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When asked "why did you decided to become a social worker" many of our community regularly tell us that it was a "calling" a “passion” and a "true vocation".

The desire to help and support children, families and adults is at the heart of great social work practice. It's certainly not an easy profession, but the reward of knowing that you've made a difference in a person's life is why so many people choose to train as a social worker and remain passionate about what they do.

Unlike many other professions, social work is a popular choice amongst those looking for a career change in later life. Perhaps you've worked within a probation team or community outreach group, or maybe you simply want to help those in need. With clear career paths and a variety of job roles available, here is what to expect if you are considering joining the social work profession.

Entry requirements and qualifications

In the UK, the term 'social worker' is a protected title. This means that the route to qualifying as a social work professional is heavily regulated. You must have a social work degree to work within a social work role; this could be either an undergraduate course, or via a two-year post-graduate masters degree.

Experience is key to your qualifications - when studying to become a social worker, you can expect to undertake regular work placements whilst academic learning focuses upon the legislation, ethics and theory behind social work.

If you have already achieved a min. 2:1 undergraduate degree in a separate subject, or you have lots of relevant experience (perhaps you previously worked within a social care setting) you may be eligible for fast track programmes such as Step Up to Social Work or Frontline.

What skills do you need?

Whether you choose to work with children and young people, or you prefer to specialise in working with adults, there are some key skills that you will need to possess to succeed in your social work career.

Problem-solving skills. Are you able to identify problems and help establish suitable responses in order to resolve any underlying issues?

Communication (particularly listening) skills. Can you work closely with families to listen to what they are telling you? Can you communicate effectively with them and also with other colleagues?

Organisational and time-management skills. Are you able to juggle multiple tasks and ensure that all activities are handled in a time efficient manner?

Mediation skills. Are you able to resolve conflicts and help people find amicable solutions to difficult situations?

Registering as a social worker

Once you have completed your social work training, you will need to ensure that you are fully registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you start work. Professional registration ensures that all social workers are qualified to work in their role.

Registration also provides accountability: social workers are expected to continue to update their skills via regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities such as training, and they must document evidence of all continual learning. Registration must be updated every two years - more information can be found on this via the HCPC website.

Salary structure and career progression

Upon qualification, you will be categorised as a Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW). When applying for your first social work job role, you may wish to look for organisations which offer the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) scheme. This programme offers newly qualified social workers additional support and guidance throughout their first year. Once you've passed your ASYE, you'll be provided with a fitness to practice certificate and your employer will provide you with details of it's career pathway, enabling you to see how you can progress your career.

Salary-wise, the governments' National Career Service estimates that social workers can earn between £20,000-£40,000 depending upon experience. As expected, management roles and senior management roles have much higher earning potential.
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