How to become a Social Worker: what you need to know

If you’re passionate about making a difference to people’s lives, you might be interested in becoming a social worker.

This article will guide you through the social worker role and responsibilities, the qualifications needed to be a social worker, and the personal qualities that social workers need. 

With this information, you can decide if a career in social work is right for you.

What is a social worker?

Social workers play an essential role in society. They work with a diverse range of vulnerable people, from babies and children to older people, helping them to find solutions to their problems. 

They aim to help people live as independently as possible and advocate for those who need assistance to access medical care, housing and more. Social workers provide support, resources and advice to deal with various issues, including mental health, learning difficulties and addictions. 

Social workers may work in healthcare settings like hospitals or in dedicated offices. They may also visit clients in the community. Some social workers are employed by large organisations like NHS Trusts, while others work for smaller companies. You could even work as a self-employed contractor or through an employment agency. 

Some social workers choose to specialise in a particular area. For example, they may work solely with children, focus on the needs of military personnel and their families, or specialise in cases within the criminal justice system. 

What does a social worker do?

As a social worker, your work will involve interacting with your clients and carrying out administrative tasks. 

The role of a social worker varies depending on the specific position, work setting and specialist area. Some of the typical duties for social workers include:

  • Establishing relationships with clients and assessing their needs

  • Creating and managing support plans

  • Offering information, support and counselling

  • Liaising with other healthcare professionals and referring clients to other services

  • Writing reports and maintaining confidential client records

Most social work roles are full-time and you may have to work unsociable hours. However, some positions might involve flexible working, part-time hours or job sharing. 

Personal qualities

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of the personal qualities that social workers need to have:

A caring attitude

Social workers handle sensitive personal information and make decisions that significantly impact their clients’ lives. You will need to address your clients with sensitivity and empathy, dealing with their issues in a reassuring and non-judgemental manner.

Excellent interpersonal skills

You need to communicate effectively with clients and other healthcare providers, so good listening and communication skills are essential. You must be able to work on your own initiative and as a team with other healthcare providers. 

Emotional resilience

Social workers often work with people in distressing situations, which can be emotionally demanding. You need to be emotionally resilient, stay calm in stressful situations and work well under pressure. 

Social worker training and qualifications

To become a social worker, you must hold a degree or postgraduate qualification in social work approved by the appropriate regulatory body. Alternatively, a social worker degree apprenticeship is another route to being a social worker. 

Once you have achieved your approved social work qualification, you will need to register with the relevant regulatory body, and this registration must be renewed annually.

As well as academic qualifications, some experience of working with vulnerable children and adults is essential. You can get appropriate work experience in settings such as care homes or hospices, and volunteer work can also help you gain the experience and skills you’ll need. 

Social workers must undergo a criminal record check, and a full clean driving licence is also generally required.

Training for Social Workers

Social work requires lifelong learning to keep up with new policies and research. You will need to undertake mandatory Continuing Professional Development training each year to maintain your accredited registration. 

As well as accessing courses through professional bodies such as the BACP and NCS, you may also wish to take online social care courses as part of your CPD training. Caredemy health and social care courses are accredited by the CPD Standards Office and make it easy to fit your training around a busy schedule. 

Relevant courses could include safeguarding children, first aid and effective communication

How to get into social work: the next step

If you want to become a social worker, you should start by enrolling in relevant courses and seeking opportunities to gain practical experience.

The role of a social worker can be challenging but is also extremely rewarding. At the end of the day, you’ll know that you’ve made a positive impact on your clients and the communities they live in.

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