How to become a Social Worker: Australian careers in Social Services

Providing a vital support system for our community, a career in social work is varied and multi-faceted, with supporting people, whether they are individuals, families or groups, as its cornerstone. Social workers aim to improve the general wellbeing of their clients and can be employed in a wide range of fields including the justice sector, disability services, child welfare, education and health. They can work a variety of sectors, including in the community, with government agencies, in private practice or in the not-for-profit sector. To become a social worker in Australia you must hold either a Bachelor of Social Work or a Masters of Social Work.

  • Task Career in focus: What a social worker does

    Depending where you chose to work, the role of a social worker can be incredibly varied, and day-to-day tasks may change or remain much the same each day. Social workers generally provide support, help and advice to clients, which can include delivering counselling, family therapy, case management, and assisting people to engage with other social services. Because of this unique knowledge and experience, the opinions and insights are often sought from social workers to help develop policies, programs, education and other government initiatives. They contribute to consultation processes and public debates on important social issues and also have a central role as an advocate for the mental and physical health of the Australian community to ensure that their particular group of clients are always considered or understood.

    Tasks:

    • Counsel and support clients
    • Advocate for client needs with other agencies and individuals
    • Contribute to policy development and research
    • Deliver training and education
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as a social worker

    As a social worker, you should have highly developed communication skills that allow you to work with people from various backgrounds, and be able to effectively communicate with often distressed, aggressive or unresponsive people. As well as communicating verbally, social workers are often asked to provide high-level reports on their work to provide insight and updates for health care professionals or other agencies. Social workers also benefit from having good organisational skills as they often have to manage competing priorities across multiple work areas and are always seeking out new information to ensure their knowledge remains up-to-date so as to deliver the best possible service for their clients.

    Skills/attributes
    • Strong people skills
    • Effective written and verbal communication abilities
    • Organised and good at prioritising
    • Proactive in professional development
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within social services

    Social work is a very broad industry and there are numerous specialisations available to progress in this career. One option is to become a subject matter expert, dedicating your professional focus to one group such as working solely with juvenile offenders or addressing the needs of disabled clients. It is also possible for social workers to take on management roles, overseeing projects or programs or mentoring entry-level staff. 

    Subject Matter Expert

    Subject matter experts requires you to complete further study in a specific field that is passionate to you and you wish to learn more about. This could include, for example, social workers working in the prison system who have special knowledge of offending behaviour, recidivism and rehabilitation services as well as coordinating successful re-entry into society through a specific program or service

    Project Manager

    Many social workers are able to use their understanding of social issues to work within government agencies or charities as project managers. Project managers play a more high-level, strategic role in which you would lead the development and delivery of social service programmes, drawing on your past experience and education. Some are also in project management roles with research and evaluation project teams, assessing how well various social services programs are performing in certain areas. 

    Management

    If you enjoy mentoring others, as a more experienced social worker, there are opportunities for you to move into a management role, which can include management of staff and budgets, contributing to strategic planning and setting work priorities, as well as being responsible for the performance of the team. Social work managers can also find themselves involved in recruitment, training and ensuring relevant registrations of staff are in place. 

  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for becoming a social worker

    Social workers in Australia must either hold a Bachelor in Social Work, or, if they hold a relevant Bachelors degree in other subject, a Masters of Social Work.

    Starting Out

    Entry-level courses to kick-start your career in social work.

    Building Skills

    Build your career and your knowledge, with further social work qualifications.

    Developing Your Resume

    Find out how to take your social work career to the next level.

    Industry Recognition

    Many employers require a social worker to be registered with the Australian Association of Social Workers.

    Entering the Workforce

    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your social work career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for social work jobs.

    Job Prospects in social services: Working life as a social worker

    As Australians become more aware of social issues, the demand for social workers has grown significantly in recent years and this trend is projected to continue. Starting salaries are not considered high in this sector although there is often a great deal of flexibility in social work positions, which many workers find beneficial.

Social Work Resources:

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