Social worker

Social work and caring services

Career outlook for social worker

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would give advice and support to vulnerable adults and children to help them improve their lives.

You could support a wide range of clients, such as:

  • Children and parents
  • Older people
  • People with physical or learning disabilities
  • People with mental health problems
  • Young people in care
  • Homeless people
  • People moving towards independent living
  • People with drug or alcohol problems
  • Foster carers and adoptive parents
  • People in the criminal justice system

You would specialise in working either with children and families, or with adults.

You would:

  • Assess each client
  • Protect adults and/or children from harm
  • Build strong relationships with clients
  • Respond to requests for help
  • Agree what support someone needs (and make decisions for them if needed, for example in child protection cases)
  • Act as a key worker, organising other staff involved in giving support
  • Offer information, counselling and advocacy
  • Organise and manage support plans
  • Take part in team meetings and case conferences
  • Manage team members and volunteers
  • Keep records and write reports
  • Give evidence at court hearings, when required

You would work closely with other agencies and professionals, such as health workers, youth workers, teachers, the police and the prison service.

Working conditions


In many jobs you would mainly work standard office hours with some nights on call, on a rota basis. If you worked in a residential setting you would be more likely to work shifts as part of a team providing a 24-hour service. Part-time hours and job sharing are often available.


Your time would be split between an office and other locations such as service users' homes, day and residential centres, hospitals and health centres.


You would travel to visit the people you support.

UK employment status





Self employed


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Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Resilience
  • Ethical
  • Coaching
  • Recalling
  • Understanding
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Cooperating
  • Supporting
  • Social conscience

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


You would need an honours degree or postgraduate qualification in social work (SCQF level 10/11) approved by the Scottish Social Services Council.

To enter a social work degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers at BCCC (or equivalent qualifications) or relevant HNC/D.

If your degree is in another subject, you need to study a two-year full time postgraduate course in social work. If you are studying a postgraduate course you may be eligible for a bursary from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Many courses will require paid or voluntary experience in a related field such as care work, counselling, community work and teaching.

There may be the option of studying part time or doing work-based qualifications if you are in currently working in a role. 

Useful subjects

  • English (required by most courses and employers)
  • Maths (required by most courses and employers)
  • Social studies such as sociology
  • ICT subjects
  • Administrative subjects
  • Business subjects

You will also need

  • A PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) certificate from Disclosure Scotland
  • Relevant work experience

Social workers, social work students and many groups of social service workers are required by law to register with the Scottish Social Service Council (SSSC) if they are not registered with another regulatory body.

    Helpful to have

    Qualifications and experience that show caring for people and the community such as Skills for Work Health and Social Care (SCQF level 6) or Award in Volunteering Skills (SCQF level 3-5).

    Relevant work-based qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Social Services and Healthcare (SVQ level 2/3/4).