The Diploma in Social Work (DipSW)

The Diploma in Social Work no longer exists. People training to be a social worker need to take the Social Work degree course

The Diploma in Social Work (DipSW)
The Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) is currently the professional qualification for all social workers and education welfare officers in England. You can study for a DipSW course at a wide range of levels at 80 universities and colleges of higher education throughout England. The course takes a minimum of two years. DipSW courses are available on full-time, part-time, open and distance learning routes and involve a combination of academic learning and practical learning in social care settings.

How to enter a DipSW course
The qualifications needed for admission to a DipSW course vary from one college to another. The main routes available are:

Postgraduate: Universities offering this route will only accept students who hold a university degree or a qualification considered to be equivalent. These are two year courses and funding is available from the General Social Care Council

Undergraduate: Three year degree course aimed at school leavers and students without an existing undergraduate degree. Students under 21 years of age applying via this route will need to meet the admission requirements below. The qualifications expected from mature students applying via this route will vary but all applicants will need to provide evidence of their ability to study at higher education level.

Non-graduate: Courses will accept mature students via this route who do not have any formal academic qualification but who are able to demonstrate their ability to study at higher education level. Please note that from 2004, the two-year non-graduate DipSW with the Diploma in Higher Education (HE) will no longer run.

Employment-based: Course providers offer training for people who continue in employment on a part-time basis during their training. The employer is usually a partner of the course provider that the student attends. The student’s application must be supported by the employer and have met the admission requirements identified below.

What are the admission requirements?
Mature students who are over 21 do not always need formal academic qualifications, but the selection panels for the DipSW courses will expect you to show your ability to study at higher education level, probably by evidence of recent study or a written test. It is suggested that you do a part-time or evening course such as an ‘A’ Level, advanced GNVQ/GSVQ or NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in care, the Open University Foundation module or an Access to Social Work course to improve your skills and confidence before you apply. Your local further education college will advise you about possibilities.

If you have a degree or hold a qualification which is considered to be equivalent to a degree, you will be eligible to apply for a postgraduate course. All postgraduate 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.

If you are under 21 on the date a DipSW course starts, you must hold either:

  • 2 A Levels and 3 GCSEs; or
  • 5 passes for the Scottish Certificate in Education including 3 at Higher Level; or
  • any other educational, professional or vocational qualifications (e.g. NVQ/SVQ Level 3, GNVQ/GSVQ Level 3) considered by the GSCC to be equivalent.

What qualities and experience do I need?
All DipSW courses require applicants to have some relevant social work experience. This work can be either paid or voluntary. Selection panels will consider applicant’s suitability for and commitment to social work. The length of work varies from one course to another. Pre-training experience can be gained with local social services and social work departments as paid unqualified assistants or unpaid volunteers, with voluntary organisations such as The Volunteer Centre UK Ltd and Community Service Volunteers (CSV), and with private agencies such as private nursing homes and residential homes.

In order to be a social worker, you will need to be open-minded and prepared to examine and even change your attitudes and possible prejudices. You may need to support service users to deal with racism and other forms of discrimination. Social workers require personal qualities such as patience, determination and the ability to help people face painful and distressing problems. Social work can be both physically and emotionally stressful.

Why choose the DipSW?
Social workers must hold the DipSW in order to work as a qualified social worker in the UK.

Social workers with a DipSW qualification are in demand.

A recent survey showed that up to 90 per cent of newly qualified social worker found employment within the first six months of qualifying.

The diversity of jobs in social work can also allow for rapid career progression.

Salary range for qualified social workers is between £16,000 to £23,000 per annum, rising to £28,000+ for managers.

Financial assistance
Undergraduate and non-graduate DipSW students may be eligible for a contribution towards all or part of their annual fees and maintenance. Candidates should in the first instance contact the Department for Education and Skills on 0800 731 9133 or contact their local education authority (LEA) for precise arrangements that will apply.

Candidates enrolling on postgraduate DipSW training may be eligible for a grant paid by the Bursaries Section of the General Social Care Council.

What next?
If you are interested in applying for the DipSW and are a non-graduate or post-graduate, please contact the Social Work Admission System (SWAS) on 01242 223707 for a handbook and application form or visit

If you are interested in applying for the DipSW and are an undergraduate, please contact UCAS on 01242 222444 or visit

To obtain detailed information about social work and social care training , you should contact the Department of Health (DH) careers hotline on 0845 604 6404 or visit their website at

The awarding bodies for NVQs in social care are: Edexcel on telephone number 08702 409800 and City and Guilds (Affinity) telephone 020 7294 8007. Many assessment centers dealing with social care NVQs are members of ACTAN telephone/fax 01304 211740 or

For more information about Modern Apprenticeships in Social Care visit

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