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Can You Become a Social Worker Without A Levels?

22nd February 22

In society, not everyone has the ability to navigate through life without assistance, due to health issues, or circumstances related to the environment they live in. A Social Worker plays an important role in safeguarding these individuals, who are usually the most vulnerable in society.  

If you want to provide essential support to adults and children who need it the most, then become a Social Worker. UK residents can undergo Social Worker training to achieve their career goal, and it is possible to reach this feat without having to obtain any A Level qualifications. 

Many careers require degrees, and to get to university, A Levels are generally included as part of the establishment’s entry requirements. However, to study social work courses at university, you can gain an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Social Work with learndirect. The social work Access course is a Level 3 qualification and a recognised A Level equivalent, which means that it could be your ticket to university and a career as a Social Worker. 

If you want to know more about studying social work and becoming a Social Worker with no A Levels, you’re in the right place. Check out our FAQs about becoming a Social Worker below! 

What is Social Work? 

According to the International Federation of Social Workers, social work is a ‘practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change, development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people’. In a nutshell, there are 4 things at the heart of the social work profession: 

  • Support 
  • Protection 
  • Empowerment 
  • Change 

Social work aims to increase the wellbeing and quality of life for vulnerable people – such as children and young people, the disabled and the elderly – through empowerment and support. It works to protect people from neglect, abuse or harm and supports those with social or health issues that hinder their daily life.  

It’s all about making a positive change, not only to the individual but to society overall. Social work’s purpose is to work towards a happier, healthier, and more inclusive society, where people’s differences are celebrated and accommodated for. 

Social work should not be confused with social care, which involves direct patient care. Social work is a qualified profession and field of study in which you need Social Worker training, whereas social care is vocational and largely made up of an unqualified workforce. 


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What Does a Social Worker Do? 

A Social Worker's responsibilities vary depending on caseload. However, typical duties include: 

  • Creating rehabilitation plans for those recovering from a long-standing illness 
  • Implementing safeguarding policies for vulnerable adults or children 
  • Writing and preparing care plans for individuals 
  • Monitoring and evaluating individuals and keeping records of their progress 
  • Advocating for vulnerable people’s rights and keeping up to date with relevant legislation 
  • Making changes to people's homes so they can live as independently as possible 
  • Referring individuals to relevant community resources and organisations (e.g. legal aid) 

Social Workers are advocates and guardians for people with social, health or interpersonal issues. Rather than providing direct care, they safeguard, assess, support, and help people in need to resolve the issues that impact their life. To become a Social Worker, UK residents will need to perfect these skills and approaches. 

To do this efficiently, Social Workers liaise with other health and social care professionals and local authorities, such as child social services and counsellors, to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for each case. You will be informed in more detail while studying social work courses about the organisations you will work with. 

Social Workers are rarely office-based and can spend their day travelling from hospitals to care homes, schools to service users’ houses. This makes the career ideal for anyone who wants to make a positive difference in people’s lives, whilst having a varied workday every day.  

What Can Social Workers Specialise In? 

Like in any profession, there is room for career progression and development when you become a Social Worker. UK residents should know that often, this comes in the form of developing a specialism, and there are many different areas of care that Social Workers can specialise in, such as: 

  • Learning disabilities 
  • Mental health 
  • Working with children and families 
  • Alcohol, drug, and substance abuse 
  • Housing and homelessness 
  • Criminal justice and ex-offender rehabilitation 
  • Palliative and hospice care 

To develop specialist knowledge, you will often need to undergo additional Social Worker training in the form of work placements. These can last up to 2 years, depending on the position. Each speciality has its own challenges and responsibilities.  

For example, working in child protection can involve investigating potential cases of child abuse and taking appropriate action, while working with substance abusers can involve counselling individuals and rehabilitating them into normal life. 


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What Qualifications Do You Need to be a Social Worker? 

You will need an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree in social work that has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To get on to an undergraduate university degree programme you will typically need at least five GCSEs at Grade C/4 or above in Maths, English and Science, along with two relevant A Levels. 

However, with an Access to Higher Education Diploma under your belt you can get to university with no A Levels. This is because Access to HE Diplomas are equivalent to 3 A Levels, and most universities accept them as alternatives to A Levels. Though, each establishment has its own entry requirements, so it is important to check these before you submit your application.  

For a postgraduate master’s qualification, you will need to have a degree at 2:1 or above and also have GCSE English and Maths at Grade C/4 or above. If you haven’t got the GCSEs, Functional Skills Level 2 in English and Maths are an ideal alternative. 

Along with your social work degree, you will also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and become a registered member of the HCPC, or your relevant regional standards council, before you can practise as a Social Worker.  

Do You Need a Degree to be a Social Worker? 

Yes, you need a bachelor’s degree in social work or a master’s degree in the subject if you already have an undergraduate degree in an unrelated subject. Undergraduate degrees in social work take different forms depending on the university, so look out for courses with BA, BS, BSSW or BASW in the title when searching for your undergraduate social work courses.  

You will need to make sure that, whatever course you pick, it is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) if you’re studying in England. If you’re studying in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland courses are approved by the Scottish Social Services Council, Care Council for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council respectively. 

Undergraduate degrees can be obtained at university or via social work degree apprenticeship schemes. To get on to an apprenticeship scheme you will need to have Level 3 qualifications (A Levels), which means that an Access to HE Diploma may also help you for this route into the profession if you wish to learn and qualify on the job through Social Worker training. 

What Does the Access to HE Diploma (Social Work) Involve? 

By opting to study the Access to Higher Education Diploma (Social Work) course, you will gain foundational knowledge of what it takes to become a Social Worker. UK learners should expect a mixture of study skills and academic-based social work course content in a social work Access course so that you gain essential subject knowledge, whilst developing the skills and confidence you need to thrive in a university environment. 

The academic modules in our social work Access courses cover core subjects, including: 

  • Health and wellbeing 
  • Psychology 
  • Crime and deviance 
  • Cognitive psychology 
  • Sociology of the family 
  • Contemporary issues in social policy 
  • Morals and ethics in social work 

The social work Access course content also includes the following: 

  • Sociology of health 
  • Combating discrimination and prejudice 
  • Poverty 
  • Social work methods 
  • Personal social services 
  • Psychobiology of stress 
  • Equality of opportunities in practice 

The Access to social work diploma is divided into credits, and you will need a total of 60 to achieve your Access to HE Diploma and widen your Social Worker prospects. A total of 600 study hours are recommended to achieve this, which means that you could complete your Access to HE Diploma in as little as 10 months if you dedicate 2 hours to studying each day.  

What makes this form of social work courses favourable is that they can be studied entirely online. learndirect is the UK’s leading online learning provider, offering a vast range of online training courses, including Access to Higher Education Diplomas. Access to social work courses online is a form of Social Worker training that enables you to complete the modules from the comfort of your own home. 

The social work course content can be accessed via our industry-leading digital platform 24/7 for the duration of your studies. What’s more, you will not need to do any exams to achieve your Access to social work distance learning course. Instead, these social work online courses are assessed via a series of assignments based on the modules covered. 


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How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker? 

A typical undergraduate degree in social work takes 3 years to complete, while a master’s degree can take up to 2 years to achieve. This means that you could qualify in as little as 2 years if you already have an undergraduate degree. 

For those who do not have previous qualifications and want to enhance their Social Worker prospects, you will need to achieve your Access to HE Diploma first. As mentioned above, this can take as little as 10 months depending on the frequency and length of your study periods.  

This makes the total time to qualify as a Social Worker just less than 4 years. If you take the maximum amount of time to complete your Access to HE Diploma (Social Work) – two years – you’ll be looking to qualify in 5 years from the beginning of your study with learndirect

What Field of Social Work Pays the Most? 

According to the National Careers Service, the average starting salary for a Social Worker position is £24,000 and can range up to £40,000 for those with experience, although there are no fixed national pay scales. Those working as a Social Worker in London will earn a little more than this to accommodate for higher living costs than in the rest of the UK. 

The majority of Social Workers operate within statutory services, which make up the public health system (e.g. social services and the NHS). These services tend to have specific pay bands and scales that are set for every aspect of care, making it difficult to pin down which area of social work pays the most. 

However, like most professions, higher salaries come with increased amounts of responsibility and experience (e.g. senior and managerial positions), especially if you are qualified in a speciality area of social work. 

For example, those in a managerial position within social work for the elderly can earn around £42,000, while heads of service in child protection could take home as much as £60,000 per annum, making this area of social work particularly lucrative. 

Improve Your Social Worker Prospects Today! 

If you are starting from scratch in your pursuit to become a Social Worker, UK residents need to gain relevant qualifications. An Access to HE Diploma (Social Work) will help you go to university to study social work courses at degree level. 

If you want to enrol on this social work Access course, or you want to know more information about our other online training courses, then speak to a Course Executive on 01202 006 464 or contact us online. Alternatively, click below to discover how you can study social work Access courses online. What are you waiting for? Take steps towards undergoing Social Worker training today! 


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