What are your career prospects with a social work degree?

Thinking about studding for a social work degree? Here’s what you can expect from a career in social work.

You may think of social work as a vocation. While this may indeed be the case, the job also presents excellent financial and career opportunities.

If you are interested in becoming a social worker, you will need a degree as well as approval from the Health and Care Professions Council. Although the work can be challenging, you can expect to receive a competitive salary.   

Trethowans
Trethowans

What type of work will suit your skills?

Besides social work, there are other professions where your degree will be relevant.

Family Support Worker 

In this role, you will be providing help and support to families undergoing difficulties in their lives. Your typical employers include local authorities and charitable organisations. 

CBT Therapist

As a CBT therapist, you will be helping patients manage their recovery by utilising various cognitive behavioural therapies. You may have to work with around 30 to 40 clients per year with sessions that last for about an hour. You will also be given the opportunity to work with other healthcare professionals.   

Adult Guidance/Advice Officer

This role involves helping people choose a suitable career or explaining their learning and training options. Your information and guidance can enable them to make an informed decision about their future career path. You can either work for an organisation or operate on a freelance basis. Besides job prospects, you will also be expected to provide advice on various other issues, such as:

  • Employment
  • Debt payments
  • Housing

Arbitrator

Arbitrators help settle disputes using arbitration. This is a legal way of resolving legal disagreements without resorting to the courts. To be legally binding, both parties must agree to abide by the final decision. As an arbitrator, you will play a neutral role and make decisions based on the evidence presented.    

Education Consultant

As an education consultant, you will help develop curricula and identify the educational requirements in a variety of circumstances. For example, you may offer:

  • Careers advice
  • Help to people with special needs
  • Assistance in specialist education areas (e.g. STEM)
  • Learning products
  • Technical or online education support
  • Exam preparation sessions
  • Teacher training materials

Community Development Officer

This role will give you the opportunity to empower communities and individuals in relation to:

  • Identifying assets, responsibilities, needs and other relevant factors
  • Planning appropriate actions to achieve objectives
  • Developing the activities or services needed to generate confidence 

Counsellor/Therapist

Counsellors will spend their time:

  • Listening to clients
  • Showing empathy and attentiveness
  • Talking to clients about their problems

As a counsellor, it will be your duty to be impartial and non-judgemental while providing a safe and confidential environment for your clients.  

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer

This role involves promoting good relationships and practices with minority groups. Your tasks will include:

  • Developing, monitoring or reviewing an organisation’s policies and strategies
  • Ensuring the organisation, staff and stakeholders uphold their legislative duties
  • Conducting diversity workshops 

Life Coach

Being a life coach is similar to counselling but with one significant difference. While counselling usually involves helping clients with their emotional healing, as a life coach you will be supporting people as they plan and implement their positive goals.

Although life coaching is not a regulated service, you will need to show clients that you have been accredited by a reputable professional organisation. This will help assure them that you are qualified to provide these services.

Youth Worker

As a youth worker, you will often be responsible for community programmes designed for young people aged between 11 and 25. You can use these programmes to build their confidence and life skills to prepare them for adulthood.      

Interestingly, one out of four social work graduates venture into other fields within two years of graduating. The most popular jobs include:

  • Care workers
  • Home carers
  • Nursery nurses/assistants
  • Youth and community workers
  • Welfare and housing officers

What skills and experiences do social workers need?

In the majority of cases, prospective employers will use the social work interview to find out what skills and experiences you can bring to the post. A degree in social work can equip you with all the necessary skills:

  • Oral and written communication
  • Situation analysis
  • Effective time management
  • Conflict management
  • Problem-solving

Most importantly, you will also learn more about ethics and how to respect diversity and promote social justice. The course will help you develop:

  • Reasonable judgement
  • Accountability
  • Serious reflection and evaluation 
  • Critical thinking

When applying for a job as a social worker, your previous experience will be of the utmost importance. If you don’t have any experience, you should consider looking for either paid or voluntary positions in settings such as:

  • Community care centres
  • Charity organisations working with vulnerable people
  • Counselling centres

You should try to find a position where you can demonstrate your:

  • Empathy
  • Passion for improving people’s quality of life 

What’s the expected salary and career progression?

Although a social worker’s starting salary is often below £20,000 a year in the UK, the average salary is around £46,000. With the requisite experience, you can expect to receive between £40,000 and £60,000. Meanwhile, heads of large departments can earn well over £60,000.

If you are interested in a high-paying social work role, it is advisable to focus on managerial positions. As a manager, you will need an assortment of relevant skills as you will be responsible for a wide range of tasks in the department, including overseeing the IT systems.    

Who are your typical social work employers?

Various employers need the services of a social worker, including:

  • Adults’ and children’s social services
  • Public and private nursing homes
  • Primary care trusts
  • Prisons
  • Fostering agencies
  • Charities and other local voluntary organisations

You can also work with staffing agencies as a freelancer or independent practitioner. 

Is a career in social work for you?

Social work is a calling, a career and a well-paid job. It is also a line of work where you will be spending your days helping people and local communities. You can start working as a social worker as soon as you graduate. In fact, you will also have the opportunity to focus on other careers.

For example, if you are interested in social work education, you should pursue additional studies and training. You could also take a vocational course and become a teacher. Whichever route you take, your work will involve ensuring that people and communities thrive and prosper. 

Photo by Brooke Cagle