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Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF)

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) is an overarching professional standards framework, developed by the Social Work Reform Board and is now owned by The College of Social Work.

The PCF:

  • Sets out consistent expectations of social workers at every stage in their career
  • Provides a backdrop to both initial social work education and continuing professional development after qualification
  • Informs the design and implementation of the national career structure
  • Gives social workers a framework around which to plan their careers and professional development.


The Professional Capabilities Framework has nine domains (or areas) within it. 

More information about the different PCF domains (Word 97k)


The PCF is divided into levels, both before and after qualification. The levels relate to the complexity of work that someone with those capabilities would be able to manage.There are 9 levels, from entry to training as a social worker, to the strategic social work level. Find out more about the levels here:

Progression between levels

Progression is determined by people’s abilities to manage issues such as complexity, risk and responsibility in a range of professional settings. Find out more about progression between PCF levels (Word 100k)

The HCPC Standards of Practice for Social Worker (SoPS) in England and the PCF

The College and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) have jointly mapped the HCPC standards against the PCF expectations for social work students at the end of their last placement/qualifying level, to demonstrate the inter-relationship between the two.

Find out about how the SoPS and PCF relate to each other and download a copy of the mapping between the PCF and SoPS

The PCF applies to all social workers in England - in all roles and settings, including independent social workers.For Social Workers in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland National Occupational Standards for SW still apply.

Accessing the PCF

The PCF fan diagram includes details of the three different developmental pathways at the advanced and strategic levels, for educators, social workers and managers. (In this context ‘educators’ include academics and researchers as well as workforce leads.) The detailed names are not available on the face of the web tool, as their inclusion there would cause access problems for people using screen readers.

If you wish to download the full PCF by career level, go to TCSW's reform resources.

© 2012 The College of Social Work. Updated versions of the PCF will be posted from time to time on our website. These documents or parts of them may be copied for personal, non-commercial use and training purposes, provided the original source is acknowledged and this copyright statement retained.

PCF Search

Please select from the list below to search the PCF Framework
Career Levels

Interactive Flash Version

Click below to use our interactive flash version of the PCF.