More university graduates finding employment as social workers

Skills for Care report also reveals those on traditional social work courses are achieving better class degrees

Cambridge students
Credit: Geoffrey Robinson/Rex Features

The number of social work students achieving first or upper second-class degrees is increasing, research from Skills for Care has shown.

It also found the number of graduates obtaining social worker jobs within six months of completing their course has improved.

The report Social Work Education in England’ covers the period from 2009/10 to 2013/14, which precedes the introduction of Frontline, a fast track, skills based route into social work which began in July 2014.

Reflection of Social Work Reform Board recommendations

Instead the results are likely to reflect the impact of reforms to social work education recommended in the Munro Report and by the Social Work Reform Board.

The research, commissioned by the Department for Health, found the number of undergraduates obtaining a first-class degree increased from 11.5% in 2009/10 to 16% of the total in 2013/14. Those attaining a 2:1 increased from 45% to 47% over the same period.

Although there had been some improvement in undergraduate grades in the preceding five years the report shows the greatest uplift was seen in 2013/14.

Conversion rates

This compares with one third of the first Frontline cohort who possessed first-class degrees, according to a recent government memorandum. However, the report did not collect statistics on the class of degree possessed by those embarking on a social work master’s degree.

The report authors stated that further research was now needed to see if quality of service delivery was linked to improved qualification outcomes.

The report also shows the conversion rate of graduates to social workers has risen from 56% in 2011/12 to 65% in 2013/14 meaning two in every three graduates will be employed as a social worker six months after leaving their course.

Those on master’s degrees were more likely to find employment as social workers (73% compared to 61% of undergraduate qualifiers) with those from the courses based in the East Midlands the most likely to find employment.

Greater life experience

This means the conversion rate for post-graduate, master’s courses compares more favourably with fast-track routes into social work education than previously thought.

The Department for Education recently told the parliamentary education committee that only 61% of post-graduates obtained employment as social workers compared with 80% of Step Up cohorts, whose funding includes a £19,000 salary and education fees paid by the government.

The report states the higher success rate of post-graduate courses “may be due to these graduates having greater work and life experience”.

Additional research

“Additional research is required to further understand this finding. Again there is some overlap in findings relating to course level and age and as such it is not clear whether one of the factors ‘drives’ the other.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • The number of enrolments on social work education courses has dropped since 2009/10 from 5,620 to 4,590 in 2013/14. This has largely impacted on undergraduate courses.
  • The number of students on post-graduate, master’s courses has increased from 29% in 20090/10 to one third of total enrolments in 2013/14.
  • Black and minority ethnic students make up 30% of all social work students
  • The vast majority of those who dropped out of their social work course were under 24 years of age (85% completion rate compared with 95% of those aged over 24), on an under-graduate degree and did so in the first year

The statistics were collected as part of a broader report on social workers to be published later this year by Skills for Care. The data was collected from 72 of the 79 higher education institutions providing social work courses.

7 Responses to More university graduates finding employment as social workers

  1. Andrew Faulkner January 20, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    This has not been my experience. I have now been unemployed for 16 months. I have a Masters degree in Social Work after completing the “Step Up to Social Work” course but can’t even get work through an agency as everyone wants two years post qualifying experience! How are you meant to get the experience if you can’t get a job?

    • sam January 26, 2016 at 8:41 am #

      my thoughts entirely!!! I qualified in 2001 and have worked with the Education Authority for 15 years in a social work capacity. I have tried for the past 5 years to get into “social work” but ‘haven’t got the experience’. it’s a case of the chicken and the egg. very frustrating!!

  2. Tom Hughes January 20, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Given that you need a degree to actually be a qualified Social Worker and have done so for a number of years, this was always going to be the case. I would imagine 100% of those people who qualify to get a Social Work job would be a graduate of some kind.

  3. Beth January 21, 2016 at 5:53 am #

    I had worked in the Health and Social Care sector for over 18 years prior to undertaking my degree. I had to struggle, work with a young child as well as do placements and a full time course. I got a First Class Degree and have always worked…in fact never stopped.
    Many years ago no one would have had a place on the degree without prior experience. This is not the case now and it is the most valuable thing you can have. Go and work unqualified for a bit to get your foot in the door.
    TO THE GOVERNMENT…..i am disgusted at Fast Track. I was one of the years that had no financial assistance..the year I qualified was the year that a bursary was brought in. This was raised and some big wig with a fancy name replied telling me that there were winners and losers! I was obviously the loser!!! HOW RUDE!
    All these years later I have nearly paid off my student loan. Does this government want people with the skills and experience or are you just hell bent on driving us all out of the job. I will never take a permanent job with a local authority now and will be leaving the profession hopefully in less than the five years I have set myself.
    You do not need a degree initially to do well….the cost having paid people a salary as well as their course fees and some can not get jobs when someone like me who is employable due to the vast amount of experience gets shunned!
    No disrespect to Fast Track but there are now too many people in management who have barely worked in practice and it shows! People need to gain overall experience and empathy as well as skills.

    • sam January 26, 2016 at 8:43 am #

      beth, I have been willing to work voluntary but departments are not interested.
      Sam

  4. Jess February 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    I am in the same position, can’t get a job also. Been to so many interviews and the feed back I have used to improve my future chances. I then got a Level 1 Social Work job in a Parenting Assessment Unit (pay 9p/h, not complaining) cause I needed the experience. I attended my first interview in over 10 months. I had the confidence cause of the experience I gained but did not get the Job. The only feedback the manager gave, was that I was too general/not specific with my answers – I do not believe that as I felt the managers where looking for their own type of person to blend with their team…
    That’s life, I am sad/down but not giving up…will try another day.

  5. Jo February 18, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    When I started my MSc Social Work course in 2009 I had no doubt that I would secure a social work position. I successfully completed the course in 2011, by this time everything had changed when there was an economy crash. Councils cut their budgets including frontline social workers and I was told that I needed 2+ years social work experience to get any kind of social work position. As previously stated how can you get experience if you can’t get a job. At the moment I do agency support work for £9-£10 an hour. I’m disillusioned with social work, agencies are making a fortune. If local authorities took on more newly qualified social workers to take the pressure of frontline staff there would be no need for expensive agency workers and they would save money. I’m retraining to be a counsellor.