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Social Work

Explore Australian social work study and career options

Join the growing field of social work and provide essential support to people in need. 

Social workers support individuals and families, connect them with other essential services and promote the rights and dignity of all people. As a social worker, you’ll become an essential part of Australia’s health and social care system and have the potential to make a huge impact on your clients’ wellbeing.  

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw thousands of people lose work and face both health and economic challenges. Add lockdowns to the mix – particularly for those experiencing family instability or domestic violence – and it’s no surprise that demand for social workers has risen sharply in recent years. 

Social work is a field where you can bring your personal and professional experience – along with the skills you learn through postgraduate study – to the fore and make a real difference to the lives of those you work with. 

If you want to provide frontline assistance to people facing personal challenges, postgraduate study to qualify in social work could be the right choice for you. 

Social work in Australia

Social work is recognised around the world as a discipline that ‘promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people’.  

In Australia, social workers help people improve their wellbeing and participate more fully in society. That could mean supporting people to make important changes in their lives, providing counselling to families experiencing challenges, advocating for a child’s safety, advising on social policy, or helping someone at risk of homelessness access the services they need.  

They operate in a range of different settings – including hospitals, schools, correction facilities, government departments, not-for-profit organisations and private practice. Over 74 per cent of Australia’s social workers are based within healthcare and social assistance industries, according to Labour Market Insights, with another 20 per cent spread across public administration and safety, and education and training. 

Job titles can vary according to the specific industry and role. Qualified social workers may also be called case workers, child protection officers, counsellors, support workers, mental health social workers, consultants or clinicians. 

Demand for social workers is growing substantially. In fact, job postings surged by a huge 38 per cent from 2020 to 2021.* And, according to the government’s Labour Market Insights, the number of social workers in Australia will grow from around 40,000 in 2021 to more than 49,000 by 2026 – a further increase of over 23 per cent. 

To qualify as a social worker in Australia, you need to complete either a Bachelor of Social Work (usually four years full-time study) or – if you’ve got an undergraduate degree in a different field – a qualifying Master of Social Work (two years full-time and equivalent part time). Courses must be accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), the industry body that regulates the profession. Many roles will also require a Working with Children Check. 

Studying social work as a postgraduate means you’ll bring valuable life experience to the table – an important asset when connecting with people from all walks of life.  

Studying social work as a postgraduate student

As a postgraduate social work student, you’ll learn about diverse social, cultural and regional communities in Australia, and the unique challenges they face.  

If you’re already working in a people-focused role, like teaching or nursing, you’ll bring plenty of transferable skills into your new career. During your master’s, you’ll build on those existing skills by studying social justice, mental health, models of care and more. 

You’ll also complete 1000 hours of practical experience within a real-world care setting, where you’ll have the opportunity to put theory into practice. 

Due to the course accreditation requirements of AASW, all accredited programs cover similar topics content and similar structure as graduate outcomes are requirements of accreditation. This is true for on-campus, online and hybrid programs. 

Social work careers in Australia

A career in social work is one where you can make a positive difference to the lives of everyday people facing challenges.  

Demand is high because life has been turbulent for many people in recent years. The far-reaching impacts of the pandemic, rising cost of living, the housing crisis and a health skills shortage – it’s all contributed to unprecedented instability for families and communities. By stepping up into a social work career, you’ll be prepared to provide frontline assistance to those who need it most. 

The skills you gain studying social work can serve you in many different personal and professional contexts. You’re not limited to on-the-ground social work roles, either – you could progress into leadership roles, advise on best practice as a consultant, or sidestep into a role shaping social policy. 

Social worker

  • Salary range: $84,000–$110,000+*
  • Social workers help people build the skills and access the resources they need to deal with challenges 
  • Salary expectations increase to up to $117,000 with three to five years of experience. 

Mental health social worker

  • Salary range: $84,000–$110,000+* 
  • Accredited mental health social workers are certified by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) and help people of all ages work through mental health disorders
  • They’re recognised by Medicare Australia, which means their clients can claim a rebate. 

 *According to reporting by Esmi (formerly Burning Glass International Inc., an analytics company providing real-time job market data.