So what kind of topics can you expect to study in a social work degree? While the courses may vary slightly from university to university, and while some may rely more on workplace experience than classroom teaching, there are some aspects of social work education and training that should be included in every degree course, no matter where you are studying. Check that the course you are applying for has been approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) as these are the only courses that will enable you to commence a career in social work upon graduation, without needing to carry out any further training. The social work degree should always be a mix of lectures and tutorials and time spent in social care environments, like day care centres, residential centres, shelters or hospitals. Usually, the student will be expected to spend around 200 days of their three years studying on work placements, but the authorities looking to employ recently-qualified social workers will be impressed if you have been working in the environment in your own time too.
Social work modules
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is the body that sets the standards for teaching and qualification in social work degrees and all courses have to conform to the following core ideas; identifying social work service users, the context of service delivery, values and ethics, theory of social work and the nature of practical social work. Some modules that students take will include elements of several or all of these core ideas. These modules aim to give every student a certain proficiency in the key skills that are needed to become a social worker and it is these skills that they will be tested on, not just in the classroom and in exams but also in their behaviour when on work placement. The core skills are computer and numerical skills, problem solving, communication, skills in working well with others and personal and professional development. Social work today is not all about helping clients; there is a lot of paperwork too, so good computer skills and an ability to organise are key skills that will be tested under pressure in the workplace.
Social work assessment
Not all your assessment will take place during your work placements; after all this is an educational degree and students will be expected to learn as much about the theory of social work as they are about the practical skills and applications. Each degree course is different in what aspects of social work theory they choose to test through essays and exams, though the General Social Care Council specify that some subjects must be assessed in a classroom environment. These include family law, which is an essential tool for any social worker to understand and use, mental health, working in partnership with other organisations, communication skills, human development and growth and the skills the student has developed in planning and assessment of cases. Upon graduation, some students will be expected to work as a probationer for a period, under the close supervision of an experienced social worker, before being given their own caseload.