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Want to be a social worker? Here’s what you need to know

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Social work is well regarded as a rewarding career, giving professionals the opportunity to improve the lives of others on a daily basis. As well as providing a sense of meaning and accomplishment for many within the industry, social work also offers a variety of career paths and progression opportunities. With the size of the adult social worker workforce in local authorities remaining stable between 2011-2017, and the FTE number of children and family social workers increasing from 2016-2017, it’s clear the industry is stable and secure for professionals. Whether you’re looking for temporary or permanent work in the adult or children social work sector, the future looks bright.

If you’ve ever considered becoming a social worker but didn’t know where to start, the following insights might help.

Degrees and qualifications for a social work career

Your social work career starts at school, where you’ll usually need two or three A-levels and five GCSEs. There are, however, a selection of alternate qualifications that can also see you gain entry into a social work university programme, including BTEC, HND, HNC, a relevant NVQ or a health- or social care-based access course.

Social work is a graduate profession, which means you will need an undergraduate or Masters-level degree in social work in order to get started. However, graduates whose degrees are in something other than social work can apply to fast-track programmes if their degree is a 2:1 or above. Look into Frontline, Step Up to Social Work and Think Ahead for more information if this is the route you want to take.

Social workers also need to be qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and pass background checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Skills you’ll need

In addition to your academic qualifications, you’ll also need the right skillset and attitude to be a successful social worker. This includes exceptional organisational and communications skills, as well as the ability to build relationships and solve problems. If you work well under pressure, remain calm in challenging situations and can work with people from all walks of life, this could be an ideal career for you. Active listening is crucial in establishing trust with clients, as is empathy, boundary setting and critical thinking.

Perhaps above all, you’ll need emotional resilience. Social workers report high levels of stress, with complex relationship management skills required to perform effectively. When you deal with children, adults and families in crisis, you need to be empathetic but maintain professional boundaries, looking after your own emotional needs while you support others.

Your employment opportunities

With a 10% vacancy rate for adult social workers in local authorities in 2017, and a 17% FTE rate for children and family social workers in the same year, the UK is calling out for more qualified social workers to take up positions all over the country, in a number of different areas.

Social workers can work within local authorities, NHS trusts, voluntary and private sectors, with clients including children, families, adults, the elderly, refugees and asylum seekers, and people with disabilities, mental health issues, addictions and learning difficulties. While some social workers choose to specialise in one type of work, lateral career moves within the broader social work field are common, allowing for variety and upskilling.

You can work on a permanent or temporary basis, with flexible hours and shift work making it an attractive opportunity for many. There are a variety of roles outside the standard social worker position available. For example, you could work in social work administration, as a team manager or assistant, or move into a principal care worker role which would see you involved in both practice work and strategic management. Upwards progression tends to come with moves into management.

Make your move

Whether you’re just starting out in social work or you’re a seasoned professional looking for your next big move, Service Care Solutions may have the perfect role for you. Take a look at our latest social work jobs or get in touch to see how we can help.

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