Social work degrees are designed to train social personnel to cope with a wide range of situations. The courses themselves tend to be heavily vocational, combining theoretical study with work placements. Students will be expected to undertake more than 200 days on practical placements, learning how cases are assessed and reviewed in a real-life setting. This is a very effective method of equipping them for the reality of the job when the time comes.
This means that social work degrees are clearly tailored towards finding jobs in the social work field. There are a number of different career options and specialisations within the social work field though. A social work degree may also allow its holder to find a job in a related field, or an entry-level position that requires a degree in any subject.
Types of social work available
Social work is a field that puts people first. Social workers will generally be expected to help people and families to deal with problems in their lives, but within this remit there are a wide range of options. There are also different employers who provide jobs in social work, including local authorities, the NHS, independent organisations, the voluntary sector and agencies.
Social work jobs are broadly split into children’s and adults’ services.
Social workers in children’s services may deal with areas including working with children in care, managing adoption or fostering services, assessing families who are struggling and providing support to help keep them together, working with young offenders and helping children to make the transition from being in care to living independently.
Social workers in adults’ services may deal with areas including working with people with mental health problems or learning difficulties, working in residential care, working with offenders and helping vulnerable older people to live independently.
Social care is distinct from social work, but there are definite similarities. Social care practitioners will typically work in a direct person-to-person capacity with the users of services, whereas a social worker will typically manage the whole ‘case’. Social care practitioners do not generally need to be as qualified as social workers for entry level positions. Some newly qualified social workers take jobs in social care, often while they continue to look for employment as a social worker.
Other related areas may include jobs in health, housing, education and the probation services. Some people with social work degrees forge successful careers in related areas. Others take advantage of the fact that it can sometimes be easier to switch jobs once you are employed than it is to find your ideal job straight away.
Jobs for graduates of any subject
Some jobs have entry-level jobs that are open to any graduate. The thinking is that graduates have already demonstrated certain skills and qualities in obtaining their degree, whatever subject it is in. These qualities include commitment and enthusiasm, critical thinking and an ability to work independently.
A wide and varied range of jobs are open to graduates. These can include posts in retail management, the civil service, sales, tourism, marketing and many other fields. Preference may still be given to candidates with a degree and/or practical experience in the relevant field. The graduate job market is increasingly competitive, but a good quality social work degree will at least meet the minimum requirement for many of these jobs.