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Social Worker

What does a Social Worker do?

Social workers form relationships with people and assist them to live more successfully by helping them find solutions to their personal, family and community problems. A social worker works with clients who have been socially excluded or who are experiencing a crisis situation, which may include inadequate housing, unemployment, serious illness or disability, substance abuse, and child or spousal abuse. Through direct counselling, social workers provide support and enable clients to help themselves by assisting them to identifying their concerns, considering solutions and finding resources.

Social workers also engage with clients’ family and friends, as well as working closely with other organisations including the police, local authority departments, schools and the probation service. Often, they refer clients to specialists in various areas, arranging for services in consultation with clients and following through to assure the services are helpful. They may review eligibility requirements, fill out forms and applications, visit clients on a regular basis, and provide support during crises.


What qualifications do I need?

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for many entry-level jobs as a social worker. Besides the Bachelor of Social Work, undergraduate majors in psychology, sociology and related fields satisfy hiring requirements in some agencies, especially small community agencies. A Master of Social Work degree is generally necessary for positions in health and mental health settings. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a degree course is a prerequisite for this course of study. When applying for social work training, it is ideal to have some paid or voluntary experience in a social work or care setting. It is required that social workers register with the South African Interim Council for Social Work in order to practise.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Languages


Where can I study?

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Social Work

University of the Western Cape
Bachelor of Social Work

University of Zululand
Bachelor of Social Work

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Arts: Social Work

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Arts: Social Work

Bachelor of Social Work

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Social Work

University of KwaZulu-Natal
Bachelor of Social Work

Where can I get more info?

South African Council for Social Service Professions – www.sacssp.co.za
The National Association of Social Workers – www.naswsa.co.za


Interview with a Social Worker

Yeukai Chideya | SOCIAL WORKER / PROJECT LEADER | Victim Empowerment for Children Project

Yeukai Chideya | SOCIAL WORKER / PROJECT LEADER | Victim Empowerment for Children Project

Why social work?
I have always had a passion to help people overcome their emotional and psychological challenges, and also to assist those who come from a disadvantaged background to acquire what they lack.

Explain what you do
I am a clinical social worker at the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture. We work with people who have experienced severe trauma such as torture and sexual violence.

What training did you undergo?
I studied at the University of Cape Town, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science in Social Work in 2006 and then completed my Honours in 2007. I finally graduated with a Master of Social Science in Clinical Social Work in 2010. I also did a number of internships as part of my study requirements.

Describe a typical day
Each working day is different. I see individual clients for counselling and also do group/family counselling. I work in schools with learners, their parents and teachers. At times I may facilitate workshops and have meetings with stakeholders in the community.

What do you enjoy most?
I enjoy building relationships with my clients and witnessing their growth and development.

Any dislikes?
Not being able to help everyone because there are limits to what you can do to help a client.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Sometimes I become overwhelmed by the challenges that my clients face. I have had to learn to separate work from my personal life by putting boundaries in place because the nature of my work can be emotionally draining.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Taking a group of clients from a disadvantaged background for a leadership camp at a resort; seeing how much they appreciated the experience and the impact the workshops had on them.

Is experience as important as formal training?
Both are equally important as a lack in one may result in a poor or ineffective intervention.

What traits should a ‘good’ social worker have?
Anyone who wants to become a social worker should at least enjoy working with people. They must be versatile, have a passion to help others, be emotionally stable and a good listener.

Advice for someone starting out?
Being a social worker can be quite stressful and emotionally draining, hence you need to prioritise self-care; to look after your well-being. You have to take good care of yourself in order for you to be able to help your clients effectively. Live a healthy lifestyle!

Your job in three words
A rewarding experience.