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Social worker

Social workers help to protect vulnerable children and adults from harm or abuse, and support people to live independently.

Annual Salary

£24,000 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; on a rota

Future employment

There will be 3.5% more Social worker jobs in 2026.

Day to day tasks

Your duties will vary, depending on whether you work with children, families or adults. You could:

  • offer information and counselling
  • put together support plans for clients
  • keep records and write reports
  • discuss your cases with your supervisors
  • support clients' safety and take the right action to protect them when necessary
  • work closely with communities, health professionals and other agencies
  • help clients to develop and maintain independent living skills
  • hold meetings and assessments with individuals and families to review their situation

Working environment

You could work in an office, in an NHS or private hospital, at an adult care home, at a children's care home or in the community.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • a graduate training scheme

You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in social work approved by Social Work England.

You can also do a 2-year postgraduate degree in social work, if you have a degree in another subject.

You may be eligible for social work bursary.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course
For more information

You can complete a social worker degree apprenticeship, which takes around 3 years.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
For more information
Volunteering and work experience

Experience of working with vulnerable groups or children is essential for most courses and jobs.

Before becoming qualified as a social worker, you can apply to be a social work assistant or support worker. You can also get skills and experience by volunteering in the community, with a charity or through paid work.

You can get more information on volunteering opportunities in your area from Do-it and at NCVO.

Other routes

You can apply to do an intensive, work-based training programme for graduates if you've got a first or upper second class degree in any subject except social work. The programmes are:

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

It's possible to do a degree in social work and learning disabilities nursing. You'll need to check that the course is recognised by the relevant professional bodies. Course providers can advise you on this.

Further information

You can get more advice about becoming a social worker from the British Association of Social Workers and Think Care Careers.

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During your first year in work your employer may offer you professional development, for example the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (AYSE). This includes extra support like:regular supervision; a training and development plan; time to meet your training and development needs

Each local authority will have a career pathway, with some offering the chance to study for a postgraduate MA in Advanced Professional Practice.

With experience, you'll find opportunities to move into management, research or study for a PhD. You could also become a practice educator and train and mentor students from your partner university.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • knowledge of sociology and an understanding of society and culture
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • active listening skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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