If you’re thinking of a change of career or setting out to define your future career for the first time, social work is well worth considering. If you’re younger and still in education the decision helps you shape your subject choices. If you’re older and looking to change careers, you should know that social care jobs are very much in demand, for one thing, and for another give you the irreplaceable job satisfaction of making a noticeable difference to people’s lives every day.
But what is working in social care like? And more importantly, how do you get qualified to do it?
Given the insatiable demand for social workers and carers generated by society, you won’t be surprised to find there are plenty of different routes into the profession, designed to make it accessible to a broad spread of people with different backgrounds and different needs for their studies.
If you’ve already been to a university then the most thorough route to practicing as a qualified social worker will be to take an undergraduate degree course. These are three year degrees which allow you to enjoy the full university experience and graduate with a degree afterwards – with funding options available due to the need for graduates to fill vacancies!
If you’ve already graduated with a degree in a different subject, the path into social work is not closed to you. If you’re keen for more academic experience and advanced qualifications, there are post graduate courses that prepare you for the social work workplace. The advantage here is that many of these are available part time, as evening classes, via the Open University or otherwise adapted for people who need to balance this qualification with work. This flexibility opens the field to people who might not have been able to commit to a degree course for any number of reasons, from financial hardship to caring responsibilities – many of these reasons would make them a more empathetic, useful social worker!
If you’re not an academic type then there are still options available: plenty of courses are more vocational, allowing you to learn on the job in the social work equivalent of the popular ‘teach first’ programme’. This is great for people that thrive on the ‘sink or swim’ mentality as it forces you to adapt quickly and learn what you need to.
All of these options need to be checked with the HCPC – the Health and Care Professions Council, which certifies courses that provide an appropriate level of training. If you don’t, you could find yourself committing to a course than doesn’t let you practice at the end of it!