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Social workers are in demand - SMH

Published: 9 December 2017

When the going gets tough, advice from a counsellor or social worker can make all the difference.

Jobs in both professions are set to boom, according to Department of Employment figures, with work for skilled counsellors predicted to grow by more than 24 per cent and demand for social workers to rise by 22.5 per cent by 2022.

That's good news for school leavers thinking about working in youth justice, child protection, mental health, aged care and community care, or starting a career in counselling.

Although forecasters predict many jobs will be replaced by automation and dig-bots, giving grief-stricken children and adults a welcoming smile and on-the-spot professional guidance may well survive for many years yet.

Most universities and colleges offer counselling and social work degrees, average ATAR, 70.

Some are three-year full-time courses, some four, with eligibility to join the Australian Association of Social Workers.

University of Notre Dame Sydney student Sarah Rachel Priest wants to work towards a fair society that has equal access - an approach summed up by the great Australian phrase "a fair go".

Despite belonging to a generation sometimes labelled as being, ahem, a little self-absorbed, Priest says the number of students keen to enrol in social work and related degrees shows otherwise.

"The vast majority of students in this generation show career traits of being empathetic, compassionate and offer a non-judgmental approach," says Priest.

Her dream job? "Work as a professional counsellor as part of a team for an organisation which aligns with my morals and values for helping people."

Helping others is what drew Athena Bozinakis to enrol in a bachelor of social work at the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP).

"I've seen how destructive poor mental health can be, and witnessed the effects of poverty in my mother's home country, the Philippines."

The second year student says she wants a career that is both worthwhile and offers decent pay.

"I know that one person cannot single-handedly change the planet, however the world desperately needs more people striving towards change. Becoming a social worker is my way of contributing to the movement," she says.

Social work is an essential element in many parts of the economy, says ACAP's Professor Sharon Moore. "From hospitals to Indigenous organisations, schools and community services to the private sector, ageing and disability care to roles in international development," Moore says.

Social work is dominated by women. That may go some way to explaining the sector's average weekly earnings - $1364 before tax, according to federal government figures.

However, "significant demand for skilled workers in the social and welfare sectors" has seen universities and colleges expand their course options, says Dr Cate Thill, Dean and Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, at Notre Dame Sydney. It's driven in part by a growing prevalence and increased recognition of disability and mental illness and Australia's ageing population, says Thill.

Online in 2018

A bachelor of dementia care is offered by the University of Tasmania. It's online-only and both diploma and degree students, including interstate students, may be eligible for HECS scholarships (ie, no tuition fees). See

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers