A degree in social work is one of the most varied degrees to study. As a student, you will learn how to look after a wide variety of people in our society, both young and old – many of whom are vulnerable and in need of help.
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Studying Social Work
Such a degree equips you with the necessary skills required to work in the social work sector at private businesses, clinics, public agencies, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and more.
The degree lasts for three years if studied full-time. It’s flexible and can also be studied part-time, and specialist degrees include:
- Social Welfare and Advice
- Sport Rehabilitation
- Applied Social Work
- Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work
A social work degree combines practical work experience (such as in care homes) with rigorous academic study. As such, it equips you with the practical skills, knowledge and understanding needed to deal with the many issues that social workers face on a daily basis. The topics and modules are designed with this in mind, but exactly what you will study depends on the university. However, some modules you can expect to study include:
- Social Exclusion and Discrimination
- Social Work with Adults
- Practice Learning in the Community
- Law and Social Policy
- Values, Ideology and Ethics
- Family Intervention
- Mental Health and Substance Use
It is likely that you will also be asked to undertake an intellectually challenging critical literature review, and you will also be assessed on your performance during placement(s). A final year dissertation, meanwhile, forms a core part of the program.
A Masters in Social Work (Sometimes abbreviated as MSW) is a postgraduate degree in social work. Professional courses, they have a specific vocational focus that offers you the chance to focus on your preferred aspect of social work. For example, you might wish to specialise on the problems surrounding domestic abuse or homelessness, or you might find that you want to work with different groups, such as children and the elderly. Generally, an MSW is undertaken by students with existing experience relevant to the course, but there are a number of students who have taken a very different undergraduate degree path that apply for the course.
- MA Social Work
- MSc Social Work
- MRes Social Work
A Master of Arts and a Master of Science in Social Work tend to cover very similar content. MSc’s will differ by covering the scientific sides of social work such as medicine, social sciences and mathematics. Both course types are ideal for those students looking to qualify as professional social workers upon completion of their degree. The MRes in Social Work is not suitable for students looking to become a social work practitioner and is instead ideal for those students looking to become an evaluator or researcher of social care. This type of degree is also a good course to be taken by prospective PhD students of social work.
In addition to standard social work degrees there are also a variety of specialist Masters in Social Work programs that you might choose to apply for. These include:
- Masters Degrees in Family Therapy
- Masters Degrees Disability Studies
- Masters Degrees in Social Welfare
- Masters Degrees in Gerontology
- Masters Degrees in Child Protection
- Social work with children
- Human growth and development
- Critical thinking skills
- Domestic violence
- Mental health social work
- Substance misuse
- Professional values and ethics
Exact grade requirements are dependent on the university, but generally speaking 280 or more UCAS points is enough to get you an interview at least. This equates to BBB if you are taking A Levels, or DDM if you are taking a BTEC Extended Diploma.
A degree in social work teaches you a number of transferable skills, such as research, presentation and communication, that help you to understand the concerns of some of society’s most vulnerable people. Jobs you may want to consider upon graduation include:
- Family support worker
- Social worker
- Adult guidance worker
- Careers adviser
- Youth worker
Alternatively, you could stay in education and study a social work degree at postgraduate level, such as a Masters. This gives you a chance to specialise. For example, possible Masters include Autism Practice and Adult Services Support. It’s also worth remembering that you can look further afield for jobs, as many employers will grant interviews to students who posses any type of degree. To improve your chances of successfully finding a job not long after graduation, you might want to supplement your degree with some relevant work experience.
It’s typical for anyone applying for a Masters in Social Work to have future plans of entering the field of social work, and this likely to be your plan, too. But it’s important to bear in mind that social work is a rather broad profession, and there are numerous opportunities to apply your new skills in a variety of different areas.
Specialisation is actually what dictates a program in this particular subject. During your course, you might choose to work with certain groups, such as refugees or children, or you might prefer to obtain administration skills which will help you to pursue a career in the health service.
The good news is that over 80% of individuals with a Masters in Social Work find full-time work just six months after graduating. A further 7% go onto pursue an even higher qualification, while the rest find part-time work, or engage in voluntary activities.
If you wish to study directly in the field as a social worker, then you can register with the Health and Care Professions Council as a qualified social worker upon successful completion of the degree.