I want to work as ... A social worker

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with Bob Sapey, admissions tutor for Social Work in the Department of Applied Social Science at Lancaster University

What qualifications do you need?

Lancaster University offers three degrees, a BA degree, a Postgraduate Diploma and an MA in Social Work, all of which are approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

Our entry requirements for the undergraduate programme are three A-Levels at grade B and for our postgraduate schemes, a good second class honours degree.

All social work students must also have passed GCSE English and maths at grade C and above, or hold an equivalent qualification.

Any other requirements for example health and fitness or age?

We have no specific health requirements but we ask students to tell us about any health matters that might impinge upon their ability to practice social work.

We try to make adjustments and offer support to enable all students to complete the programmes.

Students must have criminal records checks and provide references.

A criminal record is not a barrier to being accepted but we are required to assure ourselves everyone is trustworthy.

How long does it take to qualify for the role?

For undergraduates it takes three years and for postgraduate it will take either 21 or 24 months depending on which route the student chooses.

The difference here is that MA students are required to write a dissertation.

What sort of starting salary and package can you expect?

In Lancashire social work salaries start between 19,500 and 23,500 but in London wages start around30,000.

Most social workers are employed by local authorities who offer steady career prospects and good pensions.

What sort of personal skills make someone best suited to a career?

We are looking for people who are reflexive, adaptable and capable of autonomous thought and independent learning.

Social work is not a job that you can be trained to do in the sense of being told how to do it but we offer a good education where students have the opportunity to read and learn about social problems and welfare systems.

We interview applicants and are looking for people who are already skilled communicators and who are capable of using the knowledge they will gain, sensitively and purposefully.

What sort of career prospects and structure is there?

Career progression is available either through moving into management roles or into senior practitioner posts.

What kind of job satisfaction can you expect from a career?

This varies a lot but if you are able to work as a member of a team within a large organisation, act professionally in terms of making decisions with service users and cope with the bad press social workers often receive, it can be very satisfying.

In 50 words sell your profession.

Social work has been described as helping people achieve ordinariness.

Many of problems social workers deal with make people's lives a misery and success will be measured by the extent to which they feel their lives are improved.

Doing that with few resources other than yourself is challenging and worthwhile.

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