What you need to know about becoming a social worker

Published: October 1, 2019 / 96 Comments

How to Become a Social Worker

At times harrowing. Frequently rewarding. The social work profession is a calling, requiring one to have a passion for people and their wellbeing.

Key takeaways

  • If you’re passionate about others, their rights and their wellbeing, a career as a social worker may be your calling.
  • Social work is a profession that focuses on helping individuals, groups and communities to improve their wellbeing through access to certain facilities, care and assistance.
  • The field of social work is complex and varied often focussing on a wide-range of issues.
  • To be a successful social worker one requires a degree in social work as well as a variety of interpersonal skills and attributes.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world. The Dalai Lama said, “It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” And, Dr Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Do these words stir something in you? Are you passionate about others? About their access to healthcare, education and freedom? If this is the case, becoming a social worker may be your calling.

What is social work?

When defining the term social work, The South African Council for Social Service Professions uses the following global definition, “Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge’s, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.”

In laymen’s terms social work is a profession which focusses on helping individuals, groups and communities to improve their wellbeing. Social workers often interact with the most vulnerable members of society, working hard to improve their lives and ultimately their futures. Depending on a person’s area of interest and experience the role of a social worker and the field in which they focus can vary greatly from one position to another. Generally, however, social workers practise in one of the following areas:

  • Child and family welfare
  • Marriage and divorce counselling
  • Care of the elderly
  • Medical social work
  • Psychiatric social work – Masters degree only
  • Social work with the mentally or physically disabled
  • Addictions focussed
  • Criminal offenders
  • Social work in the workplace or school

How does one become a social worker?

In order to practise as a social worker in South Africa one needs to register with The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP). The SACSSP is a statutory body under which falls the Professional Board for Social Work and the Professional Board for Child and Youth Care Work. The Council, in conjunction with its Professional Boards, works to protect both the integrity of the social service professionals and the public at large.

The most direct route to becoming a social worker would be to enrol for a Bachelor of Social Work. During their degree students are required to register for specific courses within the Faculty of Humanities with majors in social work, psychology and sociology. In order to qualify students also have to register for an internship, which requires them to complete a number of hours of field instruction at an approved welfare organisation in the social service sector.

What are the admission requirements?

Like most Bachelor degrees a National Senior Certificate is required preferably with English as a first language, as well as a second South African language and mathematics (at least standard grade). Keep in mind that a degree can only teach you the skills, your natural aptitudes and passion will make up for the rest. To be a successful social worker it is vital that you tick the following boxes:

  • You enjoy working with different kinds of people from various cultures and walks of life
  • You have both a good IQ and a good EQ
  • You have a desire to serve others and help them to live their best lives
  • You are sympathetic, but also objective
  • You are reliable and resourceful
  • You inspire confidence in others
  • You have good communication skills
  • You’re tolerant and even tempered
  • You have a good understanding of human nature
  • You experience empathy easily

Social work is more than a qualification, it is a calling. Although hugely rewarding it can also be particularly harrowing, especially in South Africa. Unless in private practise, and not always then, social workers are often not paid particularly well. Often, as a social worker, you are working because of a passion rather than a paycheque. If social work is your calling however, the money won’t matter. Instead, you will be driven by your determination to make a lasting change and to help others. Perhaps Dieter F. Uchtdorf summarises this passion best when saying, “As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”

Interested in learning more about psychology? SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. For more information, enquire now.

Leave a comment

Your Comments on “What you need to know about becoming a social worker”

  1. Seponki Maduna

    Do you guys offer social worker courses and if so ,can I have the neccessary information regarding it and can I do it online ?

    Reply
  2. Christina

    Hy am christina, and still in school i want to be a social worker what information i have to know when applying?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Christina, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification.

      Reply
  3. Siya

    Hi,I would like to study social work.I have honors degree in Public Admin,are the any chances of being credited? Or are the any post grad diplomas in social work that I may qualify for?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Siya, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you.

