What experience should you get?

So you want to get onto a Social Work degree but you need experience. But what experience should you get? In general, any experience with vulnerable people! Universities and colleges normally ask for social care experience, though healthcare experience is just as valuable. Health and social care experience means being in a supporting/helping role where you are providing physical, developmental, psychological, social or emotional care and support. You may have personal experience – caring for a loved one, experience with social services from being in the care system etc. That’s invaluable experience! But volunteering and work experience will boost your application. You can work with a range of people, in a range of settings. You should aim to get a wide variety of experience and aim for around 3-6 months worth of experience.

Who can I get experience with?

Social workers work with a range of people. You can get experience with children and adults. You can work in a supporting/befriending role or in a caring role. You can get experience with children and adults who have/are:

– disabilities.
– mental health problems.
– homeless.
– carers.
– in the care system.
– elderly.
– terminally ill.
– are being fostered/adopted.
– are having problems at school, home etc.
– have learning, social or emotional difficulties.
– have long term illnesses.
– need to be protected.
– offended.
– are disadvantaged – in poverty.
– misused or misuse alcohol, drugs and substances.

There is a long list! But experience with any people that can be categorised in the list above is going to look good on your application. The children and adults you work with, need to be “vulnerable” in some way. They could be marginalised (pushed to the side), oppressed (put down) or discriminated against (pre-judged, judged and labelled). If you can stand out from the crowd with your experience then it will be beneficial if you put it into your personal statement.

You can work with people in all types of settings – in hospital, in their own home, in care and residential homes, in hospices, in schools, in day care etc. It helps to get experience in different settings too, so your experience is more varied. If you do this then you will gain experience with different professionals meaning you’ll be able to understand what other people in health and social care do to help people.

I followed the above steps and it really is beneficial! I gained a lot of skills related to social work from this. You can organise your own experience

What experience did you have before you entered a Social Work degree?

As I said I followed the steps above, I had a lot of personal experience – experiencing mental health issues, caring for and having family/friends with disabilities and learning difficulties/behavioural issues etc. I’ve experienced more but that is too personal for a blog post! In terms of work experience and voluntary experience I had the following:

– Volunteered with Age UK as a befriending volunteer for the elderly.
– Was a peer mentor and peer mediator since age 11.
– Ran a support service for young people who were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
– Youth coach.
– Volunteered as a care assistant for adults with mental health issues and learning difficulties.
– Volunteered as a support worker assistant for homeless young people in a supported housing project.
– Volunteered as a teaching assistant in a special educational needs school.
– Was a student governor, council member, course representative and safeguarding/equality & diversity representative in college.
– Helped to support teaching assistants with young people who had learning difficulties/behavioural difficulties.
– Volunteered at a nursery for disadvantaged preschool children.
– Volunteered to observe for a day at two special educational needs schools.

You just need to be able to show how the experience you have relates to Social Work and what skills, knowledge and experience you have gained from it.

I’d recommended using Do It, a volunteering website to find voluntary placements.

Remember:

– Gain experience with different people in different settings.
– Throw yourself into your work experience/volunteering. The more you put in the more you get out!
– Reflect. What did you enjoy about your experience? What didn’t you enjoy? Why? What did you learn? What skills did you get? What was your role? How does everything relate to Social Work? What were your strengths and areas for improvement?
– Get as much experience as you can – aim to get 3-6 months in one experience.
– Your personal experience is just as valuable as your work experience & volunteering.

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