Careers in social work

In the current context of market globalisation, mass cultural consumption, economic rationalism and extensive privatising of responsibility for education, health, child care, social support and retirement, social work can play a critical role. Human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work, according to the International Federation of Social Work definition of the profession.

The Commonwealth Government's JobOutlook site contains a wealth of up-to-date information about career prospects and pathways for trained social workers.

Social workers provide an array of direct services to individuals, families, groups and communities. These include responding to the social causes of personal distress and marginalisation, fostering social participation and involvement, and working with people to sustain a decent quality of life.

Social workers do this by providing information, advocacy, social support, practical help, counselling and negotiating with officials and organisations. They also provide statutory services to children and adults of all ages, services that aim to meet basic human needs, whether for safety, income maintenance, shelter, appropriate care, productive work, physical and mental health. Social workers can also be involved in:

  • developing and planning community services

  • initiating and implementing a wide range of social policies addressing issues of inequality

  • managing human-service organisations

  • conducting and driving social-policy research.

In every field of practice, social workers must be able to communicate clearly, analyse critically, assess coherently, convey understanding, write succinctly and speak confidently.

Overseas opportunities

A professional qualification in social work opens up opportunities for experience and study outside Australia, both in interesting employment in most English-speaking countries, and in studying for higher degrees or specialist qualifications in the US and UK.