What does a social worker do?

The role of social workers can be incredibly varied, day to day tasks will depend a lot on the setting in which they work. Social workers generally provide support to clients, which can include delivering counselling, family therapy, case management, and assisting people to engage with other social services. Social workers often contribute to policy development and research projects, as well as delivering training and education programs. They contribute to consultation processes and public debates on important social issues and also have a central role as an advocate with other professions and agencies to get the needs of their clients considered.

Tasks:

  • Counsel and support clients
  • Advocate for client needs with other agencies and individuals
  • Contribute to policy development and research
  • Deliver training and education

What skills do I need to be a social worker?

Social workers need to be able to work well with people from diverse backgrounds. They must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, as well as keeping excellent records of their work. Social workers also benefit from having good organisational skills as they often have to manage competing priorities across multiple work areas. It is also important that social workers have a thorough and up-to-date understanding of how to deliver effective social services.

Skills/attributes
  • Strong people skills
  • Effective written and verbal communication abilities
  • Organised and good at prioritising
  • Proactive in professional development

Specialisations

There are numerous specialisations available to social workers as their careers progress. 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.

Subject Matter Expert

Subject matter experts are those who have completed further additional study in a specific field of interest. 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 by providing access to support systems and transitional services.

Project Manager

Many social workers are able to use their understanding of social issues to work within government agencies or charities as project managers. In these roles, social workers are often leading the development and delivery of social service programmes. Some are also in project management roles with research and evaluation project teams, assessing how well various social services programs are performing.

Management

Experienced social workers can move into management roles, which can include management of staff and budgets, contributing to strategic planning and setting work priorities, as well as completing reporting on 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.

Study pathways for social workers

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.

Getting Started

Find out what it takes to work in social services with these entry level courses.

Skill Building

Add to your existing skills with a targeted social work qualification.

Professional Development

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.

Getting a job after graduation

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 and Salaries

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.