what is a social worker?

Working as a social worker is a demanding profession that involves working with families and institutions to advance social impacts. As a social worker, you promote social change, development and empower communities. Sometimes you advocate for civil rights, raise awareness on mental health and child abuse. Aside from the communal needs of people, a social worker enhances the overall wellbeing of individuals and helps them meet basic and complex needs. While you will work with diverse people, your focus is on the vulnerable, oppressed and poverty-stricken. Social workers often work with orphans, patients with long-term ailments, seniors, mentally ill people and persons with disabilities. They also address social injustices that hinder a person's wellbeing like discrimination, physical or emotional abuse and substance abuse.

what does a social worker do?

Your job as a social worker involves participating in legislative processes that aid in policy formation. When protecting human rights, you may have to use legal powers and proceedings to balance the rights of the parties involved. That is why foster care institutions often have social workers to assist with the fostering process and provision of ongoing support to children in the system. When working with older people, your job is to ensure they receive the welfare support they need. 

Would working as a social worker suit your advocacy skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a social worker role.

social worker jobs

average salary of a social worker

According to National Careers, the average salary of a social worker in the UK is £24,000 per year when you are new to the profession. With experience and additional skills, you can earn up to £40,000 per year. The salary difference depends on the scope of the role and the complexity of responsibilities. When you have years of work experience, you take on complex duties, and your salary reflects the changes. Aside from basic wages, social workers also earn various benefits in the compensation package. For instance, some institutions provide transport allowance, medical insurance and pension benefits to workers. 

what factors affect the salary of a social worker?

Your salary as a social worker depends on the company or institution you work for and its size. For instance, large companies pay more than small institutions. Some non-governmental organisations depend on funds from donors for running programmes, which also affect your pay structure. Aside from size, your compensation package also depends on whether the company is public or private. Social workers employed in the private sector are likely to earn more than social workers working for government institutions. Working in big cities with a high cost of living also increases your salary prospects compared to working in small towns with a low cost of living.

Health and social care
Health and social care

types of social workers

Social workers often specialise in a specific area of need. Some of the common types include:

  • school social workers: you work with parents and teachers to deal with bullying, aggressive behaviour and frequent absences from school. You also develop strategies for improving social development and academic performance in schools.
  • child and family social worker: as a social worker, you offer assistance to families in need and protect vulnerable children. For instance, you will help families find housing and apply for welfare programmes. You also intervene in family conflicts, cases of abuse and child neglect. 
  • healthcare social worker: you assist patients in transitioning from hospitals to their homes. Sometimes you help them understand the diagnosis and advise on the lifestyle changes. Apart from providing information, you create support groups and go for home visits.
  • mental health and substance social worker: social workers work with people with mental illness to provide information on services and help the family adjust to the diagnosis. You also form support groups for clients with addictions and help them recover.


working as a social worker

If you love championing people's rights and helping them improve their wellbeing, working as a social worker will be fulfilling. Read on for insight into your daily duties and responsibilities.


education and skills

Here are different routes to becoming a social worker:

  • university degree: you can join the social work field by completing an undergraduate degree in social work or related courses. The bachelor's programme must be approved by Social Work England. You need 2 to 3 A-Levels to secure an undergraduate degree, and you may be eligible for a social work bursary. Postgraduate qualifications are also available in social work if you want to improve your skills or get a promotion.
  • apprenticeship: social worker degree apprenticeships take three years and include on-the-job training and coursework. To meet the entry requirements, you need 4 to 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 and A-Levels.

skills and competencies

Social workers need various skills to keep up with the demanding profession. Some of the vital skills include:

  • empathy: as a social worker, you should have the ability to understand your clients' experiences and step into their shoes. That way, you can accurately determine their needs and provide the best support.
  • communication: good communication skills are vital for social workers since they need to communicate with various people. You should know verbal and non-verbal cues to understand your clients better. When advocating for your client's rights, it is crucial to communicate concisely with care providers and colleagues.
  • critical thinking: as a social worker, you need to evaluate each case from the information gathered and interviews with clients. The skill also helps you determine the best resources to assist your clients.
  • patience: social workers need the patience to handle complex cases or assist clients who need longer periods to make progress. Patience also helps you avoid making mistakes that lead to poor outcomes.



FAQs about working as a social worker

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