Social, Guidance & Community Work

Social, Guidance & Community Work

The links below give you a general overview of the sector:

Social Work

Social workers work with people and families to support them at difficult times in their lives and to protect vulnerable people, both children and adults, from harm.  Their role is to provide support and help in order to find solutions to problems and improve people’s lives. They may act as guides and advocates and may also take responsibility for difficult decisions using their professional judgement.Social workers tend to specialise in supporting either children and families, or vulnerable adults:

  • Social work with adults includes working with the elderly, people with mental health problems or with physical or learning disabilities. Also it may include working with homeless people, with substance abuse or alcohol problems and with domestic violence.
  • Working with children, young people and families includes: child protection; adoption and fostering; working with young offenders or young people with learning or physical disabilities.

Social workers may work in various settings: in the community; in people’s homes; in hospitals and health centres; in advice centres and charities. They may work closely with other organisations including the police, the NHS, schools and the Probation Service.

Getting in

Either an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in social work is required. The undergraduate degree is for those who do not yet have a degree and the postgraduate degree is for those who are graduates with a degree in a subject other than Social Work.

If you are applying for a postgraduate course then substantial relevant work experience is likely to be necessary to gain a place. All approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses (plus information about any bursaries available/sources of financial support) are listed on the following:

You apply for most courses through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) though a few part-time postgraduate degrees require applications should be made direct to the university.

In addition, a number of fast-track graduate schemes in Social Work have been developed:

  • Frontline – a salaried initiative aimed at recruiting top graduates to undergo intensive on-the-job training to become children’s social workers (please note that this qualification is currently for England only)
  • Think Ahead – a salaried two-year fast track scheme for graduates and career changers to become mental health social workers. Participants qualify as social workers in their first year and finish the programme after two years with a Masters degree in social work
  • Step Up to Social Work - a government-funded programme which enables graduates to work towards a qualification to practice as a social worker while gaining intensive hands-on experience

Relevant experience

Graduates wishing to progress to a postgraduate qualification in social work will normally be expected to have gained substantial relevant experience in a social work or social care setting before being accepted on to the course. Some universities state a minimum amount of time that you need to have spent gaining experience (e.g. 6 months), other universities are more interested in how you have analysed and gained insight from your experience.  Details can be found on Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Gain as much work experience as possible.  This could be through paid positions in community care e.g. a care assistant in a residential home for the elderly, or for people with learning difficulties.  Or you could gain relevant voluntary experience.  Gaining this experience will help with your applications for a place, but it will also give you a realistic idea of the challenges and rewards of social work and help you confirm that it is the right choice for you.

Have a look at the Related Links section below for suggestions of organisations where you may be able to gain voluntary experience and vacancy sources.

Related links

Getting started

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources


Probation & Community Work

Educational & Careers Guidance