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Study Social Work, why & how to study

Social Work is a rewarding and important subject area, and those sufficiently trained are vital in helping the wellbeing of the community and beyond.

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  1. What’s Social Work?

  2. What Social Work degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto a Social Work degree?

  4. What topics does a Social Work degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study Social Work?

  7. What do Social Work graduates earn?

  8. What jobs can you get as a Social Work graduate?

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to Social Work

  11. Have any questions?

What’s Social Work?

Social Work is all about understanding and striving to improve the lives of people in society. ‘Social worker’ is a protected title, and you can only become one having completed the relevant training. This guide also covers related subjects such as community development and social care.

A degree in this area leads to a profession centred around people – from babies through to older generations – working with those of all creeds, ages and races who need help to make their lives better. It's a challenging and responsible job.

What Social Work degrees can you study?

Degrees in this subject area are highly vocational. Examples include:

  • Community Development & Leadership BSc
  • Health & Social Care BA
  • Social Work BA, BSW or MSW
  • Youth & Community Work BA

Some degrees are available with an integrated foundation year or as an integrated master’s. Professional practice and placements are a key part of course content.

What do you need to get onto a Social Work degree?

Entry requirements in the Social Work subject area range between 90–152 UCAS points. Qualifications may include:

  • A Levels: ABB–CDD
  • Scottish Highers: AABBB–CCCCDD (Advanced Highers: ABB–CCC)
  • International Baccalaureate: 33–28

Other good subjects to have studied include:

  • No particular subjects are required but general studies or critical thinking may be excluded

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Work experience (paid or unpaid) is essential for your application and reference
  • Valuable experience could include work in varied community settings such as residential care, with children’s groups or a school, involvement in community groups or support charities, or assisting someone who is vulnerable (e.g. who requires extra support or care)

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Due to the nature of this work, you’ll need to complete Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks (PVG scheme in Scotland)

What topics does a Social Work degree cover?

Typical modules for courses in this subject area include:

  • Cultures, identity and difference
  • Developing effective youth and community work
  • Early child development and child observation
  • Exploring social policy and social justice
  • Health services planning and management
  • Law for social workers
  • Skills for social work
  • Social issues across the life course
  • Social research methods
  • Working with service users

How will you be assessed?

Learning may be assessed through a wide range of methods, depending on the module:

  • Assessed placements
  • Case study analysis
  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Essays
  • Exams (written and/or oral)
  • Portfolios
  • Presentations
  • Project work
  • Written assignments or reports

Why study Social Work?

You’ll gain confidence and competence in working with a wide variety of people in difficult situations and be able to offer the support to help change lives.

Career-specific skills:

  • Sensitivity and nuanced interpersonal skills to support the people you work with
  • Familiarity with legal duties and responsibilities
  • Experience in relevant settings – whether community development or social work
  • Ability to present written or oral reports in court if this is required by your role

Transferable skills:

  • Building effective relationships with clients
  • Communication and interviewing skills
  • Critical analysis and evaluation
  • Data handling and digital literacy
  • Group facilitation and management skills
  • Presentation
  • Reflective and critical writing
  • Research
  • Time management

Professional accreditation:

  • Social work programmes must be approved by Social Work England, Social Care Wales (SCW), Northern Ireland’s Social Care Council (NISCC) or the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
  • Community development courses may be endorsed by the Endorsement Standards Board, or the CLD Standards Council (Community Learning and Development) in Scotland
  • Degrees that also include youth work may be accredited by the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), which approves youth workers in England and Wales

What do Social Work graduates earn?

Graduates in the Social Work subject area may start out earning £17,500–£29,000.

Social work graduates could be employed by a local authority – who set their own pay rates – or within the NHS, starting on Band 6 (around £32,000). Social workers in the voluntary sector are likely to be paid less.

Income for community development workers or those in youth work ranges between £23,500–£34,000, depending on experience.

What jobs can you get as a Social Work graduate?

While your degree may qualify you for a specific vocation, you don’t have to follow that route. After all, you’ve gained great transferable skills and plenty of experience of working with people. You could consider:

  • Advice services coordinator
  • Chaplain
  • Community education officer
  • Counsellor
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion manager
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Probation officer
  • Service designer for a charity
  • Social worker
  • Teacher
  • Volunteer coordinator

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

You can become a social worker following a first degree by taking a postgraduate qualification. Other master's and research degrees may offer specialisation. Examples include:

  • Advanced Social Work Studies (Mental Health Officer Award) PGCert
  • Health and Social Care PGCert/PGDip/MRes
  • Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care MSc
  • Social Work MSW/MRes

Similar subjects to Social Work

If you’re motivated by making a difference in the lives of others, you could also consider these subjects:

Have any questions?

If you’ve got any questions about studying Social Work, you can email our experts at We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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