The university route into social work
You need an approved social work qualification in order to register as a social worker. This could be either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in social work. Which of the two routes do you want to take? Make sure you are clear about what social work involves before you decide. Are you firmly committed to becoming a social worker? Our advice on whether a career in social work would be right for you sets out the skills and strengths that you’ll need to succeed.
On an undergraduate social work degree course you’ll learn about laws that are relevant to social work, social work theory, ethics and values. You’ll also learn about partnership working, assessment, intervention, and mental health and disability issues.
If you’re considering studying social work for your first degree, it’s a good idea to be sure that this is the right career choice for you. If you want to keep your options open, or if there’s another subject you particularly want to study, you might be better off doing a different first degree. You could then study social work at postgraduate level. You can usually apply for a postgraduate social work course from any degree background, though you should check individual course requirements. Alternatively, you could pursue another route into the profession as a graduate, such as the Frontline programme.
The Frontline programme is open to graduates from any degree background with a 2.1. It is a two-year employment-based scheme in which you work towards a postgraduate diploma in social work by the end of the first year. You then have the opportunity to study for a masters qualification by the end of the programme.
If you are interested in social work but do not want to go to university, our advice on jobs and employers in social work and work-based routes into social work careers sets out some options in related areas.
There is currently some public funding available for some students on social work courses and understanding what’s available will put you in the best possible position to find the right path for you. Our guide to funding for undergraduate and postgraduate social work study will help you weigh up your options.
Where should I go to study an approved course in social work?
Different organisations are responsible for registering social workers and approving courses in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. If you train in one part of the UK and are initially registered there, and then find a social work job in another part of the UK, you need to apply for registration to the organisation that oversees that area. If you have studied on an approved course your qualification will be recognised, but this is not an automatic process and you’ll need to make the application in order to take up your new role.
Here’s where to search for courses that are approved in different parts of the UK:
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register of approved education and training programmes in England
- Scottish Social Services Council list of approved social work honours degree and postgraduate programmes in Scotland
- Care Council for Wales approved social work courses
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council approved social work degree providers