Want a career in social work? We look at:

  • social worker job responsibilities
  • salaries in social work
  • social work career progression

Social worker jobs are often thought of as a vocation, something that people take on because they want to do good, rather than because they want to make good money.  That is true to an extent, in that they provide the opportunity to make a real difference in the world, but top social work jobs also offer significant material rewards.  Becoming a social worker requires a degree and Health and Care Professions Council approval, so salary prospects reflect the commitment this requires.  The profession needs to be attractive to intelligent, committed, hard-working people, and it offers competitive remuneration.

Responsibilities of a social worker.

Social care takes many different forms, but most social worker jobs involve the following:

  • Organising and updating schedules on a weekly and daily basis.
  • Meeting with clients to assess their support needs, often in their own homes.
  • Liaising with other organisations to ensure effective service provision.
  • Responding to urgent requests for help.
  • Participating in case conferences and other team meetings.
  • Report writing and record-keeping.
  • Reading journals and undertaking training.

Social workers may also be required to give evidence in court from time to time, and may work alongside the police and probation services.  Community-based positions can involve work with teachers, youth groups and addiction centres, whilst clinic-based positions may involve working with nurses, physiotherapists and mental health specialists.  In each case it is useful to have an understanding of what the other profession involves.

Social worker salary.

The average salary for a social worker in the UK is £46,000, but there is great variation within that. Starting salaries of around £18,500 are common.  Three-quarters of social work jobs pay over £38,000.  In general, social work careers do not lead to annual earnings over £60,000, but a small proportion of social workers go on to become heads of large departments and achieve salaries of more than twice that.

Social worker salaries are highest in the east and south east of England, averaging £52,000, and are lowest in the West Midlands.  London salaries average around £48,000.  As social work jobs can involve a lot of travel, the cost of petrol or public transport needs to be taken into account when weighing up the financial advantages of any given position.

How to improve your salary in social work.

Social worker jobs often offer flexible hours or shift working, making it a practical option to undertake training whilst working. Jobs involving specialist skills, such as geriatric care, or dealing with homelessness, tend to pay more.  It is relatively easy to move laterally into new fields within social work by picking up the right training or taking advantage of periods of high demand.

The best paid jobs in social work are those with management responsibilities.  Advancing to this level requires a diverse range of skills, not just impressive experience in one specific field.  Managers need to understand all the different areas they are responsible for and be fluent in the use of departmental IT systems.