Social Work Careers

Social workers assess the care needs of individuals, families and communities to enable them to live as independently and safely as possible. They often work in sensitive and complex situations, building relationships with people and putting care plans in place to help support and protect them. 

Read more in the "Could your work in Social Work Factsheet"

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Social work offers a wide range of job roles across a variety of settings in social care, education, hospitals and criminal justice. Social workers often work as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside other social care, health care, medical, education and housing professionals.

Social workers assess and manage the care and protection needs of people affected by disability, health issues, mental ill health, homelessness; age related illnesses, alcohol or drugs dependency. They need to be able to listen, support and help people face difficult and distressing problems while respecting dignity, choice and confidentiality. Job roles include:

  • Newly Qualified/Entrant Level Social Worker
  • Social Work Practitioner
  • Residential Social Worker
  • Specialist Social Worker/Senior Practitioner
  • Assistant Principal Social Worker/Principal Social Worker
  • Senior Social Worker/Social Work Manager
  • Deputy Service/Centre Manager or Service/Centre Manager
  • Programme Manager/Assistant Director/Director

The Degree in Social Work is the recognised professional qualification for social workers throughout the UK, as well as for Probation Officers and Education Welfare Officers in Northern Ireland and Criminal Justice Social Workers in Scotland. NISCC approves and regulates Degree in Social Work courses in Northern Ireland. The Degree is normally a three-year full time course, delivered as a combination of taught modules and practical assessment. There are alternative study options for graduates with a relevant degree, or those who need to study part-time. More information about courses, entry requirements and how to apply is available in the Degree in Social Work section.

Newly qualified social workers must complete an Assessed Year in Employment (AYE) to ensure they have made the transition from student to employee and have demonstrated sustained, continuous and effective competence in the workplace. More information is available in the Assessed Year in Employment section.

Social work jobs are provided by Health and Social Care Trusts, Education, Criminal Justice and by independent, private and voluntary social care organisations. Jobs within Health and Social Care Trusts Health are advertised at Vacancies with independent, private and voluntary social care organisations can be advertised in local newspapers, the internet, job centres and with recruitment agencies.

A newly qualified social worker who has successfully completed the Assessed Year in Employment (AYE) can expect to have a salary starting at over £26,565 (Band 6) per year. The average social work salary is around £36,368 per year as they gain experience and additional responsibilities.

Social workers must be registered with the Social Care Council to practise in NI and are required to meet the Social Care Council's standards for their conduct, practice and training. Social work students in NI must apply for registration with us when they enrol on their Social Work Degree at for the start of their course. Registration is completed through the Online Portal. More information about registration, fees and the Standards of Conduct and Practice is available in the Registration & Standards section.

Social workers must complete 90 hours of training and learning (PRTL) during each three-year registration period. This can be gained through formal/informal learning in/outside the workplace which could reasonably be expected to advance their professional development, or contribute to the development of the profession as a whole. Normally, a social worker would plan and evaluate their training and development with their manager as part of their PRTL and supervision sessions. More information about the PRTL Requirements for Social Workers is available in Post Registration Training Learning.

As social workers gain experience, knowledge and skills, they can progress to more challenging positions such as senior practitioner, principal, manager, assistant director or director. Staff progressing to more responsible roles will have to undertake qualifications appropriate to the job role. They can achieve this through in-service courses, formal study, and the NISCC Professional in Practice (PiP) Framework for Social Work Professional Development

PiP provides a system for social workers to build their training and learning into a Credit system which can be used to account for PRTL.

PiP Credit Accumulation allows social workers to earn professional credits for a broad range of learning and development which can be gained through taught or self-directed study. PiP Credits can also be used to build towards achieving PiP Professional Awards. More information about PiP and Credit Accumulation is available in the PiP section.

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