Becoming a qualified social worker
Social work offers a rewarding career with excellent opportunities for advancement. The challenges of a career in social work are exciting and varied, so the job is always interesting, ever changing and extremely satisfying. Getting started in any career is usually the hardest part, so if you are considering a career in social work you might find the advice that follows helpful.
If you are considering a job in social work, you will already be aware that there are many fields of social work to choose from. Each has its own requirements, so it essential that you find out what qualifications are relevant to the field that you want to enter before applying for any courses.
Naturally the higher standard of qualification you achieve the higher up the entry point you will be, giving you a better range of choice.
There are six levels of study to be undertaken if you want to become a social worker and the better qualified you become, the better your future career prospects can be.
- Level 1. These are basic level courses designed to introduce the student to the key roles of social work and social work codes of practice. They usually involve case studies and the development of communication skills and lead to BTEC introductory certification and GNVQ foundation qualifications.
- Level 2. These courses follow on from Level 1 and are necessary for those seeking entry level employment such as care assistants and support workers. Again, they lead to BTEC and NGVQ qualifications.
- Level 3. For entry to more senior job roles, Level 3 qualifications are vital. They include BTEC National Diploma and NGVQ Level 3 qualifications and open up entry to posts such as senior support worker, care officer and assistant healthcare worker.
- Level 4 and above. Qualification at Level 4 and above is a pre-requisite for the most senior social worker roles. Level 4 and above courses lead to diplomas, first degrees and higher degrees and lead to positions including care co-ordinator, team leader etc.
The qualifications are available from a number of providers, depending on the level you are studying. Many universities throughout the United Kingdom offer globally recognised degree courses, including post-graduate qualifications, and many offer the opportunity for part time study.
Entry requirements can be stringent and will generally include A-level passes in specified subjects. Local colleges often offer the more basic courses that can then lead on to entry to university. If you do not have the necessary educational qualifications, vocational training courses offer a good alternative.
Work experience is often an important factor when trying to enter the field of social work and when combined with lower level qualifications such as NGVQ courses, can be very helpful in securing the job you want.
Undertaking relevant voluntary work also serves a useful purpose, not only by giving you important experience but also by demonstrating your commitment to the social work sector.
Academic qualifications and experience do not tell the whole story. Social work is also about compassion, caring, commitment and interpersonal skills. If you are able to demonstrate these traits along with your qualifications and experience, then your job application is likely to receive more favourable consideration. Then you will be on the first step of the path to an exciting and worthwhile career.