Career clinic: post-graduate social work degree

Can I become a social worker without doing a second degree?


Q: “I am a support worker for people with learning disabilities and have NVQ levels 2 and 3 in health and social care. I am in my early thirties, live in London and have an engineering degree. I want to become a social worker in adult services without necessarily going back to do a social work-related first degree. Can you advise me on this?”

A: You have clearly demonstrated academic ability through completion of the engineering degree and your achievement of NVQ levels 2 and 3 in health and social care indicate a developing commitment to the skills and values needed within social care, writes Pervez Akhtar. It seems you have two clear options.

You could choose to continue along the NVQ route with a view to completing the registered manager’s award. This way you would meet the criteria to manage a service for people with learning difficulties.

However, to register as a social worker with the General Social Care Council you do have to complete a degree in social work. The GSCC website has an explanation of what is required to become a social worker and may be useful as you consider your options.

As you already have a first degree and relevant work experience, qualifying as a social worker could be achieved through a two-year postgraduate, masters level course, combining academic theory with a practical focus, with a requirement to spend at least 200 days in assessed practice in at least two different settings.

All social work degrees are generic and will prepare you for working with adults and children. You can specialise once you qualify through your choice of employment setting and further post-qualifying studies. It’s worth looking at university websites of interest to you as social work programmes vary in the way placements and academic learning are organised.

The Social Work Task Force recently made wide-ranging recommendations about the initial education and training of social workers in England. It recognises the need to increase the number of confident, competent professionals coming into the workforce and suggests reforms to better support them throughout their careers. This is positive news – you have chosen a really good time to enter the profession.

Pervez Akhtar is acting director of social work at Skills for Care


Next question

“I’m a children’s social worker and the local authority I joined recently has been criticised in an inspection report for poor record-keeping. As a result we’re all being told by our managers to record all of our casework in greater detail, but I seem to be spending all day at my desk filling in forms instead of visiting families. The integrated children’s system we have here is extremely unwieldy – for example, having to enter information individually for each child in a sibling group, and not being able to change the care plan for children in follow-up reviews. It all seems a great waste of time and not what I came into social work to do – any advice would be greatly appreciated.”

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This article is published in the 28 January issue of Communnity Care magazine under the heading Can I become a social worker without doing a second degree?

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