From Study to Social Work

Social Workers are very much in demand across the UK. Vacancies stand at around 11%, and these social work jobs need filling, so if you’re looking for a career in which you’re valued and necessary, as well as making meaningful contribution to society, this is a great choice. There are downsides, of course: you’ll be facing some stressful circumstances; and as with much of the public sector resources are at a premium. If you can balance that with valuable work and a team who all equally committed, social work could be a good job for you.

Today we’re taking a look at the transition from studying social work into working in the field. It’s a challenging time, as would-be social workers are caught in a something of a catch-22. Social work employers prize practical experience beyond all else, but without a job it’s difficult to attain that experience.

This means that prospective social workers have to make sure they’re proactive in seeking out opportunities to volunteer, both during their studies, during holidays or for the particularly motivated and organised, even before your studies begin. This doesn’t just give you experience of social work, it also gives you experience of researching organisations and approaching them to offer your services, which will serve you well throughout your career.

One of the main places people to go to get social work experience is from charities: obviously there are lots of charitable organisations that can offer relevant experience whether your social work focus is on children, the elderly, people dealing with drug addiction or mental health problems, or other vulnerable adults. Working with a charity gives them vital additional manpower at no extra cost, even as it gets you the experience you need to launch your own career so it’s an arrangement that benefits you both.

Try to research and look beyond the biggest, most visible charities though. If you’re interested in mental health social work, Mind might be your first stop, for example, but it’s also going to be the first stop for a lot of other people as well, whether they’re also interested in social work or simply wishing to volunteer for a good cause. Finding smaller, more local and specific charities will be rewarding: you’ll get more specific experience you can use to sell yourself to employers, those charities are also more likely to need and appreciate help from a skilled and interested volunteer!