What qualifications do I need to be a social worker in South Africa?

How does one become a social worker?

In order to practise as a social worker in South Africa one needs to register with The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP). The SACSSP is a statutory body under which falls the Professional Board for Social Work and the Professional Board for Child and Youth Care Work. The Council, in conjunction with its Professional Boards, works to protect both the integrity of the social service professionals and the public at large.

The most direct route to becoming a social worker would be to enrol for a Bachelor of Social Work. During their degree students are required to register for specific courses within the Faculty of Humanities with majors in social work, psychology and sociology. In order to qualify students also have to register for an internship, which requires them to complete a number of hours of field instruction at an approved welfare organisation in the social service sector.

What are the admission requirements to becoming a social worker?

Like most Bachelor degrees a National Senior Certificate is required preferably with English as a first language, as well as a second South African language and mathematics (at least standard grade). Keep in mind that a degree can only teach you the skills, your natural aptitudes and passion will make up for the rest. To be a successful social worker it is vital that you tick the following boxes:

  • You enjoy working with different kinds of people from various cultures and walks of life
  • You have both a good IQ and a good EQ
  • You have a desire to serve others and help them to live their best lives
  • You are sympathetic, but also objective
  • You are reliable and resourceful
  • You inspire confidence in others
  • You have good communication skills
  • You’re tolerant and even tempered
  • You have a good understanding of human nature
  • You experience empathy easily

Social work is more than a qualification, it is a calling. Although hugely rewarding it can also be particularly harrowing, especially in South Africa. Unless in private practise, and not always then, social workers are often not paid particularly well. Often, as a social worker, you are working because of a passion rather than a paycheque. If social work is your calling however, the money won’t matter. Instead, you will be driven by your determination to make a lasting change and to help others. Perhaps Dieter F. Uchtdorf summarises this passion best when saying, “As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”