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Interested in becoming a social worker?


To train to be a social worker in Northern Ireland (NI) you need to undertake the Honours Degree in Social Work.

This page provides information to support individuals interested in becoming a social worker about the following:

The Honours Degree in Social Work
Values, Standards and Registration
How to make a successful application to the Degree in Social Work

The Honours Degree in Social Work

The Honours Degree in Social Work (the Degree) is the recognised professional qualification for all social workers, as well as for Probation Officers and Education Welfare Officers in Northern Ireland (NI), and provides a basis for a rewarding and fulfilling career supporting others.

The Degree is recognised across the UK allowing social workers to practise anywhere within the UK providing they have registered with the relevant social care council.

Social work is a profession based on continuous learning and development and the Degree in the cornerstone of the journey.

NB: The Degree in Social Work will enable you to work in many countries outside of the UK throughout your career.

Where is the Degree offered in Northern Ireland?

In NI the Degree is delivered at Queen’s University, Ulster University, the South West College and the Belfast Metropolitan College and is a full-time course. There are two full-time routes as follows:

3 Year Undergraduate Route (UGR)

2 Year Relevant Graduate Route (RGR)

In addition, the Open University undergraduate route offers an option for students who are sponsored by an employing organisation.

Click on the links below to learn more.

*The third year of the Undergraduate Route (UGR) provided by BMC and SWC is undertaken at Ulster University, Magee (UUM).
**Entry to the OU degree must be through your employing agency; you cannot apply direct to the OU

Values, Standards and Registration

Being a social worker or a social work student means that you will have the opportunity to work with a range of people, groups and communities with diverse backgrounds.

Some of these people may be facing extremely challenging circumstances and some of them may be among the most vulnerable in our society. It is fundamental that we have a shared value-base for the profession which enshrines how we value, respect and protect the people with whom we work.

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council is the regulator for the social work and social care workforce across Northern Ireland.

Our role as a regulator is to protect the public and maintain a register of all social workers, social work students and social care workers and ensuring that they are properly qualified and competent to practice is one way in which we do that. We also set Standards of Conduct and Practice for social workers, social care workers and social work students for their conduct, practice and training.

More Information and Links

The Social Care Council in partnership with social work providers and key stakeholders have developed a Career in Social Work digital guide to provide more information and tips to support you to make a successful application to the Degree in Social Work.

As well as providing information on how to apply – the Career in Social Work digital guide includes information about the role and purpose of social work, employment opportunities, what the Degree in Social Work involves, how you will be supported including financial support while you study and you will hear directly from social workers, social work students and service users and social work lecturers/staff.

NB: If you don’t get an offer of a place the first time you apply – please do not be disheartened as you will not be the first applicant that this has happened to. You can reapply but before you do – consider the following:

  • Asking for feedback.
  • Reviewing the Career in Social Worker digital resource again to check if there are other things you could do to enhance your knowledge or experience so you can apply again.  

Many social workers have benefitted hugely from some extra experience, either working or volunteering, before they attained a place on a Degree in Social Work course.

Changing Lives – the vital role of Social Workers in Children’s Services in Northern Ireland

‘Changing Lives – the Vital Role of Social Workers in Children’s Services in Northern Ireland’ was commissioned to highlight the value of social work and help promote it as a rewarding career choice.

It gives a behind-the-scenes look at the role social workers play in helping children, young people and their families when they are going through difficult times, and follows a day in the life of five social workers from across each of Northern Ireland’s five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts.

Watch the full film below.

Additional Information

Click on the links below for further information on Standards, Registration and documents relating to the Degree in Social Work.

SCC, Standards of Conduct and Practice for Social Work Students
– SCC, Registration with Social Care Council
– SCC, The Northern Ireland Framework Specification
– SCC, Guidance on Individual Practice Development Days