Your social work career: everything you need to know

Do you want a social work career? A career that is all about helping people. Working with them to find ways for them to thrive. Connecting them with the help they need. Being there when people need you most. A career in social work is people-focused, always changing, challenging sometimes, yes, but ultimately very rewarding. So how do you start your career in social work?

Smiling female social worker with clipboard at the doorstep to a house

What do social workers do?

Social work encompasses a wide range of roles. That’s one of the reasons it is such an attractive career. So, which social work jobs might appeal to you?

Perhaps you want to be a healthcare social worker. You’ll support people of all ages who might be experiencing a health condition, been involved in an accident or sustained an injury. Or maybe you fancy becoming a child, school and family social worker. Belinda Cash, a senior lecturer in social work at Charles Sturt University, outlines some of the duties for this type of social worker.

“Social workers play an essential role in helping to provide children and families with the supports they need to ensure that everyone is safe and well. This can involve working with children who are at risk and their families. In some situations helping to provide out of home care options, such as foster care or kinship care for kids who can’t continue to stay at home.”

Explore more of the social work roles you could take on in your career.

Eco Social Work

A growing role – eco social work as a career

One of the social work roles that is gaining more and more prominence is eco social work. It’s a area of growth and career opportunities for you to explore. So, what is eco social work? Well, it’s concerned with how environmental issues affect people and communities. That means things like extreme weather events and climate change. Here’s how Dr Heather Boetto, associate lecturer in social work at Charles Sturt, describes some of the aspects of an eco social worker’s job.

“Social workers often work on the frontline with people who are affected by environmental issues. We have practitioners working with families who can’t pay rising electricity prices due to poverty. Others deal with communities recovering from bushfire and drought. We also support people who are homeless by trying to find suitable shelter during extreme weather events, such as a heatwave.”

You could also work to reduce inequality in the affects of climate change, and advocate for marganalised groups affected by environmental changes.

Discover more about this growing role.

The future of social work

In terms of career opportunities, the future looks bright for social workers. The government predicts very strong future demand for social workers in Australia, so you’ll have lots of opportunities to grow your career. But what about the future of the industry itself? So what does that mean for your career?

Besides the environmental impact addressed by eco social work, there are several issues that are at the forefront of how social work is – and will be – done by professionals. These include:

  • Disparities between rural and metropolitan communities
  • Access to and use of technology
  • Australia’s ageing population

Belinda Cash sees this third social driver as very significant for the social work industry.

“The demographic shift of an ageing population is bringing about significant changes for health and welfare services. It’s a changing and dynamic time for society, and therefore for social work too. Social workers are involved with individuals across all stages of life, so we understand that there can be significant impacts on ageing and later life, depending on a range of variables that impact individuals, families and social groups from even before birth.”

Take a look into the future of social work.

How to become a qualified Social Worker

How to become a qualified social worker

So, you’ve seen what’s possible with a career in social work: the opportunities and the kind of work you could be doing. Now, how do you start on this rewarding career? Well, with a social work course, like a Bachelor of Social Work1.

At Charles Sturt University, we’ve got a rich history in social work education, and the undergraduate degree is the perfect starting point for your future career. It’s designed to set you up for success from the day you graduate. For example:

  • Our social work degree is really hands-on. You’ll have the chance to develop your practical skills with 1,000 hours of supervised field education during your degree.
  • You’ll complete four intensive schools on our Wagga Wagga campus. Intensive schools are a great way to practise what you’re learning in a hands-on environment, and to meet your lecturers and classmates.
  • If you’ve successfully completed a relevant TAFE (or similar) diploma and have been working in the field, you can apply for 500 hours’ credit towards your supervised field education.

Read more about how to become a qualified social worker.

Making social work study work for you

Once you’re ready to make your move and take on a social work course, what does it actually look like in terms of study? Is studying social work hard? Well, Charles Sturt University student Sarah McPhail can fill you in. She chose to study her social work course online, so she could fit it around her other commitments.

“I’m a married mum of four (who are all under 10 years of age) and work part-time as a disability support worker. So if I wasn’t able to study online, I simply wouldn’t be able to complete my degree. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to study from home, to listen to online lectures and also to interact at my own pace. Charles Sturt’s online platform and the amount of support that is available is second to none. The academics are incredible, supportive and encouraging.”

Read more about why Sarah chose to study social work, and how she makes her study work for her.

Wondering what careers social work can lead to? Check out how social work can lead to a career in psychology.

Next moves

Feeling inspired? Ready to start your career in social work? Here are some next-step options.

Explore our courses

Learn more about our Bachelor of Social Work, and other options to start your career.

Talk it through

Book a one-to-one consult to chat through your career change options.

1Cricos: 25195D