• 27 November 2020
  • 12 min read

How To Change Your Career And Become A Social Worker In Ireland

  • Jessie Flood
    Social Worker
    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Matt Farrah
  • 0
  • 1148
"When you put in the hard work and effectively engage the people you work with, positive outcomes are achieved."

Social Worker, Jessie Flood, gives an overview of the job of a Social Worker, and offers her insights into how to gain experience, what makes the role so exciting and tips for passing an interview.

Topics covered in this article

When Did I Decide I Wanted To Be A Social Worker?

First Steps To Becoming A Social Worker

What Qualifications Does A Social Worker In Ireland Need?

Gaining Experience As A Social Worker

My First Post As A Social Worker

What To Expect From Your Job As A Social Worker

What Does A Typical Day For A Social Worker Look Like?

What Salary Expectations Should Someone Have For Their First Job As A Social Worker?

What Is The Average Pay For An Experienced Social Worker?

What Kind Of Settings Do Social Workers Work In?

What Keeps Me Excited About Being A Social Worker?

What Are The Challenges Faced By A Social Worker?

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Social Worker (Key Soft / Personal Skills)?

What Are The Career Opportunities For An Experienced Social Worker?

How Do You Deal With The Emotions Of The Job?

My Interview Advice

My CV Writing Advice

When Did I Decide I Wanted To Be A Social Worker

Being honest, I didn’t really know what social work really was until it was introduced to me by a private guidance counsellor as I began my Leaving Certificate year.

I went to this guidance counsellor with the hope he could point me in the right direction of a career that suited me.

He explored my interests and jobs that I could see myself in.

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Bear in mind, at the time these ranged from hairdressing to being in the army (I hadn’t a clue really).

However, the one thing I was really interested in was the study of crime and criminology.

Initially I was set on doing a Criminology undergrad in UCC but thankfully, his professional guidance highlighted that having this degree would not lead to a career; and that I would have to engage in significant other study to utilise its contents in a job setting.

Based on my interest in such work and having done numerous tests on how my brain works (more hands on and person-centred than mathematically inclined basically), he exposed me to the social work profession and particularly the Probation Officer role.

I was sold.

I was extremely fortunate to have this guidance and can honestly say I cannot see myself in any other career.

I would urge everyone to seek any available guidance to better understand yourself in terms of what career may suit you, whether it be social work or not.

First Steps To Becoming A Social Worker

In Ireland, undergraduate courses in social work are not plentiful.

Trinity College is considered the main provider of an undergrad programme, but I believe Maynooth is in the process of rolling out an undergrad degree at present too.

UCD, UCC, Galway, Sligo and Maynooth also offer a Masters in Social Work which can be accessed by holders of undergraduate degrees in other fields.

What Qualifications Does A Social Worker In Ireland Need?

A social worker needs a professional qualification from any of the above social work courses but also must become a registered member of CORU post-graduation.

CORU is Ireland's multi-profession health regulator responsible for regulating health and social care professionals.

Gaining Experience As A Social Worker

Throughout your study, you will engage in multiple practice placement periods which will act as invaluable learning.

As a student social worker, you have the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the work, observing multiple professionals and working on cases of your own with the support of your practice teacher (mentor).

Aside from placement, we were encouraged to partake in voluntary work or part-time work that was somewhat associated with social work and the people we work with.

This could include volunteering at a soup-run or supporting young people in after-school homework clubs – anything that gets you out and about interacting with members of the community, especially those who are most vulnerable.

My First Post As A Social Worker

My current post in Child Protection is actually my first official social work post.

However, throughout 2019 I engaged in significant work within the homeless sector.

Although this role was a social care role as opposed to social work, I value the experience it gave me just as much.

I say this because the role taught me so much about what is going on for a lot of the parents who I now work with.

I feel I better understand the struggles of addiction, trauma and all other issues associated with homelessness because of this role.

As a result, I would like to think I can work more effectively with parents who struggle with similar problems and strive to create a better support system with them so that their children are always safe.

What To Expect From Your Job As A Social Worker

Social work is essentially a career that helps society’s most vulnerable members.

However, social work is often sugar-coated and leaves people thinking ‘oh I love helping people this career is for me’.

Maybe that is the case, but what is so important to understand is that in order to help people, social workers will face multiple challenges.

I will discuss this more later.

On a lighter note, social work is indeed a very rewarding career.

When you put in the hard work and effectively engage the people you work with, positive outcomes are achieved.

You will be taught very specific skills to assist you in carrying out assessments, court reports, building rapport with clients and much more.

While you may not fully understand what all the skills really mean through your study, once you enter the practical world you will see every inch of your course curriculum be reflected through your practice – its almost a lightbulb moment; ‘ahh that’s what my social work skills lecturer was talking about’.

In a nutshell, expect to be challenged, motivated to support others, loved/hated/appreciated/ignored/a superhero all in one!!

Ah no, its not that much of a rollercoaster, but it can be at times.

For me, any negative aspects are always outweighed by the positives.

In order to get the positive outcomes we often face bumps in the road, but thankfully that’s what we are trained to overcome!

What Does A Typical Day For A Social Worker Look Like?

It really depends on the role you are in.

For a Child Protection Social Worker it can range from conducting home visits to families, speaking with other professionals involved, documenting case notes, writing reports and presenting at Child Protection Conferences.

