Social workers support individuals and families through difficult times and ensure that vulnerable people, including children and adults, are safeguarded from harm. It is a challenging but hugely rewarding career for those who really want to make a difference in people's lives. To become a Social Worker you will need to complete a BSc. (Hons) or BA (Hons) Social Work degree and be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
What are the university entry requirements for Social Work degrees?
To apply to universities for a Social Work degree, you should have, or be working towards achieving, a relevant Access to HE Diploma in Health Science. Alternatively, 3 A Levels, noting that many universities do not accept general studies as one of the three. Universities advise on their particular entry requirements and they also publish these on the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) website.
With the A Level route, you may also be expected to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs. With the Access to HE Diploma route, you are normally only required to have GCSEs in English and Maths at Grade C or above.
Access to HE Diplomas are normally aimed towards adults 18+ returning to education or wishing to change to a new career. There are no upper age limits. The Diploma qualification is viewed as being equivalent to 3 A Levels. Access to HE can be studied from home via online learning with Academy Online Learning.
There are many websites that track university performance in all subject areas. Students are encouraged to research carefully which university has a good track record in the particular degree course they are interested in. It is also worth looking into the department that you are applying to and see what facilities are available, what sort of placements are on offer and the student satisfaction rate for each degree course.
What does a Social Worker do?
Social workers work with a wide range of people at any one time. This is often described as a caseload. Their work involves determining people's needs and aspirations, working with families to support them in making changes and solve problems, organise support, and make recommendations or referrals to other services and agencies. They also need to keep detailed records.
You could decide to focus your career in social work on a specific group of people such as children, the elderly, adults, families, or those with mental ill health, physical disabilities, or alcohol or drug dependency. Social workers recognise the bigger picture affecting people's lives and work for a more equal and just society where human rights are respected and protected. They can be found working in a wide range of settings, including the NHS, local authorities (social services), community centres, schools and colleges and homeless shelters. They can help keep an under pressure family together and support people with mental health needs. Social work is a varied, demanding, often emotional and very rewarding career.
There is a huge demand for social workers; the latest data shows over 75,000 job vacancies in the social care system in the UK. The government is now keen to achieve better integration between health and social care. This is seen as vital with an ageing population and increased crossover between the sectors. Greater Manchester was the first area to merge health and social care and other local authorities are expected to follow suit in the coming years.
What personal attributes are desirable in Social Work?
- The desire to help others and improve their daily lives
- Ability to empathise with people, identify with and understand their situation
- Communication is at the heart of social work, not so much in what you say but how well you listen. This will build trust levels and rapport with clients
- Setting healthy boundaries is also key. Getting too emotionally invested in cases could actually harm outcomes for care users.
- Resilience is needed in social work. You may deal with traumatic cases, which can be emotionally draining. Successful social workers find a way to protect their own emotions so they can keep helping others effectively.
What are the pay and working conditions like?
- As a newly qualified social worker, you can expect to earn £22,000 a year.
- With experience and management roles this can rise to around £40,000.
- Social workers for the NHS typically start on Band 6 of the NHS pay scale, which is £26,565 to £35,577.
You'll usually work office hours or on a rota. You may work shifts, including nights, or be on call. You may visit people in their homes. You could also work in a hospital or in a day, health or residential centre.
Five reasons to be a Social Worker
- It will challenge you in ways few other careers will
- You get to be the person who changed someone's life for the better
- You get to stand up for human rights and social justice
- You will never be bored
- It is a diverse career full of challenges and rewards
How is the degree funded?
Studying for a Social Work degree allows you to apply for the standard student support package in the form of a student loan. Scholarships, bursaries or grants may also be available for example, through the university or your place of work. Social Workers are in great demand and to that end the government provides bursaries for some degree courses. These are grants and do not need to be paid back. You could be eligible for financial support if:
- You don't get funding from your employer
- You are studying an approved undergraduate or postgraduate course in social work
- You don't already have a higher education social work qualification
- Your university or college will tell you if your course qualifies.
If you would like to complete an Access to HE Diploma and obtain the qualifications for entry onto a Social Work degree course at university, please complete the enrolment form below or contact us for more information. Studying and achieving this qualification with AOLL provides a flexible way of achieving, as it is fully online and recognised and accepted by UK universities.