I Want To Work In … Social Work


Social work covers a wide range of different specialisms, but two of the most important are:

Qualities required include:

You will need a degree in social work to become a social worker. If you are not studying this subject at the moment you will need to take another undergraduate degree in the future: this is normally a full three-year degree in social work, but there are some accelerated two-year programmes for graduates in relevant subjects such as sociology, social policy, psychology and law.

Some employers, especially local authority social services departments, will sponsor students on these courses. It is not a disadvantage to have studied another subject first – social work is an area where maturity and experience are assets.

You should start to build up this experience as early as possible – this may be through volunteering, through part-time paid care work or through any work in a setting that brings you into contact with people who may use social or voluntary services, or with related professions. See our Work Experience pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/vacwork.htm

Options with a social work degree www.prospects.ac.uk/options_social_work.htm

Social Worker Profile

RESIDENTIAL SOCIAL WORK. The care & supervision of a group of persons (e.g. children, elderly people, the mentally or physically handicapped, people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, etc) in a residential home or school.
FIELD SOCIAL WORK. Dealing with problems of individuals or groups, e.g. child care, mental welfare, finding foster homes, advising those adopting children. Trying to restore acceptable or improved social conditions for the individual family or community.
Related jobs include Youth Work, Community Work, Housing Management, Probation Work.
Satisfactions. Enabling people to make a fresh start & rebuild their lives. Variety; independence; making decisions; getting results for people/organisations.
Negatives. Stress - dealing with emotionally vulnerable people. Can be depressing; Can be frustrating - things can be slow to change.
Skills needed. Spoken communication, cooperating, listening, ability to establish a rapport with all kinds of people. Concern for others' feelings without becoming emotionally over-involved. Willingness to work outside the normal 9-5 pattern
Tips. You will need practical experience of social work before starting a course. This can be obtained from part-time voluntary work. Previous experience of welfare benefits & housing advice giving/counselling etc. also very useful. Speculative applications to local authority social services departments & voluntary bodies are also likely to be worthwhile.

Social work interviews with local authorities

Interview and selection exercises change each year and varies depending on the local authority.

In one local authority the selection exercise involved applicants being given a case study to consider - they were then given a number of questions about it to discuss in a small group. Selectors were looking for understanding of the issues, relevant law and guidance, communication skills - ability to argue their point and respect for the views of other candidates.

In another authority, because of the high intake, candidates were asked to discuss a detailed case study in a group surrounded by observers and only those who did well in this were asked for interview.

Some authorities use an in tray exercise, particularly for intake teams. For example "Here are eight different circumstances, please prioritise these". In another local authority applicants were given 30 minutes to read a case study and write down questions. The case study was then discussed at the beginning of the interview e.g. adult protection: you might not know exactly what to do but how would you deal with the situation?


Recruitment sites

Last fully updated 2012