Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

  • August 2019
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Working in Social Services







SPEAKER – Representative from ISAW/NSWQB


DEFINITION OF CAREER AREA – Social workers work with individuals, families, groups & communities with the aim of providing support, information and counselling to improve the quality of people’s lives. Usually, people want to see a social worker when they experience difficulties for example with parenting or in their personal lives.


TYPICAL DAY – No two days are ever the same in social work. Some common activities include: supportive and counselling work with individuals and families, meeting with other professionals to co-ordinate services, making assessments e.g. child protection, team meetings and supervision from your manager. In the Health Service Executive, social workers have a legal responsibility to protect children from neglect and abuse.


SKILLS USED IN THE JOB – Counselling and communication skills for example listening and empathy; self-awareness of one’s own life experiences; group facilitation skills, political analysis of poverty and how certain groups are marginalised e.g. Travellers; and organisational skills, for example assessment and report writing.


REWARDS – Being involved in supporting and empowering people to make positive changes to their lives.


ROUTES OF ENTRY – There are two routes to the National Qualification in Social Work: Undergraduate: UCC (only open to mature students) and TCD. Postgraduate: TCD, UCC, UCD and UCG offer two-year courses (Applicants usually have a social science degree).


CAREER PATH – This is developing and can lead to senior social work, team leader and principal positions that involve management duties, and also senior practitioner posts that recognise expertise in a particular field of social work practice.


DIFFERENT JOBS IN THE CAREER AREA – The Health Service Executive is the main employer of social workers with jobs in child protection, fostering & community work. There are also jobs in hospitals, probation, local authorities, and voluntary organisations for example: work with people with learning difficulties, and child and adolescent mental health.


POSSIBLE TRANSFER OPTIONS – Movement between different areas of social work is easy as the qualification provides a good grounding for any work in different areas with people. This breadth of choice is a major attraction to doing a social work course.


LIMITS – The work can be stressful and there can be some frustration with a lack of resources to do the job effectively for example: not enough foster placements.


SALARY SCALES – The Professionally Qualified Social Work scale starts at

€ 39,899 up to € 52,850. Senior grades reach € 73,097.


ADVICE ABOUT CHOOSING THIS AREA – There has been a significant increase in social work posts in recent years, which has resulted in an increase in the number of places available on university courses. Social work is a good career choice for those interested in working with people in therapeutic and supportive way. Undertaking some voluntary work is often a good way to find out if you are interested in this kind of work.



2 Responses to “Working in Social Services”

  1. Garbhan O'Cinneide said

    Hello i wish to start a course to become a social care and a friend of mine told me to look into Inchicore college, He also told me to apply for voluntary work to give me an insight on what its all about, the good points and the bad ones too.
    I am looking for the right course and was hoping you could help.

    I am 23 with just the Leaving Certificate Applied done in 2003,

    I look forward to hearing from you

    • Hi Garbhan,

      As a mature student you can apply to the CAO for a college place. Watch for the closing date of 1st Feb….there are alot of colleges offering social care studies and are very supportive to mature applicants…Best of luck.



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