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For a Probation Officer, it can range from attending court, meeting with offenders and writing reports for court.

Mental Health Social Work or Medical roles vary in their roles also but across the board, human interaction and assessment skills are central to every day social work.

What Salary Expectations Should Someone Have For Their First Job As A Social Worker?

Roughly, one should expect to earn anywhere between €35,000 and €42,000 in their initial post.

But it all depends on the position you are in really.

What Is The Average Pay For An Experienced Social Worker?

Social Worker’s pay increases the longer you are in the job for sure, but I am unsure by how much each year.

Principal Social Workers would receive the highest pay grade of up to €60,00 depending on the role.

What Kind Of Settings Do Social Workers Work In?

Most positions would be office based as Social Workers rely heavily on both paper and electronic filing systems to ensure accountability and best practice standards are upheld - whether this be in a hospital or clinic settings or in purpose built offices.

Various social work settings include:

Children and Family Child Protection and Welfare Services including Fostering and Adoption Services

• Hospitals • Both Child and Adult Mental Health Services

• Local Authorities

• Disability Services both Physical and Intellectual

• Addiction Services

• Older Persons Services

• Probation Services

• Primary Care Teams

• Numerous Voluntary Agencies, both with Children and Adult Services.

What Keeps Me Excited About Being A Social Worker?

No day is ever the same.

You will be faced with new challenges but also new rewards.

Seeing progress with your clients is a fantastic feeling and it motivates you to persevere with other more challenging cases.

It can be a trial and error sort of job at times to try figure out what supports and approaches will work – a “one size fits all” approach will very rarely apply.

However, failures are just as important as successes as they are all learning opportunities to better your practice going forward – this may not seem exciting but it is in the long run for sure.

What Are The Challenges Faced By A Social Worker?

Social Workers face multiple challenges in practice in order to help those who need our work most.

Child and Family Agency social workers tend to face the most challenges as many parents do not welcome our involvement.

This tends to be because there is a common misconception that all social workers want to do is take children into care.

Traditional social work may have reflected this more than today but we need to be clear in our roles to ensure our involvement is to support and strive for positive change as much as we can.

Of course, where the safety of children is being compromised, we will have to act appropriately – potentially creating more challenges between us and parents, but ensuring the safety and protection of children at the same time.

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Social Worker (Key Soft / Personal Skills)?

Personally, I think one of the most important attributes of a social worker is to be genuine in empathetic understanding.

Those who we work with are faced with multiple challenges on a daily basis and while we may not know what it feels like, we must be able to understand and really ground ourselves to see things from a client’s perspective.

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What do YOU think?

Let me know your thoughts in the Comments & click Like!

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Social workers must be good communicators, have a non-judgemental approach, be good listeners and be organised within their role.

Social workers manage high case loads and one must be capable of managing their workload whilst really looking after themselves at the same time.

Kindness and persistence within your role goes a long way.

What Are The Career Opportunities For An Experienced Social Worker?

Social Workers have opportunities to progress to Senior Social Worker, Team Leader, Principal Social Worker, Area Manager and further up the ranks again depending on the area of work.

How Do You Deal With The Emotions Of The Job?

Supervision with your Team Leader and communication with your team members / colleagues is key.

Be sure to be open in your communication if you are feeling overwhelmed and do your very best to plan your evenings after work so that your mind does not bring the stresses of the day home with you, although sometimes it can be hard.

Self-care is so important.

Find things to do outside of work that are meaningful to you.

Sometimes, a chill evening doing nothing after a crazy day is what’s needed to.

Whatever it takes for you to recharge yourself for the next day and recognize that you are not your emotions.

It is a tough job and you need to give yourself credit for that.

My Interview Advice

Social work interviews can be quite specific as they are example-focused to evidence your experience in various areas.

Preparation is key.

Go through your CORU Domains and ask yourself what could I be asked under each heading and think of a couple of examples where you say “demonstrated professional autonomy” or “were informed by relevant policy and legislation”.

Its very hard to give general advice as each Social Work interview varies depending on what you’re applying for.

One must have the ability to adapt their answers to best demonstrate why their knowledge and experience makes them the ideal candidate.

My CV Writing Advice

Social work CV’s really don’t need to detail what sports awards you have won or what you do in your spare time.

Try to focus on your professional experience ie. Placements in college or other social work related positions first.

Use verbs to begin your points for example “Assisted in…”, “Participated in…” “Organised various” rather than using “I”.

Include other employments not related to social work also but they don’t really need to be as descriptive.

You can also build and store your own professional CV by signing up for free to Healthcarejobs.ie.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on becoming a Social Worker and the advice I've given above - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

About the author

  • Jessie Flood
    Social Worker

Jessie is a Professionally Qualified Social Worker. She graduated from Trinity College’s BSS (Bachelor of Social Studies – Social Work) Degree in 2019. At present, she is employed with Tusla, The Child and Family Agency in Dublin City and is part of the Child Protection and Welfare team.

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  • Jessie Flood
    Social Worker

About the author

  • Jessie Flood
    Social Worker

Jessie is a Professionally Qualified Social Worker. She graduated from Trinity College’s BSS (Bachelor of Social Studies – Social Work) Degree in 2019. At present, she is employed with Tusla, The Child and Family Agency in Dublin City and is part of the Child Protection and Welfare team.

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