How much will I earn in social work?
There is no national fixed starting salary for a newly qualified social worker. Pay varies across local authorities and areas and in different settings. Generally speaking, you are likely to start on between around £19,000 and £25,000 a year, and this could increase to £40,000 with responsibilities and experience. Pay is typically higher in London where living costs are higher.
Social workers who are employed by the NHS usually start work on band 6 of the NHS pay scale, currently about £26,000.
If you join the Frontline fast-track graduate social work training scheme, all your tuition fees are covered, along with the cost of accommodation at Frontline’s summer institute. You will receive a training payment of around £19,000 (plus London weighting) in the first year and a salary of around £24,000 in the second year of the programme.
You can find out about funding and bursaries for undergraduate and postgraduate social work degrees from our advice on the university route into social work.
What are the prospects for pay and progression in social work?
Here are some examples of career progression in different social work specialisms, based on research carried out for the specialist social care website Community Care:
Older people: working for a local authority, you could progress to become an assistant team manager on £31,000 to £36,000 before taking up a position as a joint commissioning manager on £40,000 to £42,000, responsible for working with the NHS to commission services.
Child protection and looked-after children: working for a local authority, you could become an independent reviewing officer on £30,000 to £40,000, responsible for managing a caseload of reviews of services for looked-after children, and then progress to become a head of service for looked-after children and leaving care on up to £60,000, responsible for managing a team of social workers and developing strategy.
Mental health: you could become a forensic social worker (a specialist in social work relating to legal issues) on £28,000 to £35,000, then a mental health service manager overseeing supported living services, employed by a private company, on around £40,000.
What are starting salaries like in social care?
Social care has a reputation for offering relatively low salaries, and depending on where you start work, you may find yourself earning just above the national minimum wage. The most generous rates of pay are typically offered by local authorities, followed by the voluntary sector, with private organisations usually paying slightly less. However, there are likely to be more vacancies in the private sector.
Pay tends to be lowest for care workers and is higher in community support and outreach work and in senior and management roles.