Social worker qualifications requirements are quite tough. Becoming a social worker or retraining for this profession will take several years.
What GCSE do you need to be a social worker?
To start with, you will need certain GCSEs to become a social worker. Most councils and organisations will expect you to have at least five GCSEs at grade A to C (or grades 4 to 9 under the new grading framework). Two of these will need to be English and Maths GCSEs.
It’s possible that you could be approved as a social worker without GCSEs if you have relevant alternative qualifications, such as a BTEC, HND, HNC or NVQ.
As well as GCSEs, you will need certain A Levels or equivalent qualifications to become a social worker. Usually two or three A Levels are desired by employers, but this can vary based on experience and other qualifications you may have.
Not just anyone can call themselves a social worker, it’s a protected job title which will require you to have the correct social care worker qualifications in order to work as a social worker and progress your career.
What other qualifications are needed to be a social worker?
Social workers must have a BA degree in social work, or master’s degree in social work. A master’s degree is a two year long postgraduate course for those who already have a degree in a different subject. Some universities offer part-time studying for those who need to work alongside their studies.
Completing a social work degree is an important step on your journey to becoming a social worker as it will equip you with the skills, empathy and knowledge you will need to work as a professional and empathetic social worker, equipped for all the challenges contemporary social work brings.
A social work degree will usually include placements that give you the real world experience you need to confidently step into the world of social work once you’ve graduated. Your tutors will be established and have experience providing social work themselves, which will give you unique and valuable insight into the world of social work.
Other ways to get into social work
Some local authorities offer courses which provide fast track social work training, such as ‘Step Up to Social Work’. You should research the social care worker qualifications and training needed for the specific place you are looking to apply to.
Many further education courses will expect you to have at least six months’ full time (or equivalent) direct experience, either in a paid or voluntary capacity, of working with vulnerable children, young people or families, carers or vulnerable adults.
Once you are fully qualified, you will be able to register with Social Work England as a qualified social worker and begin applying for jobs.
To find out more about the road to becoming a social worker, visit the British Association of Social Workers website. They provide up to date news and information on the world of social work, including a full breakdown of everything that social workers do.
Job prospects for social workers
Once you’ve qualified as a social worker, it’s time to decide where, and how, you want to put your new skills and social worker qualifications into practice.
Many qualified social workers find employment with local authorities, working with vulnerable children and families who live in a certain geographical area. Being a social worker in a single area means you’ll be able to relate to the people you work with, as they’ll be from that area too.
Being a successful social worker is all about trust, and trust is built when the people you work with feel like you genuinely understand their lives. Working for a local authority will allow you to understand the community that the people you work with come from. A good social worker will take additional time to read-up on the local area and understand the culture of the people who live there.
Becoming an independent social worker
Employment with local authorities provides an invaluable experience but due to the ever changing political climate, many social workers opt to go independent.
The reasons vary but it is usually a lot to do with the level of pay. Offering social work services privately is a route to better rates and due to the changes the demand for private social workers has rapidly increased in recent years.
There are many advantages to becoming an independent social worker. You’ll be able to manage your own workload and decide how many families you support, and how much time you can dedicate to them. You may even wish to work your way up to running your own private therapy practice.
However, being an independent social worker isn’t without risk. As with most professions, working for yourself means that you are fully accountable should something go wrong.
One of your first priorities as an independent social worker is to ensure that you are adequately insured. When something goes wrong, fingers are pointed, and more often than not it happens to be in the direction of the social worker. The right insurance for social workers can be an invaluable protection and peace of mind.