Social Worker

Social work is a modern profession, but the type of work they do is as old as the human race itself. Social workers are professional, qualified people who strive for the general well-being of people from every walk of life.

It is their task to analyse the deep-rooted causes of social problems, such as poverty, unemployment, illness, antisocial behaviour and other social inadequacies, and to help those concerned to overcome them. Specialised knowledge and an understanding of people are therefore essential in the job.

Their services are aimed at the individual, group, family, organisation, or community context and their environment, as well as at the interaction between people and their environment. These are the challenges facing the social workers on a day-to-day basis. Social workers try to help improve people’s behaviour or circumstances to enable them to once again play a meaningful role within their families, communities and society.

The following fields of service can be differentiated within the profession:

  • Child and family welfare
  • Marriage and divorce counselling
  • Elderly care
  • Medical social work
  • Psychiatric social work
  • Social work with mentally or physically disabled persons
  • Social work with alcoholic or drug dependants
  • Social work with offenders
  • Social work in the workplace
  • School social work.
Some of the social workers’ tasks are aimed at the prevention and elimination of social problems in the community. This involves close cooperation with specific members or groups within the community. In some cases, social workers work in close contact with other disciplines, such as doctors, psychologists and educationalists. Social workers identify social pressures and needs in a community, to employ existing resources or to establish those that might be lacking.

Communities may for example be in need of:
  • housing
  • improvement and development of the environment
  • facilities for leisure-time activities
  • day-care for pre-school children
  • centres for the care of school children after school
  • homes and service centres for the aged
  • rehabilitation centres
  • facilities for the disabled.

As with all professions, social workers are involved in research and administration. Tasks in this regard are aimed at the identification of problems and needs; the exploration of the most effective way of preventing such problems and resolving that need, and the maintenance and development of social work services.

In addition to interviewing clients at the office, at their homes and contacting other significant persons in their social environments, social workers are also responsible for large amounts of office work. This includes the preparation of reports on clients for welfare organisations, schools and courts of law.

Three primary methods are used by social workers in their professional work, namely: casework, group work and community work. These three methods are usually complementary to each other.

Case work: Case workers develop one-to-one relationships with individuals, visiting them to give personal assistance and encouragement.

Group work: Group workers organise group activities for people sharing similar problems, interests and needs; for example the organisation of recreational activities for the elderly.

Community work: These social workers identify needs in the community and helps to plan and develop health, housing, rehabilitation and other welfare services.

Social workers can be appointed by their employers to take charge in the training of social auxiliary workers. They have to be able to train pupils theoretically as well as practically and to integrate theory and practice.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working with different kinds of people
  • desire to serve others and help them to live fuller lives
  • sympathetic but objective
  • reliable and resourceful
  • even-tempered, tolerant and mature
  • able to inspire confidence in others
  • good understanding of human nature
  • above average intelligence and verbal abilities
  • good health and physical stamina

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects


Complete your National Senior Certificate (Matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's pass. In addition, meet the university minimum entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics

What to Study

Degree: BA (Social Work), BSoc Sc (Social Work) or BA (Social Sciences) - UP, US, UWC, NWU, NMMU, UL, UZ, UJ, UNISA, UCT, UFS, RU, UKZN, Wits.

The Huguenot College of the Dutch Reformed Church in Wellington offers a full-time 4-year B Diac degree course in Social Work with cooperation of UNISA.

Social work students are encouraged to continue their studies at post-graduate level. Various universities offer specialisation in fields such as: Social Work in the Workplace, Medical Social Work, Psychiatric Social Work, Supervision, Social Planning and Administration, etc.

Practising social workers must register with the South African Interim Council for Social Work.


  • government departments and provincial and local administration
  • SA National Council for Child and Family Welfare
  • National Council for the Care of Physically Disabled Persons in SA
  • SA Family and Marriage Society (FAMSA)
  • provincial hospitals
  • the Christian Social Councils of the DRC
  • SA National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependency
  • schools

Further Information

SA Council for Social Service Professions
37 Annie Botha Ave
Riviera, 0084
Tel: (012) 356-9940

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a social service agency
  • get involved in voluntary social work programmes
  • arrange to speak to a social worker about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Study Social Work at Stellenbosch University

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