Social Work

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Social work consists of helping those who are in various degrees of difficulty. It can involve anything from assisting teenagers completing their CAO to working in a homeless shelter. The common feature of this profession is the aim of improving the standard of living of those who need it most. Due to the expansive field that social workers are in they need an abundance of knowledge and skills. A third level education equips them with a deeper understanding of problem situations and societal ills, and how to handle them in the best way possible. Aside from the practical aspects, courses also include teaching of the theories of human behaviour, and the effect experiences such as poverty and social inequality can have on the individual. It is certainly a demanding profession: social workers have to communicate with people who are in distressing or awkward situations, and help people face truths they would rather avoid. However for students with the emotional and communication skills required, social work can be a very rewarding profession where you can make a positive difference to people’s lives.


The CAO options for social work include higher certificates and degree courses, such as Social Work, Social Care, Social Studies, Applied Social Studies, Applied Social Studies in Social Care and Social Care Practice. Some of these courses are only open to mature applicants. Other more general arts courses such as Social Science and Sociology & Social Policy are also useful for students looking for a career in the area of social work. The CAO points required can range from 300 to 400. There are also a number of PLC course options in the social care sector. Course programmes combine theoretical social science subjects such as Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Research Methods, Political Science and foreign languages, with practical social care subjects such as Group Dynamics & Development, Health Promotion, Law for Social Workers, Mental Health and Childcare. Work practice forms a major part of a course in social work. Placements are arranged that provide practical experience and an opportunity to develop and apply the skills and knowledge acquired while at college.

Options after Qualification

The recognised, professional qualification for social care is the National Qualification in Social Work (NQSW). Graduates of the TCD and UCC degrees automatically gain the qualification, while graduates of other social work-related courses in the CAO have to take a postgraduate diploma or Masters in Social Work. Many Irish social workers start their careers in the health sector, in both community and institutional settings, while others work in the probation and welfare services. Many graduates progress towards careers in management, planning and evaluation within the social services field, while others choose to expand their career prospects through further postgraduate or career development courses.

The Work

Social workers are safety nets, assisting people who fall through the cracks in society by guiding them towards successful and fulfilling lives. This requires good communication and the knowledge of different solutions to develop a plan that suits each individual situation. The day-to-day work of a social worker is varied: counselling clients, intervening in crisis situations, visiting families at home, running support groups, helping clients deal with practical issues such as accommodation or employment problems, working with professionals such as psychologists and probation officers, conducting research into social problems and attending court. Though not all in one day!Social workers can specialise in different areas: substance abuse, family problems, young offenders or mental health, among others. Social workers also help marginalised groups such as the elderly or ethnic minorities. Over half of Irish social workers work with children.

Personal Qualities & Work Environment

Not everybody is suited to the role of a professional social worker. You need to be a good listener and communicator, and you should be firm and decisive when necessary. People who take other people’s problems too personally, or take pity on those less fortunate than themselves, generally don’t make the best social workers. Social workers are usually based in an office environment, but often spend a lot of their time visiting clients or attending meetings. Occasionally, they may have to work evenings and weekends and be available for emergencies. Social workers often need their own car. The MoneyA qualified and experienced social worker earns in the range of €32, 500 to €46, 000 a year.



Types of social care intervention:

Micro: individual & family

Mezzo: agency & small groups

Macro: societies, organizations & communities

Empathy: Identifying with another person’s situation, feelings or motives

Group Dynamics: How being part of a group changes or influences an individual’s behaviour

Marginalised: Those who don’t benefit from the support of mainstream society


Job Titles

Social Workers

Community Carers

Medical Social Workers

Psychiatric Social Workers

Probation Officers

Welfare Officers


Further Resources


International Federation of Social Workers,

PO Box 6875,

Schwarztorstrasse 22,

CH-3001 Berne,


Phone: (41) 31 382 6015



Irish Association of Social Workers

114-116 Pearse Street

Dublin 2

Phone: 01 677 4838



Department of Health and Children

Hawkins House

Hawkins Street

Dublin 2

Phone: 1890 200 311


Email: is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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