Apply for Step Up to Social Work

The qualifications and experience you need to apply for Step Up to Social Work and details about the course.


Step Up to Social Work is an intensive, 14-month, full-time programme for trainee social workers.

Trainees will work in a local authority, gaining hands-on practitioner experience and academic learning.

Successful trainees will be awarded a postgraduate diploma in social work once they complete the programme, allowing them to register and practise as a social worker.


Applications for Step Up to Social Work are currently closed.

The Step Up to Social Work programme accepts applications every 2 years. If we confirm another cohort of the programme, the next application round would open in early 2021, for training to start in 2022.

Please keep checking this page for further updates.


Trainees will receive a bursary of £19,833 for the duration of the course. This may be subject to change.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have one of the following in any discipline except social work from a UK higher education institution (or an approved overseas equivalent):

  • a minimum 2:1 level 6 degree qualification, for example, a degree with honours or a graduate certificate
  • a minimum 2:2 honours degree plus a higher degree (level 7 or above), for example, a Master’s degree or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education

Applicants must also:

  • have GCSEs in English or English language and mathematics at grade C or above (or approved equivalent)
  • have a minimum of 6 months experience of voluntary or paid work with children, young people or families
  • live in England

You can find out more about what qualification levels mean and the approved equivalents.

Applicants will need to provide evidence of their qualifications with their application.

Your application will not be considered if you do not meet all of the eligibility criteria, or if you cannot provide evidence of your qualifications.

Applicants should:

  • have the emotional resilience to become an effective social worker
  • understand social work theory and research
  • be aware of the risk indicators of different forms of harm to children
  • demonstrate intuition and logic in decision-making
  • show the ability to record accurate child and family assessments
  • have an understanding of the knowledge and skills statements for child and family social workers - which all applicants will be assessed against
  • familiarise themselves with the Professional Capabilities Framework for social workers (entry level)

Step Up to Social Work trainees and other student social workers must complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before being accepted onto the programme.

Course and placement

Trainees will be expected to complete a minimum of 170 placement days of social work experience in local authorities.

The course will cover topics such as:

  • social work ethics and practice
  • child development
  • assessment of risk
  • the legal framework

All programmes must meet the regulators’ approval. The regulators are the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

Assessment and supervision

Local authorities and universities decide on the way they assess the course. It is usually a mixture of written assignments and exams.

The local authority will assign trainees to a supervisor for placements and the university will supply a tutor for academic supervision.

After the course

Trainees who finish the programme successfully will qualify with a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work. They will be able to register as social workers with the HCPC.

Over 80% of graduates so far have been successfully recruited into social work jobs at the end of the course.

You can find out more information about a career as a social worker.

Published 13 August 2014
Last updated 11 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Added information about potential future application rounds.

  2. 'Register your interest' section changed to 'Apply' because the application period is now open. Added link to Step Up website and date information.

  3. Added information about the next application round and a link to register your interest. This includes changes to the eligibility criteria.

  4. Updated guide because the application process closed on 5 May 2017.

  5. The application process is now open until Friday 5 May 2017.

  6. Added date for applying: 28 March 2017

  7. Updated the application process, eligibility requirements and course content for the next cohort of the Step Up to Social Work programme.

  8. Added details of how to register your interest for cohort 5.The application process will take place in spring 2017, and training will begin in 2018.

  9. Updated guide because the application window for cohort 4 of the programme closed on 1 May 2015.

  10. Added information on applying to cohort 4 (ie the fourth intake) of the Step Up to Social Work programme.

  11. Updated details about cohort 4 of the Step Up programme and clarified the eligibility criteria.

  12. First published.