To become a social worker in the United Kingdom, a person needs to gain the appropriate training and qualifications. Social worker qualifications are regulated to try to make sure that a minimum quality of service is maintained across the whole country. Qualified social workers should also register with the Health Care and Professionals Council (HCPC) before they are able to practice as a social worker.
The most common qualification route in the UK is a BA (Hons) in Social Work. At undergraduate level, the qualification may just be in Social Work, but there may also be a secondary qualification. For example, Edge Hill University is able to offer degrees in a variety of joint honours programmes, such as Adult Nursing and Social Work, and Learning Disability Nursing and Social Work.
Social Work courses
There are over 150 different social work courses in England. Scotland and Wales have slightly different training provisions available. Each university and training provider has its own entry requirements for the courses that they run. You should contact individual providers to discuss your requirements. There may be some flexibility with entry requirements if you are entering university as a mature student or if you do not have standard British academic qualifications. In general, most universities will require students to have achieved 2 A-Levels. They will normally also stipulate that candidates should have achieved an A-C grade in Maths and English at GCSE level.
A full-time degree in social work usually requires 3 years of study. A part time degree can be completed in 5 or 6 years, depending on the institution which is providing the training. Students should have the opportunity to complete practical placements with real social workers. A full time degree is likely to cost around £9,000 per year, although some universities are able to offer courses at a reduced fee. Some universities also provide scholarships to eligible students who wish to study social work.
Assessed and Supported Year in Employment
Most recruiters will want applicants to have achieved a 2:1 or above in their degree, however there are opportunities available for people who are not academically successful. Those who do not achieve a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree are strongly encouraged to take up an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE). An ASYE is a 12 month employer-led programme which offers newly qualified social workers additional support and guidance whilst they learn more about the practical aspects of being a practicing social worker. An ASYE can be completed by any newly qualified social worker and is recommended for those who would prefer to be given more guidance whilst they are finding their feet in employment.
People who did not do an undergraduate degree in social work may be able to become a social worker with an alternative qualification. Any student with an undergraduate degree can apply to do a Masters in Social Work. If your undergraduate degree is in a very different subject, the university may wish to interview you to find out whether you are a suitable candidate for a Masters in Social Work. A Masters in Social Work normally takes 2 years to complete. A part time degree will normally take 3 or 4 years to complete, depending on the provider. The cost of a Masters degree varies a lot between providers, so you may wish to look around at prices if money is a concern.
People with an undergraduate in Social Work may also wish to undertake a Masters level degree in Social Work. A Masters level may give them a greater opportunity to specialise in an area of social work which they are primarily interested in.