Social Worker: Career profile

What is a Social Worker?

Social workers underpin community well-being. They are the champions of social justice who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, with the deepest respect for the worth and dignity of every individual. The world needs more such people and social worker professionals are in strong demand.

Meet a Social Worker

Social Worker

Katherine Ellinghausen, 31, is a Canberra-based youth and family support services case manager. When not supporting other families Katherine's raising her own. She's a dab hand at drawing, painting and cooking.

Describe your job in a sentence?

Social work is a multidisciplinary profession where human rights and social justice are the focus.

What education & training do you have?

  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Smart Recovery Facilitation
  • Interactive Drawing Therapy
  • Acquired Brain Injury
  • Self-Harming Behaviours
  • Best Interests Case Practice Training
  • Cultural Competency
  • Strenth-to-Strength Supervisor Training
  • Borderline Personality Training
  • Family Wellness
  • Tuning into Kids Facilitation Training
  • Mediation Training
  • Self Care

How has this training helped your Social Work career?

The degree has given me a solid understanding of the theoretical basis of my profession. (Becoming a mum in the third year of my degree showed I took family studies very seriously)

The ongoing training gives you a good framework for decision-making and practice.

Social work education in reality is a lifelong process of keeping up to date with practice standards and current research.

What skills do you most need as a Social Worker?

Having good intentions is wonderful, but you need to understand your own issues and judgments before working in this field so that they are not unjustly imposed on others.

You have to respect people and understand that behaviour doesn't necessarily determine the person. You have to be really transparent with people. Every decision you make must be evidence-based.

Just because you have a set of beliefs doesn't mean that is the right way and you have to make room for others' way of living.

What is the most satisfying aspect of the Social Worker's role?

When people have success and you have had a part in it.

People who were really struggling and you've been able to support them to reach their goal. The child who has not attended school for years re-engaging through distance education, or the mother reunited with her children after safety risks were removed from the home - they are the best moments.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

It is challenging to see children who have been treated in such a way that their language is violence.

It is challenging to watch people crumble before you and feeling as though the services are not enough: that there needs to be more services and more funding.

What advice would you give to aspiring Social Workers?

Definitely do some voluntary work. Try major charity organisations such as Lifeline, Melbourne Citymission.

Find volunteer roles on SEEK's or

Social work courses can take you down many different paths, from creating social policy and community development through to direct client work.

There is a lot of room for career redirection and it is a qualification you can travel with, and not only to Third World countries. They are always after Australian social workers in the UK.

Browse the full range of social work courses