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."

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Junior Asset Manager

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

SEN Tutor- Speech and Language Specialist part time

£80 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Recruitment Consultant - Life Sciences

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff