Social work, childhood, and youth studies

If you love working with people and want to make a real difference, social work could be for you.

This is a challenging but rewarding career where you’ll work with children and adults in need, helping with everything from mental health to emotional challenges, to financial aid.

During your studies you’ll combine elements of sociology, psychology, law, care, and other skills that will prepare you for a role where you have to react quickly but compassionately.

There are opportunities for social work graduates – jobs are expected to grow by 1.92% over the next eight years. You could go on to specialise in one area of social work, move into management or training, or decide to study for a master’s or PhD. 

The impact you could make
  • Safeguard a vulnerable child from harm and abuse.
  • Organise a package of support to help an adult with learning disabilities live independently.
  • Design and deliver training for student social workers.
What you could study
  • Understanding social work
  • Communication and relationship building skills
  • Diversity, ethics, and values
  • Law and social work
  • Sociology for social work
  • Work placements
  • Safeguarding children and adults
  • Managing risk and complexity in social work

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

Chat to current social work, childhood, and youth studies students

Chat to current social work, childhood, and youth studies students using UniBuddy.

Some conversation starters for you:

  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?

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Example module
“I prefer the quite hard-hitting stuff. Not everyone is cut out for it and it can be quite upsetting at times, but that is where you can make the most difference.”
Master's student in social work, Glasgow Caledonian University
Example assignment
“I enjoyed human growth and development, as it looked at the psychology and social construction of society.”
Second year social work student, Coventry University

What are some things you didn’t expect about your chosen subject?

How much it has changed me as a person and deepened my desire to do the work.

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some social work, childhood, and youth studies courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.

Health and social care
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Social work
  • Mental health
  • Child protection
  • Learning disabilities
  • Risk analysis
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Planning
  • Resilience
  • Empathy

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying social work, childhood, and youth studies. The following information is based on a typical social worker role.

Available jobs
84,654 vacancies in the past year
3.48% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £53,398

What is a… life coach?

You may not have heard of a life coach, but they work with usually adults or teenagers, offering one-to-one conversations and guidance. Life coaches aim to help a client figure out their personal strengths and any areas they want to work on in their professional or personal life. You could work for corporations, or work with clients independently. Your social work skills around good listening, empathy, and understanding psychology will be put to good use in this type of role. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study social work, childhood and youth studies at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from social work, childhood and youth studies applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or an SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

A day in the life of a Public Health apprentice

The Expert View

Rebekah Pierre, British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Professional Officer
[Social work] is a challenging career for sure, needing emotional bandwidth. But no day is ever the same, and a single week can take you into schools, hospitals, courts or prisons, and you can specialise in anything from children’s mental health to palliative care. Helping vulnerable children and young people to reach their full potential in life is a true privilege, and in this career, you can be part of that transformation.

Let's talk about... nursing apprenticeships

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.
  5. Find out more

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around social work, childhood and youth studies with the following:
  1. British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

    Follow the BASW on YouTube to understand more about the industry and the kinds of things you’ll need to be aware of as a social worker. 
  2. The Dumping Ground

    Watch some of this light-hearted CBBC TV series set in a children’s care home. It gives an idea of some of the challenges children in care face, and some of the roles adult social and care workers play. 
  3. Community Care

    Scroll through this website for research and articles on social work practice, law, and policy.
  4. Channel 4 series ‘Kids’

    Follow real-life children’s care services and get a real insight in this Channel 4 series. It contains some strong language and is only suitable if you're aged 16+.

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our advice will help you get ahead in your social work, childhood, and youth studies journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • Illustrate when you’ve had to be resilient and/or make tough decisions. Maybe you’ve failed a driving test, had to resit some exams, or adjust to a change in your school or home environment.
  • Talk about what inspires you about social work, and that you have the determination and dedication needed. When else have you seen something challenging through to completion?
  • Show your care and compassion. Maybe you already volunteer at a care home, youth club or charity, or maybe you mentor younger students at school.
  • If you don’t have work experience with vulnerable people, mention other part-time jobs or volunteering. Do you teach a drama group or help at an after-school club? Even working in a restaurant requires patience and interpersonal skills.
  • Mention your hobbies or interests too. Show what makes you a well-rounded person, such as how you unwind by crafting, swimming, or football.

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