To become a social worker you need a naturally caring and extremely patient personality.
Your job will be to support people and families during difficult times and ensure that vulnerable members of society are protected from harm. This involves observing and assessing certain situations and making an appropriate plan.
You may specialise in work with children, families, vulnerable adults or the elderly, but your aim will always be to improve people’s lives.
City, University of London is home to a thriving centre of sociological research and education. Our Sociology department is one of the longest established in London and one of the biggest in terms of staff. We can equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to become a social worker.
What can I expect as a social worker?
As a social worker you work with people facing major difficulties and help them address their problems.
You will usually specialise in either adult or child social care and be required to demonstrate considerable understanding of other people’s views, however different from yours they may be.
Social workers work in statutory and non-statutory roles.
Your role in a statutory position will conform with existing laws protecting vulnerable people. You have a duty to abide by legislation and you have the power to enforce it.
In a non-statutory role your duties may be similar but you are not specifically responsible for enforcing the law. You may be employed in specialist roles to deliver support for addicts, people experiencing homelessness and those with mental health issues.
Typical social worker duties include:
- Making visits to places such as homes, hospitals, hostels or prisons
- Conducting interviews, assessing needs and forming plans
- Arranging care, resources or benefits
- Liaising with relatives, colleagues and other professionals
- Writing reports and maintaining records
- Making referrals to other services
- Attending or contributing towards court cases.
You may work with groups including the elderly, children with disabilities, young offenders, vulnerable children needing to live away from their families, foster carers and adopters.
Acting as a guide and advocate, you use your professional judgment to make difficult decisions that may be received badly.
Work conditions can be under-resourced and heavy caseloads are regular, but you will be entitled to regular supervision sessions with colleagues, allowing you to get support if required.
Who can I work for as a social worker?
As a social worker you are most likely to be employed by the social service departments of local authorities in England and Wales, social work departments in Scotland, or health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.
Local authority social work usually has better terms and conditions of employment, but it can lack in flexibility compared with voluntary organisations. Once you’re qualified you can transfer across sectors.
You may also work in primary care or health service trusts, general practitioner practices, hospitals and hospices, children’s homes and in the private sector.
As you gain experience you might be able to work in a self-employed capacity and work through agencies.
What about work experience as a social worker?
When applying to study or train, you need to show evidence that you understand social work and have experience of relevant work.
This could be paid or voluntary work and it might be from your own life experience as a carer for a friend or relative.
You can gain work experience through paid positions in community care, or by undertaking relevant voluntary work with charitable organisations.
What are my prospects as a social worker?
Specialist social work roles may be available to you when you complete your induction and training. You can diversify skills by gaining multiple different specialisms over the course of a career.
Within social work, promotion tends to take you away from the frontline of work. After five years working in the field it is possible to become a senior practitioner, team or care manager. You would then be responsible for managing other social workers and have increasing duties in finance and policy.
Alternative paths might include becoming a practice educator, where you are involved in supervising social work students and less experienced staff. Or focusing on regulation with the relevant bodies.
You might also consider training and lecturing positions.