How to become a social worker in Australia: careers in social services

How to become a social worker in Australia: careers in social services
Social workers play a variety of roles in the community working with people to improve their wellbeing. This can include individuals, families or groups. They can be employed in a variety of fields, such as child welfare, education, health, the justice sector or disability services. These roles are typically found with government agencies, in private practice or in the not-for-profit sector. In Australia, to work as a social worker, you will need a Bachelor of Social Work or a Masters of Social Work degree.
 
A social worker role can be quite varied, and daily tasks will be dependent on the setting where you work. In general, social workers provide support to clients, which might include counselling, family therapy, assisting people to engage with other social services and case management. Social workers are sometimes involved in developing policies and contributing to research projects and delivering education and training programs. They can be involved in public debates on social issues and act as an advocate with other organisations to have their clients’ needs met.
Tasks:
  • Counselling and supporting clients
  • Advocacy for client needs with other organisations
  • Contribution to policy development and research
  • Delivery of education and training programs
Good interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with people from diverse backgrounds is essential to be a social worker. Effective communication skills, both in writing and verbally, and good record-keeping abilities are also vital. Social workers also require excellent organisational skills and the ability to manage competing priorities. They also require an in-depth and up-to-date understanding of effective social services delivery methods.
Skills/attributes
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to prioritise and be organised
  • Proactive in professional development

Social workers can specialise in a variety of areas as they progress their careers. This might include becoming a subject matter expert with a professional focus on one particular group, for example working with juvenile offenders or advocating for people with disabilities. Social workers might also take on management roles.

Social workers who become subject matter experts complete further additional study in a particular field of interest. For example, social workers in the prison system have specialist knowledge on offending behaviour, recidivism and rehabilitation services.
Working within government agencies or not-for-profit organisations, many social workers are able to use their knowledge and understanding of social issues to manage special projects. Social workers in these roles often lead the development and delivery of social service programs. They may also be involved in project management with research and evaluation project teams to assess how well social service programs are performing.
With experience, social workers might move into management roles within various organisations. This can include staff management, being responsible for budgets, responsibility for reporting on team performance, strategic planning and setting work priorities. They may also be involved in recruiting, training and maintaining staff registrations.
To work as a social worker in Australia, you will need either a Bachelor of Social Work or a relevant Bachelors degree in another subject with a Master of Social Work.
Getting Started

Start your career

Find out how to become a social worker in Australia with these entry level courses.
Strengthen your skills

Strengthen your skills

Grow your existing skills with a targeted qualification in social work.
Build your resume

Build your resume

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

Industry requirements

Registration with the Australian Association of Social Workers is a mandatory requirement by many employers.
Finding Work

Finding Work

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your social services career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
Employment Prospects

Employment Prospects

There has been significant growth in demand for social workers in recent years, with this trend projected to continue. This sector’s starting salaries aren’t considered high, but there is a great deal of flexibility in social work roles which many people find beneficial.

Resources for social workers