If you're interested in human relationships, helping others, and promoting social change, then you might be considering a career as a social worker.

To help you choose if it's the right path for you, let's look at how to become a social worker in Australia, the qualifications you need and where your career might take you.

Social work qualifications

So, what do you need to be a social worker? There are specific qualifications in Australia. Social workers must register with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). To register, you must satisfy the AASW education requirements. The social worker education requirements are either a bachelor's degree in the discipline or an approved undergraduate degree and a master's degree in social work.

  • When you study for a bachelor's degree in social work, you'll learn about mental health, social work counselling, community work, sociology, psychology, working with First Nations communities and more. To help you understand social work methods and develop essential practical skills, UNSW offers a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours). This degree provides expert guidance from experienced social workers and industry professionals and includes two practical placements. The social work courses in the Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) allow you to discover and specialise in the issues that you find most compelling.

  • You can also study social work at a postgraduate level. If you don't have a Bachelor of Social Work, you can still qualify as a social worker with the AASW if you complete a master's degree. Postgraduate social work degree entry requirements may need you to have completed an undergraduate degree in a similar field. For example, undergraduate degrees in social welfare and community services can be pathways to master degrees in social work.

Social work areas of specialisation

Understanding how to become a social worker is just the beginning of a meaningful career that changes lives for the better. As people face diverse challenges, you may choose to pursue a specialisation in social work. Here’s just a brief overview of the social work specialties you could choose:

  • Social work in medical and public health settings involves providing counselling and emotional support for patients, their families, and carers. For example, you may be based at a hospital to help people cope with grief, domestic violence, or hospitalisation anxiety.

    Emerging trends in this field include providing support with medical/legal matters, culturally appropriate support services, trauma-informed support services, and technology use in social work services.

  • Accredited mental health social workers are experts in working with people who have serious mental illness and associated problems. In addition, they are skilled in complex situations that can surround mental illness, such as family conflicts, homelessness, and unemployment.

    Substance abuse is an issue that can also factor into mental illness and requires specific treatment strategies and support. Social work in mental health and substance abuse is conducted in specialist clinics, not-for-profit organisations, and community-based services.

  • Clinical social workers are highly specialised in identifying and managing complex issues. They work directly with clients in analytical, therapeutic, and supportive environments.

  • Social workers can also change lives through education and government policy. Insights from social work research educate society and enable advocacy for the causes, impacts, and effective management of important social issues.

As a social worker in Australia, you can make a real, positive impact on people's lives and society through mental health support, child protection, social justice, human rights advocacy, community development, and more. If you study social work as a double degree, you can open up more career opportunities with a specialisation in social scienceslawthe arts or criminology and criminal justice.

How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in social work?

To get the qualifications needed to be a social worker in Australia, you can expect to study full-time for four to six years. At a minimum, an undergraduate bachelor’s degree will take four years of full-time study. A postgraduate master’s degree is an additional two years of study.

What courses do you need to become a social worker?

It is possible to study social work courses or subjects associated with social work in related degrees (such as social welfare or community services). However, to become a registered social worker, you need to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in social work.

Frequently asked questions

  • Social work involves helping community members enhance their individual and collective well-being.

  • Social workers help change lives by solving problems in human relationships, promoting social change, and enhancing the well-being of others. Social workers can help with mental health support, child protection, social justice, human rights advocacy, community development, and more.

  • Social work involves working with directly clients and/or advocating for social equality and justice. Social workers improve lives by assessing wellbeing, ensuring there is access to support services and information, and providing practical and emotional support.

  • To become a social worker in Australia, you need to have completed a Bachelor of Social Work or, if you've already completed an approved undergraduate degree, a master’s degree in social work.

Drive change in your community

Discover a range of career options across many sectors, including private and government agencies, social welfare support organisations and community groups.

UNSW’s strong industry partnerships and placement opportunities will elevate your professional recognition and employability upon graduation.

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