You’ve completed the degree and the practice placements and graduated with flying colours – but where to next?
Community Care offers a guide to potential career paths once you’re a fully qualified social worker. This is not an exhaustive list of every type of job in social work but a pointer to the wide variety of fields, client groups and managerial levels where you may be able to put your qualifications and, over time, experience to good use. Salaries can also vary according to location and supply and demand in any particular field, so those listed below are not definitive and should only be used as a guide.
Child protection work probably has the highest profile and greatest pressures in the sector, although there are other routes available, in services such as youth justice and learning disabilities, for those wishing to work with children and families.
Child protection and looked-after children:
Possible career paths:
Newly qualified social worker, referral and assessment » senior social worker » team leader » head of safeguarding service
NQSW » senior social worker, adoption team » adoption team manager » adoption service manager, independent sector
NQSW » social worker, looked-after children » family court adviser, Cafcass » independent children’s guardian
Newly qualified social worker, referral and assessment team, local authority:
Salary – £20,000-£26,000 (plus retention payments of around £3,000 in many cases)
Skills and Experience – recognised social work qualification.
Key Responsibilities – Assessing the needs of children and families, analysing information and developing care plans.
Senior supervising social worker, independent fostering service:
Salary – up to £35,000
Skills and Experience – previous work with foster carers and in a multi-agency environment.
Responsibilities – recruiting, assessing, training and supporting foster carers; working with fostering and birth families.
Independent reviewing officer, local authority:
Salary – £30,000 to £40,000
Skills and Experience – experience of chairing meetings and case conferences, and of child safeguarding issues.
Key Responsibilities – managing a caseload of reviews of services for looked-after children, and chairing multi-agency meetings.
Family court adviser, Cafcass:
Salary – £36,000 to £40,000
Skills and Experience – three years’ post-qualifying experience in social work with children and families at risk; assessing different levels of needs and risk including child protection; multi-agency working.
Key Responsibilities – assessments of the needs of the children involved in family court cases; advice and reports to the courts that promote and safeguard the well-being and interests of the child; support and advice services to children and their families.
Asylum-seeker and refugee services:
Qualified social worker, local authority asylum team:
Salary – £22 to £25 per hour, through agency
Skills and Experience – previous work with asylum-seeking children, and knowledge of asylum legislation.
Key Responsibilities – helping unaccompanied asylum-seeking children access education and health services, and accommodation; liaising with other children’s services; advocacy work.
Social worker, youth justice, employed by local authority:
Salary – £26,000 to £32,000
Skills and Experience – experience of working with children and young people, and a recognised social work qualification.
Key Responsibilities – managing cases of young people in contact with the youth justice system; liaising with other children’s services such as leaving care and looked-after children teams.
Strategy manager for safeguarding children, local authority:
Salary – circa £50,000
Skills and Experience – prior management experience in children’s services.
Key Responsibilities – developing strategy and quality assurance of children’s services.
Head of service for looked-after children and leaving care, local authority:
Salary – up to £60,000
Skills and Experience – as well as frontline experience, employers ideally seek previous management or supervisory experience and qualifications for roles such as this.
Key Responsibilities – managing performance of a team of social workers, developing strategy.
Possible career path: NQSW » community mental health social worker » Approved Mental Health Practitioner training » AMHP role
Forensic social worker, local authority:
Salary – £28,000 to £35,000
Skills and Experience – previous post-qualifying experience in mental health services and knowledge of relevant legislation; Approved Mental Health Practitioner status.
Key Responsibilities – managing risk, cases, and safeguarding in a multi-agency setting.
Senior mental health practitioner, local authority:
Salary – £36,000 to £39,000
Skills and Experience – relevant social work qualification, experience working in a mental health social services department preferred.
Key Responsibilities – uundertaking mental capacity assessments, assessing risk, offering counselling support for clients and their families.
Mental health service manager, supported living, private sector:
Salary – circa £40,000
Skills and Experience – must have a RMN (registered mental health nurse) qualification and previous experience in the supported living sector.
Key Responsibilities – managing supported living sites, developing strategy.
Possible career path: NQSW » transition social worker » team leader » head of learning disability partnership
Transition social worker, local authority:
Salary – £21,000 to £32,000
Skills and Experience – knowledge of key learning disability and adult safeguarding policies and legislation, including Valuing People Now, No Secrets, the personalisation agenda, and the Mental Capacity Act; should hold a recognised social work qualification.
Key Responsibilities – work with young people aged 14 to 25; carry out NHS and Community Care Act assessments of need for young people in transition, which will include helping to establish personal budgets for young people when they become 18.
Team leader, learning disability partnership, local authority:
Salary – £40,000 to £45,000
Skills and Experience – previous experience of multi-agency working and of services for people with learning disabilities.
Key Responsibilities – supervision and management, joint working with primary care trust on Putting People First and Valuing People Now objectives, developing joint commissioning strategy.
Substance misuse social worker:
Salary – £29,000 to £32,000
Skills and Experience – previous experience of working with people who misuse drugs and alcohol.
Key Responsibilities – undertaking community care assessments, arranging residential rehabilitation placements.
HOSPITAL SOCIAL WORK:
Social worker, hospital social work team, employed by local authority:
Salary – £27,000 -£33,000
Skills and Experience – qualified social worker, some experience of multi-disciplinary working, and an understanding of a health care environment.
Key Responsibilities – providing a specialist social work service for people requiring palliative care because of cancer; developing links with voluntary and service user groups.
Possible career path: NQSW » social worker » senior social worker » assistant team manager » joint commissioning manager » head of older people’s services
Senior social worker, local authority:
Salary – £34,000 – £37,000
Skills and Experience – qualified and registered social worker, preferably with post-qualifying experience working with vulnerable adults
Key Responsibilities – assessing needs of older people in contact with older people’s services; undertaking safeguarding vulnerable adults investigations.
Assistant team manager, local authority:
Salary – £31,000 to £36,000
Skills and Experience – at least three years’ post-qualifying experience as a social worker; experience of working with older people and knowledge of safeguarding, mental capacity and deprivation of liberty legislation.
Key Responsibilities – supervision of frontline staff, implementing personalisation agenda.
Joint commissioning manager, local authority:
Salary – £40,000 to £42,000
Skills and Experience – previous experience of commissioning or procuring services and willingness to adapt to delivery of self-directed support and personalisation.
Key Responsibilities – working with the NHS to jointly commission services for older people and those with physical disabilities.
Possible career path: Social worker » PhD » lecturer » head of department
Salary – £38,000 to £45,000
Skills and Experience – qualified and registered social worker; experience of working with service users and carers; competence in supervising and assessing students.
Key Responsibilities – teaching pre-registration and related programmes, contributing to research programme of faculty.
Programme lead, social work:
Salary – £45,000 to £50,000
Skills and Experience – experience of leadership in education or social work; GSCC registration; a relevant Masters degree and a PhD or willingness to take one.
Key Responsibilities – continuous development and review of social work degree programmes, management of academic staff.
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The Student Zone social work careers guide is supported by Unison