The science of giving back: An MSc in social work

 

It's sometimes thought that undergraduate life is too closeted to provide any real preparation for the world of work. One career path that illustrates this neatly is social work. How could life in lecture theatres, seminars and nightclubs prepare a 21-year-old for the potential anguish and grit of social work?

Steven Jones, 22, who graduated from Durham University last year, managed to get a place on a two-year Masters course in social work at Bristol University, with the lion's share of fees paid, indirectly, by the Government. "I'm the youngest and the odd one out on the course," he concedes, in recognition of the fact that these courses are usually populated by people that already have postgraduate experience.

However, the key ingredient to his success was experience that he accumulated at Durham. "The reason I got on to the course was that I worked as a voluntary welfare officer at my college," he says. "I ran a drop-in service for students, ran campaigns on topics such as alcohol awareness and sexual health, and organised an inclusion week."

All this experience must have given him an impressive grasp of what's needed for social work, since he won his place on the course via a Skype interview: a course of action necessary because he was doing his finals at Durham when Bristol were finalising their recruitment.

His course, like all social work Masters across the country, is a blend of academic study and practical experience. The first term consisted of three days in university and two days' private study. Topics covered included mental health, disability, gay issues, the law relating to social work, human rights, and sessions on interviewing techniques and communication. A key element was students being given ownership of how seminars are run.

"As an undergraduate, I never found seminars particularly useful. But at Bristol, where we're encouraged to run them ourselves, I've found them really good. It's great to be able to hear everyone contributing their different experiences."

In the new year, the practical element started, with Jones spending four days a week on a work placement with a charity near Bristol called Southern Brooks Community Partnership. Here, he fills a number of roles, chiefly working with families and young people.

"In the family services team, I'm seeing housing problems and drug abuse issues. I've also been doing mentoring in schools around social skills and anger management. What I really like about this place is that it's so closely linked to the community – it's so refreshing to see people who have been doing social work for so long that still have such a fierce conviction of social justice."

Jones values the mix of practical work and theory, and he is reassured to know that he's on the right course. "It's difficult balancing full-time work with academic study, and I've learnt that you have to be realistic. You can't change the world, and if you have preconceived ideas going in, you will struggle. The trick is to value every bit of progress and positive change and realise how much this can mean to an individual."

His first placement has confirmed his intention to work with children after his Masters. "I've always thought I'd work with young people, and next year I've applied to do my placement in child protection and youth offending. I just think that early intervention with young people is so important."

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Trainee Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Trainee Sales Executive is re...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003