      Reply
  4. busisiwe bobo

    I have matric passed 2000 i have a passion in social working love working with people. I’m currently in the hospitality industry

    Reply
  5. Thulile

    I don’t have a matric I need to know can I stady a social work

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Thulile, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification.

      Reply
  6. Prudence

    Can I study social workers I have level 4 office administration

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Prudence, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you.

      Reply
  7. Kudakwashe Jeoffrey Bvumbi

    Hie. I did a Diploma in Social Work in Zimbabwe but wish to register myself with SACAP and further major in psychology or sociology. How do I go about it. What is required of me.?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Kudakwashe, it would be best to chat directly to our Admissions team regarding your requirements. Kindly complete our online enquiry form and our admissions team will be in touch with you: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry

      Reply
  8. Karabo

    I would like to study social work part time, please advice

    Reply
  9. Tanganedzani

    I am in grade 11 when I pass grade 12 I want to follow the career of being a social worker

    Reply
  10. jabu

    Can I study a social worker if I don’t have matrick?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Jabu, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you.

      Reply
  11. Ncediswa

    I want to do social worker,but I want to part time, I will pay my studies on my own,thanks

    Reply
  12. Trinity

    Hi I was doing my research and I couldn’t find clear answers so I was wondering if jobs for social workers are there or not, because many people graduate and end up nothing doing anything. Is it lack of jobs or what??

    Reply
  13. Joy

    I would like to study for social work course

    Reply
  14. Victorine

    What requirements are needed to study a bachelors degree in social work and what APS score is needed .

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Victorine, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  15. Annelie

    Good day,

    My name is Annelie. I am a qualified and registered Social worker.

    I am currently looking out for vacancies. Are you aware of vacancies available in Pretora?

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Annelie, unfortunately we do not know of any vacancies but we hope someone else will be able to.

      Reply
  16. Ritta

    Can I study social work part time

    Reply
  17. Tabitha

    Hi
    Could you tell me what are the minimum field practice hours for a student social worker studying a 4 year bachelors degree in social work?

    Reply
  18. Eunice Tema

    Good evening
    I would love to enquire about Social work degree. I need to know if your institution recognise experience prior learning and passed social work modules in other qualifications obtained. What are yoursecond majors field and how much is the entire social work qualification.

    Reply
  19. Ntsoaki

    Hi I would like to enquire about social worker course fees and everything

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Ntsoaki, thanks for your interest in studying at SACAP. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may send you more information.

      Reply
  20. Nazira

    I like to know the fees for counseling courses and job opportunities?

    Reply
  21. Lungiswa

    I have matric would like to register fo social worker what are the requirements and how much does it Cost.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Lungiswa, for a full range of our programmes, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      The Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification.

      We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  22. Thabiso

    Hi I have a metric an I would like to be study social worker as I love seeing people got helped an helped by me .which route to take so that I can register

    Reply
  23. Naseera

    I have a matric ⁰diploma pass. I want to study to become a soacial worker. It’s really something that I enjoy doing. Helping people. Whats the route to go? Is there a diploma I can do?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Naseera, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  24. Bonisile

    Hi i would like to do social worker course or forensic my problem is that my marks are lower is there anything i can do or do u have bridging courses?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Bonsile, I would recommend doing our Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication before applying to further your studies. The Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  25. Tshepho

    Can i study social work with higher certificate?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Tshepo, provided you meet the Minimum Entry Requirements, you could apply to do our Bachelor of Applied Social Sciences. Please complete our online enquiry form and our Admissions team will contact you with more information: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry

      Reply
  26. pretty

    can i do social work with a grade 11?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Pretty, it would be best to see the minimum requirements at the institution you intend to study at. These requirements will vary at different institutions.

      Reply
  27. Courtney

    I am an police officer in the SAPS i want to know what do i need to join or do any courses regarding social work…i really want to implement my day 2day work in the social department

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Courtney, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email.

      Reply
  28. Francois Harmse

    Good day
    I work full time and cannot afford to study full time, as finances do not allow for it. I want to know where I can study Social work degree part time in Cape Town.

