A rewarding career with plenty of opportunity for progression, becoming a social worker is a noble calling. Alongside a high level of job satisfaction, a career in this area of care provision will also provide you with the chance to embrace new and exciting challenges on a daily basis - but where does a career in social work start? We look at:

  • choosing your preferred area of social work
  • getting your qualifications
  • securing experience

The first step: what area of social work?

Before you can begin your career, you must first decide what area of social work you want to go into. The roles available are diverse, so it’s important that you research what is available before applying for relevant courses.

With social work jobs you can operate in a range of environments from residential care homes to individual households and communities and this means you’ll need to be able to communicate well with people from all walks of life.

As a general rule, social worker positions at the higher end of the career ladder require a degree in a relevant discipline, but candidates must also demonstrate commitment to health and social care.


The qualifications you need in order to work as a social worker will depend on the exact role you are applying for and there are six different levels of study. The higher up the educational ladder you climb, the better the position you can secure at the end of it with each level of study opening more doors.

Level one: introductory courses designed to build an interest in the subject:

  • BTEC introductory certificates
  • GNVQ Foundation qualifications in health and social care
  • the related GCSE study

Level two: more advanced courses needed for those looking to work as care assistants, support workers or other entry level positions. Qualifications cover the vocational and occupational and include:

  • apprenticeships and schemes such as the Social Care Cadet Programme
  • NVQ Level 2 certificates in Health & Social Care
  • BTEC First Certificate and Diploma
  • GNVQ Intermediate qualifications 

Level three: used to gain entry into higher job roles, example qualifications include:

  • BTEC National Diploma in Health Studies
  • NVQ Level 3 courses in relevant subjects
  • the NHS Cadet Programme
  • job opportunities for those of this level of study include care officer, assistant healthcare worker and senior support workers.

Level four and above:

  • NCQ Level 4 Awards 
  • Foundation Degrees
  • Undergraduate Degrees
  • Advanced Diplomas in Higher Education
  • those with these qualifications can gain entry into the top tier of jobs which includes positions such as team leader, care coordinator and residential managers.

Social worker jobs also fall into the top band and this means you’ll need to undertake a university level programme in a relevant discipline to achieve this position. This could be an undergraduate degree or masters in social work or even a degree in a related medical subject.

To gain entry onto these courses you will usually need to have sufficient GCSE and A Level passes in a range of subjects. Depending on the specific course and institution you are applying to, some may ask for specific subjects to be studied. This may include Health & Social Care but will also typically cover more widely taught subjects such as sciences (primarily Biology).


For those without the necessary qualifications, gaining entry onto occupational training courses may be an alternative option. Gaining experience by working your way through the ranks can help you achieve the job you want, and there is a range of opportunities available for individuals of all levels of experience and education - with NVQ courses being the most common.

Regardless of what route you take when planning to become a social worker, it is important that you show your dedication to this career. Candidates who can demonstrate a deep interest and experience in the field will be more likely to prove successful so you should find ways to boost your application wherever possible.

Voluntary work is the easiest way to do this and speaking to your local health and social care services is essential if you want to gain hands-on experience. Looking for care worker jobs or working as an assistant may also prove beneficial.

Our dedicated consultants are specialists in placing candidates in rewarding social work jobs and will assist you in finding the right role to suit you - get in touch.