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

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King

Are you passionate about empowering others and evoking change? Does social injustice and inequality rankle you? Do you know that, deep down, you have the power to change the world?

Social Work is a fulfilling and rewarding career – and if you’re drawn to helping and advocating for others and feel strongly about social justice, it could be the perfect career for you.

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

Our social work programmes integrate theory with practical placements, 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. Students also have access to the latest research findings in social work and related fields.

You’ll be fully supported both in the classroom and out in the field throughout your study and emerge as a culturally grounded and responsive practitioner who understands the diversity in local, regional and New Zealand communities.

There are many opportunities to continue your development as a social worker after graduation, through postgraduate studies and professional development courses in professional supervision, counselling and social work.

Social work outlook

Social work graduates currently enjoy a high degree of employability, and according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the demand is set to continue to grow through to 2025. This is due to many social workers being over the age of 55. Following their expected retirement, demand for new social workers will increase further. Pay for social workers can vary depending on skills, experience, and employers - social workers usually earn between $53,000 and $102,000 per year, with senior social workers earning up to $113,000 per year in the public sector.

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 become experts in key issues such as mental health or addiction.

Other careers related to a social work qualification include disability support worker, youth worker, mental health and addiction worker, community development coordinator and child protection officer.

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

University of Auckland social work graduates enjoy a high degree of employability with most finding a job within two years of graduating. Others choose to pursue further study or move overseas.

Our social work graduates are making a difference at all levels of their communities, with 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.

Meet our graduates

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.