Social Work Courses

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Social Work Courses overview

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) define social work profession as “...facilitating 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 knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing”.

As a social worker, your role is often varied, depending on the setting in which you're based; it can involve counselling and family therapy, case management, or assisting clients with social services. Many social work practitioners also work at the research and public policy level, by contributing to research projects, policy development and delivering and implementing education and training programs.

Social work courses cover a wide range of disciplines, giving you the opportunity to diversify into many different sectors.

Is social work for me?

If you have the ability to work well with people from many different cultural and social backgrounds then you would be ideally suited to the role of a social worker. Other skills that are essential to a social worker are good communication, both verbal and written, excellent organisation and an ability to be able to manage multiple priorities.

Graduates of social work can be employed in such diverse fields as child welfare, justice, health, education, and disability services.

Study pathway

The AASW accredits social work courses around Australia on behalf of the Australian Government. Students of both undergraduate and postgraduate courses must complete at least 1,000 hours of work experience with social work agencies and organisations, in order to develop their skills and apply their academic knowledge in the field. The standard of social work education is set by the Australian Social Work Accreditation Standards.

Depending on how far students want to progress in the field of social work or broaden their skills in a specialisation, the postgraduate study pathway begins with a Graduate Certificate or Diploma of Social Work, before progressing to a Masters of Social Work then a Doctor of Social Work. The length of time these take and the study workloads vary, with the Diploma requiring the least amount of study time and having the lightest workload, which makes this a good choice for those interested in having an introduction into this field of study.

Most postgraduate courses will require a bachelor or equivalent degree in social work as a prerequisite for postgraduate study, however, some courses and universities will relax this restriction for students with significant experience in the sector, outstanding grades from a related discipline, or simply a compelling story.

Employment options

Studying social work can open up many employment opportunities for students. Typical roles can have you working as an advocate, a mediator, a researcher, a counsellor, an educator, a case manager, or a facilitator.

The Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS) is the largest employer of social work graduates, but plenty of other roles exist in other government departments, private organisations and the not-for-profit sector.

Specialisations

There are three main specialisations in social work, namely, a subject matter expert, a project manager or a manager.

Subject matter expert

A social worker who specialises as a subject matter expert will need to complete further study, but will develop in-depth knowledge and skills in this chosen area. For example, a social worker who works in the prison system can identify offending behaviour and determine effective rehabilitation services.

Project manager

Often employed by not-for-profit or government agencies, a project manager has completed study that has equipped them with specialised understanding and skills of social issues enabling them to manage special projects, such as developing and delivering social service programs.

Project manager

With further experience and study, social workers can progress into management roles in different organisations. Tasks involved in management roles often range from staff reporting and training through to recruiting and monitoring team performance.

Some of the roles within these specialisations include:

  • Marriage therapist
  • Healthcare social worker
  • Family therapist
  • Substance abuse counsellor
  • Community program administrator
  • Social work teacher
  • Clinical social worker

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Edith Cowan University (ECU)

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