    Kind regards,
    Francois Harmse

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Francois, it would be best to see our full range of programmes on our website for courses that can be done part time through our various campuses. Please visit our website here: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  29. Jacques Clarke

    I would like to become a social worker. I’m currently a teacher for the past 24 years. Do i qualify for any of the social worker courses ?

    Reply
  30. Angelo

    Would like more Info on distance learning in social work as im permanently employed.
    Im from eastern cape, rural area near Port Elizabeth

    Reply
  31. Clint

    Hi I’m interested in studying social work, can you kindly provide me with the necessary information please.

    Reply
  32. Nonzaliseko Mzizi

    I am very interested in pursuing a career in Social. Hope to make a mark to heal the society at this challenging era- my comment- can I kindly get the forms?

    Reply
  33. Goodness

    Hi im so interested on doing socail worker i have a passion on helping people and but i don’t have any qualifications and i don’t any information where can i start

    Reply
  34. Maloka Thabiso Prudence

    I would like to study at college to become a social worker the question is…is there a college which require it?

    Reply
  35. Melony

    Hi there…how much is your costs and is it accredited worldwide please and thankyou

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Melony, our courses are accredited but you would need to have your qualification evaluated against the framework of the place you intend on going to. For more information, kindly complete our online enquiry form and our Admissions team will contact you: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry

      Reply
  36. Olasunkanmi Suliat

    I’m from Nigerian, I studied social work in Nigeria, what are the criteria for me to study social work in South Africa or can I work as a social worker in South Africa with my degree here in Nigeria? May I have my information?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Olasunkanmi, you would need to get a SAQA conversion for your current qualifications. Our Admissions team will be able to assist you with more information. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may contact you.

      Reply
  37. Yolanda Sakoor

    Do I qualify for mature age exemption as I do not have a matriculation exemption

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Yolanda, We do offer Recognition for Prior Learning. It would, however, be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  38. Anna Ability Makganye

    I have a certificate in Child and Youth care and I am interested in studying Social work with you. May i please have more information.

    Reply
  39. Suzan

    How much is going to cast to study social worker and how old must I be to study

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Suzan, there is no age limit on our students provided you meet the Minimum Entry Requirements for the course you choose to study. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may send you more information regarding costs and course dates.

      Reply
  40. Susan Boshoff

    I am interested in a social care course especially looking after the elderly and children at schools. Can you please send me more information as to what course I can study online.Thank you.

    Reply
  41. Chireen Alexander

    I finished my BA at the University of the Western Cape & completed my Honours in Psychology at UNISA but unfortunately the Honours degree I did is only an academic degree which means I cannot register with the HPCSA, so I am trying to find out whether there is a way for me to transition into social work because I am still interested in helping people. Any advice would be helpful

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Chireen, why not look at our BPsych Equivalent Honour Degree, an 18 month course that will lead to registration with the HPCSA as a counsellor.

      PLease follow the link for more information including the entry requirements and course intakes: http://bit.ly/SACAPBPsychEquiv
      Applications for this course for 2020 close on the 11th of October, 2019.

      Reply
  42. Jankie Malia

    Kindly send me quotations on Social Work studies.

    Reply
  43. Khotlhello Landslord

    What school subjects in matric I need to study social worker

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Khotlhello, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  44. Anuschka

    What the job entails

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Anuschka, as per the article, social work is a profession which focusses on helping individuals, groups and communities to improve their wellbeing. Social workers often interact with the most vulnerable members of society, working hard to improve their lives and ultimately their futures.

      Reply
  45. Johanna

    I what to apply to become a social worker

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Johanna, thanks for your interest in SACAP. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may send you more information. Term 3 applications are still open.

      Reply
  46. BRANDON

    ARE THERE SOME SHORT COURSES I CAN DO BEFORE I START STUDYING OR WITCH WOULD HELP

    Reply
  47. Kristen

    Hi sorry I thought this was an inquiry box where it’s sent to your email and I get a response via email. Please delete my previous comment and if possible respond to that comment via email please

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Kristen, we have deleted your previous post as requested. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form and our admissions team will be able to assist you further with your enquiry: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry

      Reply