What’s the Difference Between Social Work and Social Care

If you’re looking at the welfare sector as an employer, then you have a lot of options. It needs a veritable army of people to keep the welfare state running, not just NHS doctors and nurses, but social workers, prison wardens, probation officers, and then another army of HR staff, administrators, managers and procurement specialist to ensure it has the supplies and structure it needs to keep turning.

Working in the welfare sector means security: whether you’re a doctor or a back-office worker, you’re vital to the running of the country. It’s true that junior doctors’ contracts and nurses’ pay have recently been in the headlines, but away from these high temperature topics you can be assured that your contribution is valued, and you have a clear progression from your inexperienced early days through to more senior positions, whether you’re interested in intense specialism, management or research and policy setting!

If the social sector is the one tickling your interest, there’s one major question hanging over you: there are jobs available in both social work and social care. They sound the same. What’s the difference?

Fortunately, the two professions are very similar, but the differences are very clear and easy to point out, and entering one does not bar you from eventually pursuing and rising highly in the other!

Social work is what might be termed a ‘profession’, if you’re being old fashioned, while social care is a job. Traditionally speaking, you need a degree to practise a profession, and that’s exactly true of the situation here. If you want to become a social worker you will need a degree in social work from a university. If you already have a degree, you’ll need an MA or if you have relevant experience or an adjacent qualification, you may be able to undertake a shorter term course to convert into a qualified social worker.

If you’re interested in social care jobs you don’t need a qualification from a university – you’ll receive on the job training, and gain the sort of experience you could transfer into a social work qualification as described above!

While social workers tend to work with systems, on a grander scale, social carers give more personal care, working with individuals, helping to interpret the different options available to them, providing vital services like shopping for food, and enacting the care plans devised by social workers to keep people healthy and as independent as possible.

While many social carers eventually convert into social workers, it’s a distinct and vital job and equally deserving of respect.