Social work

Read our sector outlook for the social work industry and find career resources and pathways for social work graduates.

Careers that make a difference

If you’re drawn to helping and advocating for others and have a strong passion for social justice, you should consider a career in social work.

Social Workers assist people, groups and communities to address their problems. With a focus on helping people in need, social work is a profession committed to social justice and respect for human rights.

As well as being highly fulfilling, the social work sector attracts those who are interested in the study of people, cultures and societies and would like to make a difference to individuals who are vulnerable or at risk, as well as to families and communities – through effective social work practice and research.

Our social work programmes take an integrated approach; combining key knowledge from the social sciences, social work theory and practice skills, and the impact of policy and legal systems, along with specialised knowledge for practice in health, child and family and youth social work services. You will also have access to the latest research findings in social work and related fields.

The emphasis of the programme is on developing culturally grounded and responsive practitioners who understand the diversity in local, regional and New Zealand communities.

Continuing education opportunities include postgraduate studies and professional development courses in professional supervision, counselling and social work.

Social work outlook

There is strong demand for social work graduates. According to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, the social work sector is projected to grow through to 2025.

Many social workers are aged more than 55 years old. Following their expected retirement, demand for new social workers will increase further.

Social work graduates enjoy a high degree of employability. Most graduates find employment two years after graduation, while some pursue further study or move overseas.

Occupation outlook

Social workers are generally employed by the government, district health boards, or non-governmental organisations. They can work with specific groups such as children, Māori or refugees, or can become experts in key issues such as mental health or addiction.

Other careers related to a social work qualification include disability support, community development, management or training.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment released an Occupation Outlook in 2016. It provides information about the likely incomes, tuition fees and job prospects for different occupations, including social work.

Read the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Occupation Outlook for social workers.

Job options

Social workers connect with the community. Our social work graduates are making a difference in diverse roles in government, not-for-profit or iwi/Maori agencies; schools; community organisations and programmes; and District Health Boards or other healthcare settings.

They often work with multidisciplinary teams to provide the best possible social work assessment, intervention planning and support services for society’s most vulnerable, to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Services provided by social workers are wide ranging and include:

  • One-on-one counselling
  • Group mediation
  • Advocacy
  • Social and financial support
  • Legal representation
  • Shelter and referral advice

Some social workers contribute to policy development or advise governments on specific welfare issues, such as domestic violence. In this way social workers can influence how services are delivered and how society responds to social issues.

Becoming a registered social worker

Graduates who complete the Bachelor of Social Work or Master of Social Work (Professional) will be qualified as a social worker and can work in a wide range of fields.

This degree is recognised by the Social Workers Registration Board, allowing you to apply for social work registration here and overseas.

More information about social worker registration can be found at the Social Workers Registration Board website.

Career opportunities

Stay up-to-date on relevant career opportunities for social work graduates.