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Career Advice

How to become a Social Worker

social worker‘Social worker’ isn’t exactly self-explanatory, is it? It’s one of those jobs that we we hear mentioned so often that we never really stop to consider what it actually entails. In its very simplest form, a social worker is someone who provides advice and enables support to vulnerable individuals, families and those living on the margins of society. But of course, as always, it’s quite a bit more complicated than that!

The activities of a social worker are numerous and varied, taking them to a range of different environments and presenting many challenges. The specifics of your job will ultimately be dictated by the capacity in which you are employed, however in general terms a social worker could be expected to provide advice and support to; people with mental health conditions, school non-attenders, drug and alcohol addicts, people with learning and physical disabilities, the homeless and the elderly.

Needless to say the role is thought by many to be more of a calling than an occupation, some of the skills and personal attributes which are considered to be the foundation of a good social worker are.

  • The highest level of verbal communication skills when interacting with a very wide range of individuals and groups

  • The ability to quickly build rapport and instil a sense of trust in the people you are working with

  • Being able to relate to people of all ages in a manner of difficult situations

  • Patience, humility, tact, empathy, discretion and understanding

  • The desire and ability to work in a role which will often require you to adopt a flexible approach, which may require you to go above and beyond the call of duty

  • The stability and resilience to work with people who find themselves in incredibly challenging positions without allowing this to affect your own well-being.

  • Excellent skills of organisation and  time management

  • The ability and computer literacy to carry out a wide range of administrative functions connected to the role

Of course this list is only just skimming the surface of the kinds of attributes which help to make a great social worker but it is a great place to start when considering if it is likely to be the career for you.

Job Activities

handshakeGenerally social workers will choose to specialise in either adult or child services, and obviously these will impact upon the kinds of things which they will face on a daily basis but still, trying to sum-up the activities of a social worker in a bulleted list is a fairly futile exercise.  Even so, you can get a general idea of the kind of duties that you will be expected to carry out from these

Those working in child services:

  • Helping to advise and support families to ensure (as far as possible) that they are allowed to remain together

  • Working within children’s homes

  • Organising and managing foster care and adoption procedures

  • Helping children and young people who are affected by illness

  • Proving support to children and young people who have been affected by death

  • Providing support to children and young people who are involved in criminal activity

  • Working with children and young people who are experiencing problems at school

Those working in adult services:

  • Working to support people who have mental health issues or learning disabilities- this will sometimes take place within residential homes

  • Providing support and advice to people who are dealing with alcohol or drug abuse

  • Working with people who are homeless or at risk from homelessness

  • Providing support to people who are affected by illness/disability

  • Working with the elderly and making sure that they are given the maximum support available

Qualifications

Social work is recognised as a health and care profession and as such there is a strict governmental policy which dictates the level of training and qualifications which must be attained before the role may be performed.

All social workers must undertake either a 3 year Undergraduate or 2 year postgraduate degree in Social Work which has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)  Check the website to see what courses have been approved. These courses can carried out on a full time or part-time basis depending upon an individual university’s preference.

As with all university courses the entry requirements for social work courses can be quite varied.  You will need to check with the relevant institution, however as a general rule they will request at least; 5 GCSE’s (including English and maths), 2 A Levels or an equivalent qualification such as a BTEC National Diploma or NVQ Level 3 in Health and Social Care.

If you still reckon a career as a social worker is the one for you then best of luck! However,  if you are still trying decide what path to check then why not have a look at some of the other great guides in our career directory.

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