This section looks at the work of those professionals who help others work through their problems and guide them in the right direction. These include social workers, social care workers, and counsellors.

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Jobs and salaries

There’s a distinction between social work and social care work:

The General Social Care Council of England explains that the purpose of social work is to, “help people to live more successfully within their local communities by helping them find solutions to their problems.”

Social workers are “professionally qualified staff who assess the needs of service users and plan the individual packages of care and support that best help them.” 

However, professional qualifications are not required in order to become a successful social care worker. Social care workers provide important practical support to help people maintain their independence and lead fuller lives.

There are many different types of counselling jobs and these can be found in both the private and public sector. Many counsellors are in fact self-employed.  

You could also consider a career in careers guidance: take a look at our career sector on human resources and employment.

See indicative salaries for:

Routes and qualifications

Professional qualifying training for social workers in the United Kingdom is now by way of a degree in social work. In England, these courses are approved by the Health & Care Professions Council.You can search for approved universities and colleges here.

Find out how to train as a social worker in England, as well as in Wales, or in Scotland, or in Northern Ireland.

No specific qualifications are needed to become a social care worker.

From 2011, some roles within the counselling profession will become regulated by the Health Professions Council, which means that these counsellors will have to join a professional register in order to practice. The training process for counsellors is likely to change as a result of this.
Other types of counselling, including psychotherapy, remain unregulated although this situation is also likely to change.

If you are interested in training as a psychotherapist visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Funding and support

Bursaries are available to social work students. These are administered by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).

Also check out the pages on student finance from, and/or contact the funding or careers departments of the organisations you are considering training with.

What's it really like working in this sector?

All the roles in this sector have something in common – people and, in particular, helping other people either practically or emotionally or, sometimes, just by listening. If you think that you would find this kind of work rewarding then you’re probably heading in the right direction.

  • We have a selection of careers videos from people working in this profession.
  • Read some case studies to find out what it’s like to be a social worker.
  • Would-be counsellors should look at this.

How many jobs are there is this sector?

  • The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has 12,500 members.
  • Some 150,000 people in Wales receive care services at any one time.
  • The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has 32,000 members.

Location, location, location

You might find yourself working anywhere in the UK but, unlike many other professionals, you may find yourself working in other peoples’ homes, out in the community.

Will a career in this sector suit me?

Working with other people is likely to mean that every day will be different and challenging.
For any of these roles you are likely to succeed if you are a good listener who enjoys working with people and if you are sensitive, caring and understanding.

Social workers work not only with people who use the service, but also with their families, neighbours and friends as well as with other organisations such as the police, the NHS and schools.