Pre-training experience for social work
The majority of students studying the DipSW are over 25
years old and most courses require people to have had some
experience of social work before they are accepted. All
postgraduate courses and several undergraduate courses require six
to 12 months experience in a social work or social care setting.
For precise requirements, it is always best to contact the
university you are interested in applying to, as the criteria vary
considerably from place to place.
Working as a volunteer or as an unqualified worker in social
work or social care settings can be very satisfying and valuable.
It is also a way of finding out more about different kinds of
social work and social care and helping you to think about your
future career. You may decide you want to remain in the workplace
and add to your skills by studying National Vocational
Qualifications (NVQs). Or, you may want to apply to study the
Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) or the new degree in Social
This section looks at some of the most effective ways of getting
started in social care and social work.
What is relevant experience?
Relevant experience can be voluntary and/or paid work
experience, in some cases life experience, or a mixture of all
three. Whichever way you gain your experience, DipSW courses and
the new degree courses will be looking for:
- some knowledge and experience of the structure of the
social services and an understanding of the role of social
- some indication of basic social work skills – listening,
- personal commitment to and experience of anti-discriminatory
- self-awareness, flexibility and openness to new ideas and
Opportunities for voluntary work may be available with
statutory bodies such as local authority social services
departments and, more commonly, voluntary agencies. For people
whose full time jobs and/or financial commitments prevent them from
spending long periods in unpaid employment, the most effective way
of gaining relevant experience may be to undertake voluntary work
in the evenings or weekends. After several months, it is possible
to gain paid employment in social care using the experience and
reference from that period of voluntary work.
The addresses of local volunteer bureaux or councils for
voluntary service are listed in telephone directories, public
libraries and citizens advice bureaux.
Newspapers such as The Guardian on a Wednesday, magazines like
Community Care, and this website and local and community newspapers
also advertise voluntary work vacancies. Large public libraries and
town halls usually have a notice board advertising local voluntary
Useful addresses for information on voluntary work
National Association of Volunteer Bureaux
Tel: 0121 633 4555.
Community Service Volunteers (CSV) is a national organisation
that helps place 16-35 year olds in voluntary projects usually
lasting four months to a year. Projects are available throughout
the UK and volunteers are often placed away from their home area.
All CSVs receive pocket money, meals, and if placed away from home,
rent-free accommodation and return fares to and from home at the
beginning and end of the project.
237 Pentonville Road
London W1 9NJ
Tel: 020 7278 6601.
National Number: 0800 917 8185
London: 020 7278 7898
80 York Way
London N1 9AG
Voluntary work and benefits
If you are unemployed you can undertake unpaid voluntary work and
continue to claim unemployment benefit or income support provided
you are free to attend interviews and take up a job if offered
Employment as an assistant or ancillary
Many social service and voluntary agencies employ staff at
assistant level with job titles such as care assistant, support
worker, residential social worker or ancillary worker.
Care assistant/support worker/ancillary worker posts are
reasonably common if not very well paid and can provide people with
enough relevant experience to apply for the Diploma in Social Work
(DipSW). However you will be expected to have reflected on and
learnt from your experience and to have received good
The Guardian on Wednesday, Community Care Magazine and this
website and the local press all advertise vacancies for unqualified
social workers. Details may also be available from local job
centres and employment agencies. Local authority social
services/social work departments and voluntary agencies may also be
able to provide details of current or forthcoming vacancies.
Private social care/social work agencies
For those people with considerable paid relevant
experience, there are employment agencies specialising in the
recruitment and placement of unqualified and qualified social
workers. These can be found in telephone directories and in
advertisements in the social care press. It is advisable where
possible to select long-term placements so that you can build up
working relationships and demonstrate your competence with both
service users and managers.
Newspapers, magazines and websites advertising social care &
social work vacancies
Community Care (Thursday).
The Guardian (Wednesday).
The Voice (Monday) black and ethnic minority.
Disability Now (monthly) disability.
The Pink Paper (Thursday) lesbian and gay.