Social Worker

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The Role

Social workers give advice, practical help and emotional support to vulnerable people with problems or disadvantages, so that they can try to overcome their difficulties. Aim to help such people make constructive changes to their current lifestyle, or learn to live with what cannot be changed. They work as part of a team that covers a local geographical area and which specialises in social issues. These may include child protection (as they are legally responsible for those at ‘significant harm’) or school exclusions, or help for groups such as the elderly, or those of all ages with physical or learning difficulties. May specialise in one particular area of work such as people with HIV/Aids, or those who may have mental health problems. Social workers look at the needs of the client. They interview the client and develop a relationship of confidence. Arrange suitable help, follow clients’ progress and write reports. Liaise with other health professionals, psychologists and the Gardai, and attends meetings and conferences.

The professional qualification in social work is the National Qualification in Social Work (NQSW). It is a widely recognised qualification and allows Irish social workers to work in many different countries. It combines academic and practical training.

What is the difference between a social worker and a social care worker?

In a sense, the answer is straightforward. Social workers are typically employed by the health authorities (different branches of the health services or the Child and Family Support Agency) and are allocated ‘cases’ to manage. Legislation empowers the health authorities to take children into care and social workers are usually the officers used for this function. Social workers may initiate and manage this process. Social care practitioners typically work in a more immediate way with service users, sharing their daily living environment and interacting across a range of care, domestic, education and semi-therapeutic settings. They do not have a specific legal role, nor the power that comes with it. They are less likely to spend their working day in an office or behind a desk (although this is always a risk!) and are more likely to be found in a residential setting, at a youth club, in the street, at a community centre or with a family.

Courses Undergraduate courses that lead to qualification as social worker are the Bachelor of Social Work (Hons) from NUI Cork and the Bachelor in Social Studies (Hons) from Trinity College Dublin.

UCC Website

Trinity College Dublin



Postgraduate courses

Alternatively, if you have a social science degree, or equivalent (an honours degree in social care or conversion course such as Higher Diploma in Social Policy), and relevant work experience, you can take an approved postgraduate course.

Masters of Social Work at University College Cork Level 9 2 years full time

Masters of Social Sciences (Social Work) University College Dublin Level 9 2 years full time/ 4years part time

Masters in Social Work at Trinity College Dublin Level 9

Masters in Social Work at National University of Ireland Galway


Useful Links


Irish Association of Social Workers 114-116 Pearse Street Dublin 2 +353 (0)1 677 4838

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council (CORU) is the regulatory body for social workers in Ireland