Roads Most Travelled – Routes into Social Work
Sam Wilson, March 22, 2014
Something we often hear is “I’d quite like to get into (insert chosen profession) but I’m not really sure how to go about it”. As our ‘Social Work Showcase’ continues we wanted to do our bit in ensuring that anyone feeling that way about Social Work had the information they need to start their journey.
To become a Social Worker you will need to be qualified, for many this takes the form of a BA (Hons) in Social Work.
To be eligible for a BA (Hons) in Social Work you will need:
- 5 GCSEs (A – C) including Maths and English
- At least 2 A levels or an equivalent qualification such as BTEC National Diploma or NVQ Level 3 in Health and Social Care.
For more competitive courses, preference will be given to those with work experience in Social Care environment so it is incredibly worthwhile if you have the opportunity.
Once you have completed your BA (Hons) you will be eligible to apply to become registered with a regulatory body, the regulatory body you register with will depend on which country you want to practice in.
To work as a qualified Social Worker you must be registered and will be required to re-register every two years. Any form of misconduct can lead to you being struck off the register and therefore unable to continue practising.
Some employers may prefer that you have a postgraduate Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) but this is often something that you can study for whilst working.
Have a degree in a different subject?
If you have a degree in something other than Social Work you willbe required to undertake a postgraduate course such as the Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) or a Masters (MA). Most institutions will want you to have at least a 2:2 if not higher in order to be eligible for an MA. Some candidates may be considered if they don’t meet the requirements but this will be on an individual basis.
As an alternative to a DipSW or MA, there are an increasing number of graduate schemes for graduates with degrees in subjects other than Social Work. They will usually include qualification for a DipSW, MA and registration withthe HCPC as well as significant work experience.
For the majority of postgraduates courses you will be required to have relevant work experience, again the amount of work experience required will differ depending on the institution but will normally range from 3-12 months.
Getting the experience
Work experience can take place in a variety of settings, the best possible experience would be shadowing a Social Worker. Competition for such opportunities can be high, write to your local and neighbouring authorities and if possible write directly to the team leader within the department you want to work in.
Other options would be volunteering at a care home, shelter or youth group.
In your application you will increase your chances by demonstrating what you have learnt and how you have benefitted from your experience. It can be incredibly worthwhile to keep a reflective diary of your experience.
Both undergraduate and postgraduate courses will include work placements in Social Work settings.
After your qualification
On completion of a postgraduate course you will be eligible to apply for registration.
Following registration you will be able to begin your first job as a Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW), many organisations will have a set number of NQSWs at any one time who are only permitted to undertake a limited caseload and are provided with a comprehensive support system from senior staff. An initiative called Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) has replaced the previous NQSW scheme and is designed to help NQSWs develop their skills, knowledge andprofessional confidence. It provides access to regular support for NQSWs during their first year of employment and offers the opportunity to be certified by the College of Social Work. Organisations that register to provide the ASYE programme are able to claim £2,000 per participant.
As you can see, becoming a Social Worker involves a significant time investment and requires a considerable amount of work. This is a necessity in order to ensure that only the most highly-trained and competent individuals are given the responsibility of safeguarding vulnerable individuals. As professions go, it stands as one of the most challenging but ultimately rewarding and most Social Work professionals would say that the rewards make the workload worthwhile.