Social Work Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Social Work?

Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being.

Social work promotes social change, development, cohesion and the empowerment of people and communities. Social work practice involves the understanding of human development, behaviour and the social, economic and cultural institutions and interactions.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Social Work in the following subject areas:

  • Foundations for Social Work Practice – Develop the foundation knowledge and skills of social work, with particular emphasis on key roles.
  • Care, Welfare and Community for Social Workers – This course emphasises rights, differences, partnerships and inequalities in delivering sensitive support for vulnerable adults.
  • Social Work with Children and Families – This course provides knowledge and theory needed for effective social work practice with children and families.
  • Critical Social Work Practice – This course for Social Work students in Wales supports you in becoming a confident, critical, analytical practitioner, and to apply critical reflection to your practice.
  • Applied Social Work Practice – This course helps you to understand the application of social work practice.
  • Social Care, Social Work and the Law – Examine legal frameworks that shape social care decision making, perspectives of service users and professionals, and how social work can use the law positively.

Studying Social Work in college

There are many courses in Social Work that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in the field and is regarded favourably by employers. Gain as much work experience as possible, either through paid positions in community care settings or by undertaking relevant voluntary work.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a Social Work course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of laws and guidelines for the welfare of individuals and families.

Social workers support individuals and their families through difficult times and ensure that vulnerable people, including children and adults, are safeguarded from harm. Their role is to help improve outcomes in people’s lives. They maintain professional relationships and act as guides and advocates. They sometimes need to use their professional judgment to make tough decisions that might not always be well received by those they are trying to help.

You can find social workers in hospitals, police departments, mental health clinics, military facilities, and even corporations. Career development may involve a change of role within a specialism, e.g. from child protection to fostering and adoption. It is also possible to transfer from one specialism to another, e.g. from working with children to working with the elderly. Another route is to become a practice educator, which allows you to become involved in the supervision and management of social work students and less experienced staff.

There is no typical day for a social worker. Social work professionals spend most of their time out in the community rather than in an office. Their schedule often consists of attending court hearings, meeting with clients, supervising visits, completing training and advocating for their clients’ needs.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. Working hours are normally around 37 hours per week. If you work as a residential care social worker, regular unsocial hours are normal practice. Occasional evening and weekend work may be necessary if working in child protection or fostering and adoption teams.

Related jobs include:

  • Social worker
  • Education mental health practitioner
  • Family support worker
  • High intensity therapist
  • Adult guidance worker
  • Advice worker
  • Arbitrator
  • Careers adviser
  • Chaplain
  • Community development worker
  • Counsellor
  • Detective
  • Education consultant
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion officer
  • Life coach
  • Mediator
  • Play therapist
  • Special educational needs coordinator
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Youth worker

Further study

After completing a course in Social Work, you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as legal studies, politics, government or public administration, social care and social sciences.


What exactly does a social worker do?

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and support families in need of assistance.

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioural, and emotional issues.

Why are social workers important? 

The work of a social worker goes beyond just helping people in need. From promoting core values of compassion and service to others to framing research within the field to informing policy, social workers actively address and stand up for human rights and social injustices. They strengthen individual people, communities, and try to give voice to the unheard.

What skills could be helpful for a career in Social Work?

Each social worker employs a diverse set of skills to do their work. But there are certain skills that can be particularly useful to those in the field:

  • Empathy – This skill enables the social worker to put themselves in their client’s shoes. Having empathy can offer a social worker a deeper understanding of their client’s problems.
  • Organisation – With the many daily responsibilities they have, social workers need to be extremely organised.
  • Communication – Social workers should be clear, concise, and transparent with clients and their families or care providers, and colleagues. Strong communication can help to mitigate misunderstandings and break down other communication barriers.
  • Problem-Solving – No case is the same and a social worker is often working hard to find the best solution in a difficult situation. A good problem solver can help clients obtain the best services and support needed.
  • Patience – As a social worker, you will work with diverse clients. Maintaining patience and understanding clients from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds is a core component of social work practice.

Where can I study Social Work?

Explore your options here

 Did You Know?

  • Forty% of mental health professionals working with the Red Cross Disaster Services Human Resources system are social workers.
  • Professional social workers are often the only mental health care providers serving residents of many poor, rural counties.
  • America established the social work profession in the late 19th century. The profession was established to ensure that vulnerable people such as immigrants and poorer families were given the means, tools and skills in which to raise them from social and economic poverty.
  • Social workers work in a variety of venues, including hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, mental health clinics, substance abuse divisions, prisons, private practices, schools, non-profit agencies, welfare agencies, children and family services, government offices, policy divisions, etc.

Mariza Halliday

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