How to progress in your career as a qualified social worker
We look at the professional development opportunities available to qualified social workers and how to get your next social worker job.
13th April 2011
Congratulations on getting your first social worker job. Now you’re established in your chosen career, you can choose whether or not to specialise in a particular area of social work by completing a post-graduate qualification. For anyone considering a career in social work, check out my article on how to become a qualified social worker to understand how you can qualify as one in the first place.
A social worker may find themselves working in the community with people who have a wide range of problems that affect their lives. The primary role of the social worker is to help people overcome their difficulties and to live a better quality of life. It can be any one of a wide range of difficulties that reduce an individual’s quality if life from mental health problems to learning disabilities or old age, or a combination of all three.
When you get your first social worker job, you could be working with clients suffering with any kind of condition and at any stage in their life. If you’re more interested in children and young adults you might end up working for youth services helping teenagers who have had a difficult childhood to mature into fully functioning adults. If you’re interested in care of the elderly you could work with people living in the community who want to stay at home as long as possible by using additional services, which are arranged by you their social worker.
Whichever area you find yourself drawn to, there are postgraduate professional development courses that can enhance your knowledge and understanding of a particular specialism in social work. Below we look at few of the advanced social worker specialisms you can pursue.
Advanced social worker with young children and their families and carers
The most common professional development qualification is an MA / MSc in Advanced Social Work, and in this case the specialism would be children, young people and their families and carers. You will usually study full or part time for 1 or 2 days a week as you continue in your social work job. It’s essential that your employer supports you in your professional development because you will be required to produce evidence of certain competencies from your work, and be able to attend your course during the week
The course will expand your skill base and develop best practice working procedures to ensure better outcomes for vulnerable children and their families. As a social work practitioner during this course you will be able to strengthen your social work knowledge, gain further experience working with children and families and critically evaluate that experience. Once qualified as an advanced social work practitioner you will be able to draw on your recently gained knowledge of case studies and best practice policies in order to provide a better service for the children and adults you will be working with.
Most universities run this course, or one similar that is focussed around children and their families. Wherever you chose to study, you can be assured that your skills as a social worker to affect the lives of children and young people for the better will become more advanced and effective.
Advanced social worker specialising in rehabilitation
As with many postgraduate social work qualifications, this course also allows successful candidates to register for GSCC higher level registration. Full time attendance is available, which is 2 days per week and means you could complete the course in just one year. Part time attendance is also available at 1 day per week and you can take up to 5 years to complete it.
As with most advanced social worker courses, assessment is based on case study reporting and presentations. On this course the core modules of study include competence in higher specialist social work, critical practice in rehabilitation and research methods. There a total of 6 core modules and one optional module to complete. Optional modules consist of substance misuse, domestic violence and abuse, adulthood development, legal and ethical policy framework, issues facing the ageing population and participation & choice.
As with all professional development courses, but particularly as a social worker, you will also develop your leadership skills, your ability to critically evaluate and the implications of your own practice on the delivery of person-centered rehabilitation.
Advanced social worker specialising in social work practice education
This particular pathway is offered by the University of Greenwich, and can either result in a PGDip qualification if you complete 120 credits, or you could go on to achieve the MA by completing an additional 60 credits. The pathway specialising in social work practice education combines core modules that every advanced social work practitioner will study, and specific modules that relate to this specialism.
You will study part time for up to 4 years if you’re going for the MA or up to 3 if you’re doing the PGDip, and the course will be assessed through coursework and professional practice. The course specific modules include learning, teaching and assessing, course design and evaluation, and practice teacher. They are designed to ensure that once completed you are a more advanced social work practitioner able to support, mentor and manage other qualified social workers in your team.
The benefits of becoming a higher level social work practitioner
Most, if not all, advanced social worker courses will give you the chance to register as a higher level practitioner with the GSCC and apply for more senior social worker jobs. Senior social workers can earn around £33,000 - £36,000 per year, but as you progress further in your career you could become a lead practitioner and earn upwards of £45,000 per year.
There are opportunities for senior social workers in both private and public sector organisations. Private sector companies tend to be recruitment agencies that are recruiting for senior social workers to be placed within local authority or healthcare settings.