NHS Careers > Explore by career > Wider healthcare team > Careers in the wider healthcare team > Clinical support staff > Social worker

Social worker

Social workers form relationships with people and assist them to live more successfully within their local communities by helping them find solutions to their problems.

Social work involves engaging not only with clients themselves but their families and friends as well as working closely with other organisations including the police, local authority departments, schools and the probation service.

Who do they work with?

Social workers tend to specialise in either adult or children's services.

Adult services: roles include working with people with mental health problems or learning difficulties in residential care, working with offenders (supervising them in the community and supporting them to find work), assisting people with HIV/AIDS and working with older people at home helping to sort out problems with their health, housing or benefits.

Children/young people services: roles include providing assistance and advice to keep families together, working in children's homes, managing adoption and foster care processes, providing support to younger people leaving care or who are at risk or in trouble with the law and helping children who have problems at school or are facing difficulties brought on by illness in the family.

Social workers may undertake further training to work as a high intensity therapist, as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service

Who employs social workers?

Social workers work for a range of organisations, but primarily in local authorities, independent organisations and charities. Some also work for the NHS in hospitals, mental health trusts and other community-based settings.


Social workers need a breadth of skills, as they will act as an adviser, advocate, counsellor and listener.

Education and training

There are various routes to becoming a social worker, but you will need to gain a professional qualification in social work (usually at degree level) that is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Courses are available on a full-time or part-time basis and at undergraduate and postgraduate masters level.

It is also possible to take a degree course combining social work with mental health or learning disability nursing.

Eligible students will receive a bursary from the Department of Health. For more information about this financial support, please visit the Social Work Bursaries website.


Social workers must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council in order to practise in the UK.

Students who successfully complete programmes which are approved by the HCPC, are then eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC. Once registered, practitioners are required to retain their names on the register, by paying an annual retention fee.

Pay for social workers

Social workers in the NHS would typically start on Band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay system. There are opportunities for progression to more senior posts. For the latest rates of pay, please click here

Further information

For more information about social work as a career, please visit the Health and Care Professionals Council website or contact the Council at:

Health and Care Professions Council
Park House
184 Kennington
Park Road
SE11 4BU

Tel: 0845 300 6184