How to Become a Social Worker

Do you have a passion for supporting and caring for others? If you love a challenge, and you get a kick from helping individuals lead more independent and fulfilling lives, then a career in social work could be perfect for you. In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about becoming a social worker. You’ll also find some useful links to help with your own further research.

Photo by  Ravi Roshan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash

What do social workers do?

As there are many different types of social workers the role can be quite varied. Whatever the specific role, a social worker aims to improve people’s lives . They often work with vulnerable people, individuals and small groups to help them find a solution to their problem. They do this by offering counselling, visiting clients to assess their needs, making referrals to services and agencies, organising support, attending meetings and keeping records.

Who do social workers help?

As a social worker you can expect to work directly with children, the elderly, individuals with mental health problems, people with substance abuse problems, asylum seekers and refugees or people with learning disabilities. You’ll also work the client’s family where relevant.

Social workers also work with other non-profit organisations, such as NHS trust, the police, schools, he probation service and other local authority departments.

How much do social workers earn?

Social workers for the NHS typically start on Band 6 of the NHS pay scale, earning between £26,565 and £35,577.

What skills and personal characteristics are needed?

Everyone working in social care needs English, number, digital and employability skills including team work and problem solving skills. 

Social workers need to possess strong interpersonal skills in order to build relationships with their clients and establish trust. They also need to posses active listening skills, good English language skills, solid digital skills and the ability to organise time effectively.

Local London Flexi-Learn offers English language and digital qualifications that are specifically tailored to the health and social care setting. These courses are free, part-time, flexible and often online.

What qualifications do I need?

There are many routes to becoming a qualified social worker, however, all route will require basic qualifications in English and Maths, and a degree. If you do not wish to study a degree, there are still plenty of other options for you. For example, you could become a Personal assistant, an Advocacy worker , a Care worker, an Activities worker and more. To be eligible for these roles you will need to posses English, number, digital and employability skills including team work and problem solving skills. Local London Flexi-Learn offers a full range English, maths, digital and vocational qualifications for free, for adults in London. View all courses here.

What degree-based options are there?

University degrees

In order to practice as a fully qualified social worker in the UK you'll need to be educated to at least undergraduate level in an approved course and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. To qualify to study a social care degree you’ll need two or three A levels, along with five GCSEs (grades A-C), including English and maths. Find out more about studying a degree in social care.

Financial help is available to students on undergraduate and postgraduate social work courses via Social Work Bursaries, which are supplied by the NHS.

Find out what you can do with a degree in social work.


There are a number of opportunities available to retrain if you are a career changer or graduate with an unrelated degree. Frontline focuses on on-the-job training and academic study. On completion you'll be able to register with the HCPC as a qualified social worker.

To be eligible for the programme you'll need:

Think ahead

Think ahead offers a two year course which helps degree-holders and career changers to get into mental health social care. You’ll receive a tax-free training bursary of £19,100 in your first year, and you’ll work as a newly qualified social worker in your second year, earning between £21,000 to £30,000. Necessary qualifications include GCSEs in maths and English at grade C or above, and a 2:1 undergraduate degree in any subject other than social work.

Is it easy to find a job?

“There's an increasing demand for enthusiastic, forward-thinking graduates to fill vacancies within the profession - Skills for Care's The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report revealed that an estimated 10% of social worker roles were vacant in 2017/18. “ -Prospects

Siaan Spapens