Can you get a social work job without a degree? (With steps)
Updated 18 September 2023
Social work is an important field, providing some of the most vulnerable people with potential solutions that improve their quality of life. Therefore, social work jobs require a high level of skill and training to deliver consistently high quality work each day. Many people wonder whether this means that a social work job requires a degree. In this article, we answer 'Can you get a social work job without a degree?', describe different ways to attain social work qualifications and list key skills that social workers consistently use in the role.
Can you get a social work job without a degree?
If you've considered whether you can get a social work job without a degree, you may be happy to learn that social work jobs are accessible without having one. While following a work-based pathway to social work is possible, it still involves a significant level of studying. Social work requires a high level of skill, and academia is an essential tool in building the necessary skill set.
Apprenticeship is an ideal choice for you if you seek a social work job without holding a degree in a related field. This means that you can study while working in the role, allowing you to learn on the job and complete qualifications such as Adult Care Worker (level 2) and Lead Practitioner in Adult Care (level 4). The level of study depends on your level of experience and the role you seek in the long term. While each of these qualifications requires studying, none of them requires a bachelor's degree.
How to get a social work job without a degree
There are several key steps in successfully getting a social work job without having a degree. Each of these is important and completing them in the order below leads to a smoother hiring process in the long term. Here are the steps involved in getting a social work job without a degree:
1. Complete your education
Although you're seeking a social work job without a degree, education is still a necessary part of the process. Get a full range of GCSEs (at the minimum) to demonstrate that you have the basic skills required for the role. Certifying your ability in various disciplines such as English, maths, science or specialised topics such as psychology is beneficial for any application for social work roles.
Getting relevant A-levels is also helpful if seeking a higher position in the social care sector without a degree. For example, studying towards A-levels in psychology, sociology or other related subjects gives you an indication of the skills and techniques the role requires, advancing your knowledge in the field. While working in the sector without a degree is possible, building your education outside of a degree is a practical and effective choice for any applicant.
2. Find apprenticeships
Finding an apprenticeship is the next crucial step in getting a social work job without a degree. Apprenticeships are a form of employment in which you learn while completing the tasks and responsibilities of the role, gaining valuable experience. This ultimately leads to a comprehensive understanding of what it's like to work in a social work role. Work experience opportunities are also available, but these are more applicable to those already holding or working towards degrees because of the nature of the position. At this stage in the process, most apprenticeship roles are similar.
Many are entry-level positions in the field of social care, in which participants work in basic social work roles. This builds up an understanding of the sector and develops all the necessary skills for employment after finishing the apprenticeship. Applicants benefit from applying for as many apprenticeships as possible, maximising the possibility of a successful application for an apprenticeship in the social work sector.
3. Earn your certifications
In a social work apprenticeship, apprentices work towards different qualifications and certifications. These are a record of your ability to work competently in a social work setting, provide quality services to residents and patients and understand the theory behind social care. Some of the key certifications that apprentices may work towards include:
Adult care worker (level 2)
Lead adult care worker (level 3)
Lead practitioner in adult care (level 4)
Leader in adult care (level 5)
Apprenticeships typically focus on level 2 and level 3 certifications, with learning and assessment for level 4 and level 5 qualifications applying when a candidate already holds a role in the social care sector. This is due to the advanced qualifications that require a significant level of prior experience in the field. For example, a level 5 diploma applies to those with a leading role in care provision at their workplace, rather than new starters. Earning more qualifications as you progress is crucial to advancing your career once you have a job.
4. Apply for jobs
Once you have a certain level of experience and some certifications in the social work field, begin applying for vacancies throughout the industry. Although vacancies for social care workers and other roles of the same standard apply, specialising depending on your personal experience offers benefits through higher pay or a smaller field of candidates. Applying for jobs at the right level is essential because it ensures a higher possibility of success across your portfolio of applications to a range of companies.
Depending on the company where you were an apprentice, some organisations have a pathway through which their apprentices become full-time employees in the long term. If you hold an apprenticeship, talk to the management team at that specific workplace. Having a discussion can potentially save you a significant amount of time and effort in the job application process by an existing company keeping you hired.
5. Focus on ongoing development
Once you have a role in the social care sector without a degree, keep seeking opportunities for professional development. For example, take on training courses that the workplace offers, work with advanced roles and responsibilities and take up any opportunities to add to your existing CV. This means you have a much higher potential for promotion in the long term and present yourself as an excellent asset for the organisation in the short term.
Make yourself essential for the organisation and you can see the benefits over an extended period of time. In addition to focusing on opportunities in your current role, this extends to finding opportunities in more advanced roles. For example, getting a level 4 certification and applying for a role as a Lead Social Worker is an excellent opportunity for career development. This shows reliability in the workplace and leads to a more fulfilling career helping people through their social care requirements.
What skills do social workers use?
The skill sets of social workers are wide and varied because of the varying responsibilities social workers hold. Their skills enable support for a range of responsibilities and the completion of many diverse tasks. Below are some of the key skills social workers use on a day-to-day basis:
Communicating with people around you is one of the most crucial skills in social work. Effective communication entails talking to fellow staff members about establishing solutions for patients and clients, discussing a client's treatments and mood and consulting with management staff about the tasks for the day. This is an essential part of the process, as fully understanding your tasks and responsibilities ensures a much higher quality of service.
Organisation is one of the most important features of a care worker's role. Organising and timing all the respective medications and treatments ensure that patients receive the correct doses and that you have a comprehensive understanding of what's happening with each patient at all times. An organised care worker completes their work concisely and quickly, so everyone receives the quality of care they deserve.
Depending on the nature of the care working environment you work in, conflict is a continuous presence. For example, conflicts can arise in care working environments if a patient has a disagreement with another patient in the facility or doesn't like a new treatment. Social workers are responsible for preventing these conflicts and de-escalating the situation, maintaining peace throughout the workplace.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.
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