What can I do with a degree in Social Work?

Dr Annabel Taylor and Dr Jorg Finsterwalder

Social workers provide professional assistance to those experiencing difficulties in their lives and in their communities. They work with individuals, families, groups and organisations in a wide range of social service and social policy fields. The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a great option to consider if you are interested in working in a people-focused career. Professionally trained people are needed in increasing numbers to work in the social services nationally and internationally. You will study a variety of courses from the social sciences as well as studying specialist Social Work topics and completing fieldwork practice. At the end of the programme you will have the experience, skills and knowledge to provide professional assistance to people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives.

Through their Social Work degree, graduates develop a valuable set of skills that are transferrable to a range of careers, including:

  • Professional engagement, social assessment, and clinical intervention
  • Empathising and empowering
  • Self-awareness and non-judgemental attitude formation
  • Interviewing skills
  • Indigenous awareness and cross-cultural sensitivity
  • Thinking critically and creatively, and challenging ideas
  • Advanced listening and verbal communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills adaptable to diverse contexts
  • Negotiating and advocacy
  • Interpretive and analytical thinking
  • Appreciation of discrimination and structural inequalities
  • A framework for values and ethics.

Opportunities to apply your learning outside the classroom through work and other experiences also exist and can deepen your skills set and employability. Work and other experiences can also support and inform learning and skill development in the classroom.

In New Zealand, social workers are employed in both statutory and community sectors, providing direct and indirect services. Direct services include those for children, families, the aged, people who have committed offences, and people experiencing disabilities. Social workers practice in not-for -profit agencies, schools, hospitals, the criminal justice system, and the Child, Youth and Family Service. Indirect services encompass social sector planning, administration and research.

Direct services may include protection of children who have been abused, providing group or family therapy, educational programmes for at-risk adolescents, supporting adolescent parents, working with groups aiming to achieve community development, providing interventions for people who are experiencing mental health issues or sudden trauma, providing assistance with housing needs, mediation and resolution of family conflict, facilitating access to benefits and other financial resources and assessment of home and family support for older people.

UC’s Guide to Job Hunting offers a variety of career resources including employer information.

For more information about UC student and graduate opportunities, go to UC CareerHub

Graduates with this degree are employed in a range of jobs including field worker, case manager and counsellor.

Some of the jobs listed may require further study at postgraduate level. Postgraduate study can contribute to your employability. It enables you to extend your knowledge and skills, indicates your motivation and ability to persevere at a high level academically and can make you more competitive in the job market. Postgraduate study may be a prerequisite for certain jobs.

Social worker

  • Connects people with needed resources, services and support
  • Talks to people about the difficulties they are facing and empowers good decision making
  • Writes reports and manages case notes

Policy analyst

  • Researches and analyses information to assist in policy planning and development
  • Reviews and interprets existing policies
  • Prepares and presents reports

Community development worker

  • Recognises problems and concerns within communities
  • Assists in the development of local programmes to address community issues
  • Raises awareness of issues to promote community cohesion

Residential support worker

  • Cares for and supports clients in a residential setting
  • Manages relationships and conflicts between clients and ensures safety
  • Spends time with clients in order to work through problems

Hospital/medical social worker

  • Works with people who suffer from illness or trauma
  • Develops support plans for clients as they return home
  • Provides support to reduce stress of family and carers of clients

Youth worker

  • Ensures that young people are informed and supported
  • Establishes and maintains relationships with young people and the people around them
  • Plans youth programmes and connects young people to information and services

Social researcher

  • Designs and develops research projects to meet specific objectives
  • Understands and uses a range of quantitative and qualitative methods
  • Analyses and interprets data to be written in published reports

Care and protection worker

  • Gathers information and is involved in the investigation of families
  • Ensures the protection, safety and wellbeing of children
  • Assists and participates in family group conferences

Industrial relations officer

  • Manages problems or conflict in the workplace
  • Develops strategies to minimise workplace stress and conflict
  • Assists with human resources functions

Probation officer

  • Manages, supervises and monitors the behaviour of offenders
  • Provides offender risk assessments for the likelihood of recidivism and the suitability for parole
  • Provides and monitors access to services and programmes

Get started with Entrepreneurship here.

As they progress in their studies and into a career, our students and graduates often join professional bodies specific to their area of interest. These organisations offer graduates the opportunity to network and collaborate with others within the same community. Other relevant organisations are also listed.

Social media networks, such as LinkedIn (including LinkedIn groups), Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues for students and graduates to keep up-to-date with current industry knowledge and ‘best practice’, networking opportunities, industry-related events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Social Work subject page