How to become a Social Worker

Social Worker

Social workers aim to improve the lives of vulnerable people; who may be experiencing adversity because of unfortunate circumstances including violence, poverty and discrimination. Social workers have varied jobs that involve organising support and working with people to implement changes.

A social worker helps vulnerable people positively change their life. Their jobs are varied, but the pillars of the career are care for individual cases and creating a more just society for all. 

A social worker will closely align their practices with human rights, and a large part of their job will be ensuring that the rights of each person are being met. Social workers must be compassionate, open-minded and resilient, as the job will pose many emotional challenges.

A social workers’ main duties include: 

  • Meeting new people and assessing their needs and wishes. Often social workers will have to balance the two.
  • Making sure that people in their care are having their human rights met.
  • Checking up on vulnerable people, ensuring that they are well and analysing any problems that may not be communicated. 
  • Helping people make positive changes to their life, both by suggesting alterations and by physically implementing certain changes when appropriate.
  • Referring them to other experts to help, such as therapists or housing support. 
  • Completing paperwork about each case and presenting information to other colleagues. 

Social worker education requirements are quite specific. Candidates must undertake an undergraduate or masters degree in social work, or do a specialised graduate training programme. Enhanced background checks will be carried out for each applicant.

Social workers will often specialise by working with a particular group of people, such as children or adults with mental health issues. This is often decided upon during training and can be changed throughout their career, however, relevant volunteering is always helpful when getting a specialist job. 

Undertaking work experience as a social worker is tricky because of the confidentiality of the job, so it is recommended to do some people-focused volunteering while studying. This could be at a homeless shelter, with a mental health charity or at a retirement home. It is also a great idea to do extra courses to supplement official education. 

Essential skills for social workers include exceptional listening and communication abilities, good IT knowledge and time management  skills.

Social workers can be employed by local authorities, health organisations, private companies and charities. It is also possible to work on a self-employed basis, but generally this needs years of experience. Professional social workers should attend conferences and carry on training in new fields to advance in their career.

What degree is most commonly held by a Social Worker?


  • Dip, BA / M of Social Work
  • Dip, BA / M of Psychology
  • Dip, BA / M of Sociology
  • Dip, BA / M of Clinical Social Work
  • Dip, BA / M of Social Sciences

Career Transportability across Countries


Transportability: Low
The training for becoming a social worker is very country-specific,, as a lot of studying into particular societal situations is part of a social work course. Furthermore, deep cultural knowledge of a country is essential as a social worker will be cooperating with people and their lives on a daily basis. Therefore, it would be difficult to pick up these skills and place them in another country - retraining would need to be undertaken to become a social worker abroad.

What is the Salary of a Social Worker?

ExperienceEducationAverage salary | year
AU$UK£US$
Social Worker€60,000£45,277$82,500
Manager (Psychology, Counselling & Social Work)1-4 Years€75,000£49,393$90,000
Director (Psychology, Counselling & Social Work)5+ Years€100,000£62,000$125,000

What skills are needed to become a Social Worker?


  • Mental Health
  • Social Services
  • Case Management
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Public Speaking
  • Community Outreach
  • Research
  • Psychotherapy
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Group Therapy
  • Microsoft Office
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Program Development
  • Working with Adolescents
  • Customer Service
  • Leadership
  • Family Therapy
  • Psychology
  • Microsoft Word
  • Training
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Teaching
  • Treatment
  • Child Welfare
  • Social Media

Social Worker Courses

For those wondering how to become a social worker, some niche courses could be helpful to get a broader knowledge of the field. Courses such as supporting victims of domestic violence and gender inequality would be interesting to a social work applicant, as well as many related courses on sociology.
  • Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

    Learn to recognise the signs of domestic violence and support domestic violence survivors as a health or social care worker

  • The Power of Data in Health and Social Care

    Discover the power of data analytics for individuals and organisations working in health and social care

  • Understanding Gender Inequality

    Gender inequality is a key challenge in society Explore its causes and consequences and consider the ways you can overcome it

  • Care Home Nursing: Changing Perceptions

    Challenge your opinion of what its like to be a care home nurse and understand their importance and varied responsibilities

  • Social Care During COVID-19: Coping with Self-Isolation and Social Distancing

    Explore and learn to manage the impact of selfisolation and social distancing on yourself and vulnerable social groups

  • Creative Problem Solving: Design Thinking in Health and Social Care

    Learn how design thinking can be applied in health and social care settings to drive innovation and approach challenges

  • Global Health and Disability

    Leaving no one behind disability health and wellbeing in global development

  • Supporting People Living with Long-term Conditions

    Explore how healthcare professionals work in partnership with people with longterm conditions in this free online course

  • Integrated Healthcare for Children with Developmental Disabilities

    Discover how to improve the health and wellbeing of children with developmental disabilities

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

We partner with over 170 world-class universities, institutions and industry leaders to create world-class courses to help you with your career. Whether you’re just starting out, wanting to deepen your knowledge or change direction, FutureLearn and our partners can help. These are just a few of our world-leading partners.