • Families where there is a risk of family breakdown 
  • Children who need to live apart from their families
  • Foster carers and adopters
  • People , including children who are at risk of abuse or neglect ,or have been abused or neglected
  • Carers 

The practical skills and work experience gained on a Social Work degree are also relevant to a range of other social care and advice roles . You may need further training/qualifications or specific experience for some of them.

General Options with your subject

Social workers work in a variety of organisations and settings including local authoritiesproviding services for young people or adults, voluntary organisations, charities / 3rd sector, private sector care homes, schools, hospitals and GP practices.  Some work in social enterprises - whereby social workers set up their own company and contract for work.

Further Options

Since September 2012 newly qualified social workers have been supported in their first year of practice by the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).  Nearly 2000 NQSWs have benefitted from the programme since the launch.  After further training and gaining experience there are many different specialism options within social work open to you. Specialist roles include homelessness officer, day care social worker, education welfare officer, health care social worker and mental health social worker.

Career development may involve a change of role within a specialism, e.g. from child protection to fostering and adoption. It is also possible to transfer from one specialism to another, e.g. from working with children to working with the elderly.

Social work is a profession where promotion is likely to take you away from hands-on work. Three to five years after qualification, it is possible to become a senior practitioner, team or care manager. In this role, you would have responsibility for managing other social workers (resulting in a reduction in direct service user contact) and an increasing involvement in managerial, financial and political issues.

With a practice teaching award, you could become involved in the supervision and management of social work students and less experienced staff.


Events such as the Social Work Fair/Compass Jobs Fair will provide you with opportunities to network and find out more about careers in social work, and you can meet potential employers.  

Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 14:42