How to become a Social Worker

Social workers help people to deal with personal and social problems, either directly or by planning or carrying out programmes that benefit groups or communities. They are interested in challenging the structural barriers that contribute to inequality, discrimination, exploitation and oppression within communities.

Personal requirements of a Social Worker

  • Emotional maturity
  • Keen analytical abilities
  • Able to view other people’s problems objectively
  • Good organisational and communication skills
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team
  • Commitment to social justice

Education & Training for a Social Worker

To become a social worker you usually have to complete a degree in social work at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in social work. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Social Worker

Social workers may perform the following tasks:

  • provide counselling and support through a crisis that may be due to death, illness, relationship breakdown or other reasons
  • provide clients with information about services that can assist them
  • provide letters of referral or reports that will help clients to obtain other services such as crisis accommodation or social security benefits
  • guide small groups of people to share their experiences, support each other and learn social skills
  • assist community groups to plan and carry out programs to help themselves (assisting newly arrived immigrants to form an association, for example)
  • research community problems, needs and solutions through client contact and records of welfare and health agencies
  • analyse statistics and write reports
  • develop policy and evaluate programs
  • manage and train staff
  • attend professional meetings
  • lobby to change social welfare policies and procedures in the pursuit of social justice for all members of the community.

Employment Opportunities for a Social Worker

Social workers are employed in a variety of community and social welfare fields and may work in state, territory and federal government departments; hospitals; community health centres; local government authorities; or non-government organisations. Some social workers are self-employed, working as counsellors, therapists and consultants. With their broad academic and practical training, qualified social workers may also work in non-social work areas as project officers, policy makers, managers or administrators. Employment prospects are affected by the level of funding from federal, state and territory governments. Applicants can expect competition for available positions in metropolitan cities, while opportunities in rural areas will continue to grow.

Additional Information
Before undertaking professional placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. There is no legal registration for social workers in any Australian state or territory. However, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is the professional body that sets standards for social work in Australia, and many jobs require eligibility for membership of AASW. Graduates of AASW-accredited Bachelor of Social Work degrees are automatically eligible for membership of AASW.
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