Why Study Social Work?
A desire to help is the number one reason why people study social work and take up a career in the field.
- According to PayScale, social work is among the top 10% of US college majors for making a difference. Most social work graduates surveyed felt their work makes the world a better place.
- On the flipside, the same US survey found social work to be among the lower paid professions.
Social work is personally rewarding. If you want to help people in a direct way, social work can bring tremendous satisfaction.
- Social workers help individuals and families find solutions, bring communities together, and advocate for fairer policies.
- With the right temperament and interpersonal skills, you can help people help themselves and feel satisfied yourself at the end of the day.
Getting a social work degree also allows you to potentially work in many different areas, often with flexible hours. Opportunities to do meaningful work arise wherever people face challenges.
- Social work graduates often try different types of work until they find the ideal niche for them.
- A growing sector is aged care, where the client population continues to expand (My Aged Care).
Make sure you figure out what you are passionate about and how you want to try to make a difference. At the end of the day, social work is a career that speaks to the basic desire to really help others. It isn’t easy work, but it can be so rewarding, impactful and meaningful to so many communities that need open-minded listeners to help solve problems.
∼ Kate Abramson (Support Services Manager, LCA)
Social Work Careers
Career opportunities in social work are rich and varied. The field suits people who are open-minded, and willing to try different jobs and interact with different groups.
Most professionals regularly do one or more of the following essential roles:
- Case management
- Counselling and therapy
- Community and program management
- Public policy development.
People in need
Anyone could potentially need the help of a social worker. It depends on your life stage and circumstances.
Some of the groups most in need of social services (including help to navigate welfare systems) are:
- families in conflict
- children and youth who are at risk or unsupervised
- people with disabilities and the aged
- individuals who have experienced trauma
- economically disadvantaged groups, such as the homeless
- refugees and migrants
- people suffering mental health or substance abuse problems.
Social work is a diverse sector with many different niches.
Some of the more common jobs are:
- Charity Officer or Volunteer Coordinator
- Community Development Officer
- Counsellor (e.g. Drugs, Rehabilitation)
- Family Support Worker
- Health Promotion Officer
- Mental Health Worker
- Special Care Worker
- Welfare Case Manager
- Youth Worker.
— Accreditation —
Professional social work degrees are accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).
Accredited courses (listed here) meet program requirements set out by AASW standards.
Once you have graduated from an accredited course, you are eligible to become a member of the AASW. Being eligible for membership is the benchmark for qualified practice in Australia.
— Field education —
Course accreditation requires that students successfully complete a minimum of 140 seven-hour working days (at least 980 hours) in at least 2 field education subjects.
In practical terms, you may be required to work in social welfare facilities for 17-18 weeks in both the 2nd-last and last years of a course (assuming you work 4 days a week).
Top 6 Work Areas
Where social workers are located and who they work with depend on community needs.
Here is a list of the top 6 sectors for social work.
- We've drawn up the list based on the University of Southern California's Career Guide.
- It includes aged care, which is an expanding sector in Australia.
Top Bachelor and Masters Degrees
A good social work course provides an enjoyable study experience while preparing you for professional roles.
We've used student satisfaction rates to identify the best social work degrees in Australia.
- The most reliable indicator of course quality are student satisfaction ratings.
- Course satisfaction is measured by the % of recent graduates who had a positive experience overall.
- For social work, graduate salaries do not measure course quality well. Job availability depends a great deal on where you live.
For further detail about program stats and rankings, see Uni Reviews.
Master of Social Work
University of South Australia
UniSA has a Professional Qualifying masters for uni graduates who want to become social workers.
- As per AASW requirements, the course includes 1000 hours of field education.
Issues covered include mental health, Aboriginal culture, cross-cultural practice, and child wellbeing and protection. ... READ MORE
Master of Social Work
Queensland University of Technology
Years: 2, Quota on places
QUT has a highly rated social work program which includes postgraduate study.
The masters course is for uni graduates wanting to become qualified social workers.
Study areas include casework, intervention, policy making, ethical and legal contexts, child wellbeing and mental health. ... READ MORE
Alternative Study Options
Online Study / Distance Education
Online / distance learning is available for social work. It may be useful if you can't (or don't want to) attend a campus regularly.
- Because social work is a people-orientated job, you can't qualify to be a social worker just through online study.
- But courses are available which allow you to minimise time away from home or work.
How it works
With distance education courses, on-campus learning is confined to occasional residential schools. For example, you may be required to attend campus for 1 week per semester.
For the field education part of an online degree, you may be able to organise placements near where you live.
Further information: Courses are listed here (Online Study Australia).
Community Welfare and Human Services
An alternative path to qualify for social work is to do a 3-year degree in community welfare or human services.
The Australian Community Workers Association (ACWA) provides course accreditation in Australia.
Accredited courses are listed here. The programs have different titles, including:
- Bachelor of Community Welfare
- Bachelor of Human Services
- Bachelor of Social Science (with relevant major).
ACWA accreditation and membership requires students to complete 400 hours of supervised work placements.
Graduates are eligible to do many of the jobs (but not all) which qualified social workers are able to do.