The work-based route into a career in social work
Social work is a graduate profession and you need to have an approved undergraduate or postgraduate qualification. While there are work-based routes into social work, these are academically rigorous and involve study at degree level or beyond. For example, you need at least a 2.1 in any degree subject to apply for the Frontline programme, a fast-track employment-based training scheme that includes study for a diploma in social work in the first year. For an overview of routes into the profession, see our advice on how to get into social work.
If you’re already in employment, you may be able to study for a social work degree through the Open University while continuing to work. The Open University does not arrange social work placements and funding support from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is not available for these degrees. Open University social work degrees are most likely to be suitable for you if you are working in the field of social care; for example, if you are working in a social care agency and are registered and supported by your employer.
If you’re interested in a career that involves caring for and supporting people in need, there are many roles in the wider field of social care that might appeal to you. The social care sector currently employs 1.5 million people, according to the workforce development organisation Skills for Care, which predicts that another million workers will be needed by 2025. So there are plenty of opportunities, and these are likely to increase over time. Job roles vary from providing support directly as a care worker or personal assistant to administrative and management positions, such as managing a care home. Here are some examples:
- Team leader
- Independent living adviser
- Care coordinator
- Senior care worker
Qualifications in social care
If you want to gain higher level qualifications but don’t want to go to university, there are apprenticeships available in social care and in related fields such as public services and health. For example, in the field of adult social care, there are apprenticeships at the following levels for these four key roles:
- Adult care worker (level 2)
- Lead adult care worker (level 3)
- Lead practitioner in adult care (level 4)
- Leader in adult care (level 5). This is relevant for both managers and advanced practitioners.
Level 5 qualifications are at the same level as an HND, foundation degree or diploma of higher education. The level 5 higher apprenticeship in care leadership and management is suitable for those who are already involved in managing residential or non-residential care, or who are employed in business development or strategic planning roles in this area.