Career In Social Work


A Social Work Career

Social workers support many kinds of people who need help or protection.  Many qualified social workers in local authorities, Trusts or Boards concentrate either on work with children and their families, or on work with adults who require care in the community.  There are social work jobs which cover a wide range of different aspects, whilst others specialise in particular issues such as older people, mental health problems, physical or learning disabilities, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, drugs, alcohol, adoption or youth and criminal justice.


If you hold the social work qualification (DipSW), it is possible to move between jobs and gain a wide range of experience during your career.  Promotion usually means leaving direct work with people and becoming a service manager.


‘My job involves a lot of community living assessment and liaison with other boroughs.  If you are thorough you can achieve real change for and with people.’

Gerhard Kosack - Social Worker with adults


What qualification do I need to be a social worker?


Diploma in Social Work (DipSW)

The DipSW is the professional qualification for all social workers in the UK and for probation officers in Northern Ireland.  DipSW programmes are based at universities and college of higher education and last for a minimum of two years.  DipSW programmes are available on full-time, part-time and distance leaning routes and involve a combination of academic learning and practice placement in social work settings.


The DipSW award offers a wide and exciting range of career opportunities in local authority social services and social work departments, education departments, hospitals, GP practices, schools, residential homes and day centres, national and local voluntary organisations and in criminal justice services.


‘I qualified two years ago with the DipSW, I loved the course and think it was a very important foundation on which to build.  It gave all of us the space to develop and learn more about ourselves and each other.  Knowing about yourself is very important before you start trying to work with other people.


I get satisfaction from the small instant successes like find emergency housing, even if it is temporary for a parent and their child.  I love the relationship and trust that you can build up with children over a long period.’

Sally Joseph - Social Work with children in need


Why choose the DipSW?


·      Social workers who hold the DipSW award are in demand.

·      A recent survey showed that up to 90% of newly qualified social workers found employment within the first 6 months of qualifying.

·      The diversity of jobs in social work can also allow for rapid career progression

·      Salary range for qualified social workers is between £13,500 to £23,000 per annum.


Financial Assistance


Undergraduate and non-graduate DipSW students may be eligible for a means-tested contribution towards all or part of their annual fees and maintenance.  Contact the local education authorities in England and Wales, local education and library boards in Northern Ireland or Student Awards Agency in Scotland for precise arrangements that will apply.


Graduates resident in England, Scotland or Wales undertaking postgraduate DipSW training may be eligible for a grant from the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW).  Graduates resident in N. Ireland applying for postgraduate programmes may be eligible for a bursary from the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).


‘I qualified four years ago with the DipSW.  The practice placement on my DipSW programme was very helpful in my decision to work within a hospital setting.


I did the DipSW after the Community Care Act which was very helpful as I was up to date in a time of change.  I love working in a multi-disciplinary team, the teamwork and meeting people.’

Amecie Steadman - Social Worker with adults: general medicine/orthopaedic


What are the admission requirements?


Mature Applicants who are over 21 do not always need formal academic qualifications, but the selection panels for the DipSW programmes will expect you to demonstrate your ability to study at higher education level, probably by evidence of recent study or a written test.  It is suggested that you do a part-time or evening course such as an `A’ Level, advanced GNVQ/GSVQ or NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in care, the Open University Foundation module or an access to social work course to improve your skills and confidence before you apply.  Your local Further Education College will advise you about possibilities.


If you have a degree or hold a qualification which is considered to be equivalent to a degree, you will be eligible to apply to a postgraduate route.


If you are under 21 on the date a DipSW programme starts, you must hold either:


·      2 A Levels and 3 GCSEs; or

·      5 passes for the Scottish Certificate in Education including 3 at Higher Level; or

·      any other educational, professional or vocational qualifications (e.g. NVQ/SVQ Level 3, GNVQ/GSVQ Level 3) considered by CCETSW to be equivalent.


‘In addition to life experience and academic qualification, I studied Counselling and practised by undertaking voluntary work.  Studying for the DipSW has enabled me to use my experience, skills and knowledge towards a professional qualification.  The highlight of the programme, so far, has been the practice placement at a Pensioners Day Centre and networking with other allied professions.  The programme is demanding but is very satisfying and rewarding.’

Gladys Edigin - 1st year DipSW student


What qualities and experience do I need?


Most DipSW programmes require applicants to have some relevant work experience in social work experience in social work or social care.  This work can be either paid or voluntary.  Selection panels will consider applicant’s suitability for and commitment to social work.


In order to be a social worker, you will need to be open minded and prepared to examine and even change your attitudes and possible prejudices. You may need to support service users to deal with racism and other forms of discrimination.  Social workers require personal qualities such as patience, determination and the ability to help people face painful and distressing problems.


Social work can be both physically and emotionally stressful so you need to be able to take care of yourself and have a sense of humour.


‘The practice placement that I have just been allocated to is children in need.  Having previously worked as a teacher I have a better understanding of the processes involved in dealing with children and I get much more satisfaction doing social work.’

Benedicta Ali - 2nd year postgraduate DipSW student


What is CCETSW?

Central Council for Education & Training in Social Work (CCETSW) is responsible for ensuring that social workers and other care workers receive the education, training and qualification that enable them to provide quality social care services in the UK.


Further Development Opportunities

Whilst in employment, social workers need to continue learning and extending their skills.  CCETSW has introduced a post qualifying framework which allows the continuing professional development of social workers to be structured and formally recognised.  The framework leads to the Post Qualifying Award in Social Work (PQSW) and the Advanced Award in Social Work (AASW).


The PQSW builds on the standards of the DipSW and is designed to recognise the developing skills and expertise of social work.  The AASW recognises high skills of practice, policy making, leadership and management.


‘My personal family experience with the NHS motivated my entry into the social work profession.


The most satisfying part of my job is successfully acting in the role of advocate to ensure vulnerable service users are allowed to remain in hospital for the maximum time they need or are discharged appropriately with a satisfactory package of care.’

Mike Cook - Hospital social work manager


What Next?

For information about registering for the Diploma in Social Work (DipSW), please refer to the enclosed List of DipSW programmes and apply as directed.


Programmes recruiting via Social Work Admission System (SWAS) Tel: 01242 223707 for a Handbook and application form or via the Internet on


Programmes recruiting via UCAS Tel: 01242 222444 or via the Internet on


For other programmes contact the institutions directly on the telephone numbers provided.


To obtain detailed information about social work and social care training contact your local CCETSW Information Service


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