Step-by-step to become social worker.

  1. You’ll need five GCSEs at A*- C including English and Maths 
  2. Two A Levels or equivalent
  3. Degree route – undergraduate or postgraduate degree
  4. Gaining work experience
  5. Fast track training
  6. Register with Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) 

Step up to social work.

Life can be challenging at times. But for some, it can be particularly difficult, affecting their everyday lives, causing them anguish and physical or mental pain. As a social worker, you can make a real impact on that and change their lives for the better. And what’s more rewarding than knowing you are making a positive difference?

But social work isn’t for the faint-hearted – as well as seeing some of the best of humanity you’ll also see and hear things that will be hard to deal with. People suffering abuse or those with an addiction, vulnerable young people or the elderly – they all need the valuable help a social worker has to offer.

How do I train to become a social worker?

The main route into social work is with a degree or postgraduate degree. Depending on what you study will depend on how you qualify.

Degree route.

To get on a degree course you’ll need five GCSEs (A*- C) including English and Maths. You’ll also need two A Levels or the equivalent such as a BTEC, HND, HNC or relevant NVQ. It doesn’t matter too much which subjects they are in but psychology, sociology and law are all good choices.

Next, you’ll head to university to take a degree in social care approved by the HCPC, which normally takes about three years and covers a range of topics, including law, mental health and disability, ethics, and practical work.

If you already have a degree or a degree in another subject, you can look at postgraduate study in social care. Entry requirements will depend on individual institutions. Studying for a diploma or a Master's can take two years full-time or up to six years part-time.

Work experience.

It never hurts to have work experience and if you’re applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate course you may well need to demonstrate you do have some under your belt – unpaid voluntary positions in the community are a great way to build up experience, demonstrate your enthusiasm for your chosen profession and discover if this is really what you want to do. Different universities will have different requirements so check with them directly.

Fast track.

If you have an unrelated degree at 2:1 or higher you may be eligible for one of several fast track schemes:

  • Frontline is an accelerated two-year programme which allows graduates to train on the job. You’ll work across all areas – police, courts, vulnerable children, schools – developing leadership skills and working towards social worker qualification.
  • Step up to social work is an intensive 14-month programme for trainee social workers. You will work with a local authority and will qualify with a postgraduate social work diploma. Bursaries of £19,833 are available for this programme.
  • Think ahead is a specific programme designed to help graduates wanting to work specifically in mental health. The course lasts two years and you’ll work within the NHS and with local authorities. You will be able to work in any area of social work once the course is complete.


Once qualified you’ll need to be registered with the HCPC. You’ll also need to make sure you keep up to date with any changes to the law and undergo regular professional training.

Skills required to become a social worker.

Social work can be challenging so emotional resilience is vital. You also need to be extremely patient and be able to remain calm in a crisis. Being able to empathise, listen and negotiate are important too as is the ability to observe and analyse.