Social Work & Community Development

What you need to know about becoming a Social Worker

Jan 28, 2021
What you need to know about becoming a Social Worker

Being a social worker is not just a job, it’s a calling. One for someone who is passionate about others, their rights and their wellbeing. It’s about finding viable solutions which are in the best interests of individuals, groups and communities through enabling access to certain facilities, care and assistance. It’s both a heart-warming and heart aching calling, but most importantly it’s a vocation which changes lives for the better.

“Being a social worker is about having a calling to change lives.”

To be a social worker one is required to have a social work degree as well as a range of interpersonal skills and attributes.

What is Social Work?

Social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. It is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change, development, social cohesion and the empowerment as well as liberation of people. Central to social work are principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity.

Thus, social work is a profession which focuses on promoting the well-being of individuals, groups and communities. Often this means interacting and fighting to improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable in society. By doing this, social workers are in a position where they can improve as well as change the trajectory of many people’s futures.

“Social Work is about changing people’s lives for the better.”

The exact role of a social worker varies according to the field in which they focus as well as their own interest and expertise. Generally social workers will practise in one of the following areas:

  • Social development
  • Social policy
  • Community development
  • Family development and guidance
  • Violence and abuse
  • Social work intervention with children and youth
  • Foster care and adoption
  • Statutory services
  • Gerontology (old age, the process of ageing, and the particular challenges faced by old people)
  • Crime prevention
  • Health and mental health
  • Substance abuse
  • People with disabilities
  • Employee assistance programmes
  • Academia and research

How to become a Social Worker

The most direct route to becoming a social worker is by enrolling in a Bachelor of Social Work. SACAP offers an excellent degree in Social Work with the advantage of learning from practicing professionals, in an environment of like-minded, passionate people and further opportunities to enrol in a masters.  To qualify as a Social Worker, students have to register for an internship at an approved welfare organisation within the social service sector. This internship requires them to complete a number of hours of field instruction at the organisation.

“To be a practicing social worker, you need a degree and to be registered with SACSSP”

In order to practice as a social worker in South Africa, one is required to register with The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP). SACSSP is a statutory body which falls under 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.

What are the requirements to do a Degree in Social Work?

Social work is more than a qualification, it’s a calling. Therefore, ahead of looking into the academic requirements it is vital that you take look at who you are and that you:

  • Enjoy working with different kinds of people from various cultures and walks of life
  • Have both a good IQ and a good EQ
  • Have a desire to serve others and help them to live their best lives
  • Are sympathetic, but also objective
  • Are reliable and resourceful
  • Inspire confidence in others
  • Have good communication skills
  • Are tolerant and even tempered
  • Have a good understanding of human nature
  • Experience empathy easily

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).

“As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”

Although hugely rewarding, being a social worker can also be particularly harrowing, especially in South Africa. Even though the work social workers do is invaluable, they are not particularly well paid in the public sector. While some in the private sector are paid better, this is not a guarantee. Therefore, most social workers work as social workers because they are passionate about helping others and changing lives rather than for the amount on their paycheque.

If you want to promote positive change, are highly motivated, passionate and self-directed, then enquire today and find out more about a Bachelor of Social Work. This degree is an honours equivalent professional degree. It will give you the opportunity to also explore multiple national and international academic pathways for a master’s degree in various specialised fields of social work, the social sciences or related fields.

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