Social worker

Social workers work with individuals and families to help live more successfully.

This page has information on the role of a social worker, including entry requirements and skills needed.

Working life

As a social worker, you will work with people to find solutions to their problems. This may be helping to protect vulnerable people from harm or abuse or supporting people to live independently.

social worker talking

You will engage with clients, their families and others around them. You'll work with different client groups including:

You may specialise in a particular client group. Their work can involve:

An important part of the work is building a professional relationship with the client so that you and the social worker and client can work together to make changes.

Who will I work with?

As well as working with clients and their families and other carers, social workers work with other agencies including the police, local authority departments, schools and the probation service.

Where will I work?

You may be based in a hospital or healthcare centre or in an office elsewhere, sometimes with a team of other social workers. Wherever you're based, you will spend a lot of time visiting clients.

Entry requirements

To practise as a social worker, you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To register with the HCPC, you first need to successfully complete an approved degree in social work. Courses take three or four years full time.

Courses differ but all include:

Some degrees combine social work with mental health or learning disability nursing.

To get onto a social work degree course you usually need two or three A levels, along with five GCSEs (grades A-C), including English and maths.

Or you could have alternative qualifications, including:

To get onto a Masters course you normally need an honours degree.

However, each institution sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check carefully.

You can use our course finder to find out where you can study social work combined with nursing.

If you already have a degree in another subject, there are three routes for you to become a social worker:

Wherever you apply to study, you will need to show that you have an understanding of social work and experience of working with clients. This can be from paid or voluntary work. Or it could be from your own life experience, for example, as a carer for a friend or relative.

Once you’ve successfully completed a programme approved by the HCPC, you are then eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC. Once registered as a practitioner, you’ll be required to retain your name on the register by keeping your knowledge and skills up to date and paying an annual retention fee.

Skills and personal characteristics needed

Social workers need to:

You'll also need

Training and development

As a qualified social worker joining the NHS, you have training to introduce you to the service. You will be expected to attend further training courses to keep your skills and knowledge up to date.

You could take further qualifications related to social work in, for example, counselling or mediation.

Once qualified, many social workers join the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). Social workers have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual CPD (continuing professional development). BASW runs courses, conferences and seminars where physiotherapists can exchange ideas and update their skills.

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