A career in social work can be incredibly rewarding for anyone looking to make a difference in society. With 100,000 registered social workers across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the profession is a popular one that has both progression opportunities and the ability to give back to society. But what do you need to become a skilled and confident social worker?
Qualified, registered social workers require professional training, and typically a degree at undergraduate or Masters level, according to Prospects. The National Careers Service states that your degree must be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council, with whom you must also register when you qualify.
There are tailored training courses you can undertake to upskill and be work-ready, including fast-track programmes that are designed to get you on the job quickly. Once in a job, you'll likely receive ongoing professional development.
Social work is all about communication, both with clients and colleagues. With clients, you'll need to practice active listening and know the right questions to ask to ensure you have all the information you need, whilst building up trusting relationships. In the professional setting of the office, you'll need proficient written and verbal communication skills to present cases and make written referrals.
Relevant work experience can help you secure a placement on a Masters course or fast-track programme, and indeed help you stand out in the eyes of employers. Volunteering is an excellent way to get this experience, and is something that can be done while you study. Around 14.2 million people in the UK volunteer at least once a month, according to the UK Civil Society Almanac, so you'll be in good company. Ask around at your local schools, youth and sports clubs, charity phone lines, homeless shelters and victim support organisations to see how you can help.
While social work is incredibly rewarding, it can also be very emotionally challenging at times. Your work will include dealing with those involved in crisis on a regular basis, so it's vital that you are able to look after your own emotional needs as well as those of your clients.
Boundary setting skills
Because you'll be dealing with people during difficult periods in their lives, you'll naturally practice empathy and kindness in your role as social worker. However, you will also need to be able to set professional boundaries, not just for ethical reasons but also to prevent you from becoming over-invested and burning out.
There is always a need for qualified, talented social workers who are committed to the care of their patients. If you follow the above steps, you just might find yourself in the position to become one. Alternatively, if you're in the market for work, browse our current available Social Work Jobs.