A career as a social worker
Thinking of becoming a social worker? In this article we outline the role of the social worker, social work courses and finding social worker jobs when you've qualified.
13th January 2011
A career as a social worker
Being a social worker can be an incredibly challenging but rewarding career path, and all kinds of people are social workers. A large proportion of social work students have already worked in a previous career, and they often decide to become a social worker because of an influence from that previous career or from something in their personal life.
To become a social worker you need to be degree qualified in social work and eligible to apply for GSCC registration. Postgraduates can opt for the two year MA if their first degree is in a relevant subject, or undergraduates can take the three year BA course. Whichever option you decide upon, the social work degree qualifies you to work in all social work settings such as residential, domiciliary, and healthcare.
Working life as a social worker
Whichever setting you choose to work in, being a social worker is all about developing relationships with people. You will be helping someone to live their life better and get more fulfillment from it. You will be part of an inter-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals and will have regular interaction with other qualified professionals in order to provide the best possible care for someone.
If you work in healthcare setting, you could be based in a hospital assessing patients about to be discharged in order to plan the ongoing care provisions necessary for them to leave hospital. For example, this may involve arranging home care services or finding a nursing care placement in a residential home. No two people have the same needs and an individual assessment process is key to providing the appropriate level of care and support.
Working in a community setting as a social worker still involves working directly with clients to give an individual level of service, but there may or may not be any medical needs to consider. There are both adult and children’s social workers based in the community working with a variety of different clients. A social worker specialising in mental illnesses might work with an elderly client who is suffering from dementia to implement a comprehensive care package appropriate to the severity of the illness. It will be the social worker’s responsibility to monitor the care provided and where necessary, look for a permanent nursing care placement to ensure the client has access to care 24 hours a day.
As a social worker working with a group of clients there will always be team meetings to discuss the current case load, raise concerns about any particular client and care records to update after every meeting with a client. Records form a large part of the process of assisting a client and they may be called upon if a case is going before a court.
How to get onto a social work degree course
Social work is quite a difficult course to get into, and you have to demonstrate commitment to the course in your personal statement before you have even been selected for interview. It’s crucial to show a full understanding of the industry and what you think your career ambitions in social work may be.
It’s also advisable to undertake some kind of voluntary experience in a social work environment if you’ve not done anything like this before. You could volunteer with a charity working with adults, children or the elderly, or with a community healthcare organisation if you’re focussed on a social work career in a healthcare setting.
Your personal statement is the key to a successful application. It’s your chance to talk directly to the admissions officer about why you’re suitable for the course and what your ambitions are for your career. Use your voluntary experience here to back up any statements made about your understanding of the industry and how you view the role of a social worker. You then need to give details of why you would be suitable for the role and what qualities you have that will benefit you as a future qualified social worker.
It’s also important to display an understanding of current health initiatives that might be relevant to a social worker. The ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained: risk guidance for people with dementia’ document was published on 10th November 2010 and is the latest evidence-based and person-centered advice about proportionate risk management for those living with dementia. It will have an impact on social workers in both the community and healthcare settings and showing in your personal statement that you are aware of this new guidance will definitely be a benefit to you.
Once you’ve written a draft of the personal statement you should go back over it to proof read and edit out any errors or repetitions. It should flow as a one continuous voice speaking about your commitment to becoming a social worker.
Getting a job when you’re a qualified social worker
Social worker jobs are more often than not advertised online now, so you can look at a whole range of social worker jobs here. As you progressed through your training and completed various practical placements, you should have gained a wider understanding of the industry sector you want to work in. You can search for social work vacancies just in this sector if you choose, or you can look at the jobs in your local area if you’re not looking at relocating.