There are around 11,000 social workers registered with the Scottish Social Services Council in Scotland. Social workers work in local authorities, in hospitals and prisons and for voluntary sector and independent sector providers. They can also work independently as consultants. These pages give you information about the social work profession as well as information about becoming a social worker in Scotland.

What is social work?

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline. It promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.

How do I become a social worker?

In Scotland, social work is a registered profession. To practice as a social worker, you must have a recognised social work qualification and be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council. Only qualified and registered social workers can use the title ‘social worker’.


You are a qualified social worker if you have one of these recognised social work qualifications:

  • BA (Hons) Social Work
  • Diploma in Social Work

You might also have:

  • Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (issued by Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work from 1971 to 1998)
  • Certificate in Social Service (issued by Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work from 1975 to 1995)
  • Letter of comparability to Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (issued until 1990)
  • Courses recognised by the Association of Psychiatric Social Workers
  • Courses and certificates recognised by the Institute of Medical Social Workers (previously the Institute of Almoners)
  • Probationary Certificate (issued by the Recruitment and Training Committee of the Advisory Council for Probation and After Care until 1971)
  • Certificate in Social Work (issued by the Council for Training in Social Work from 1962 to 1971)
  • Certificate in Child Care or letter of recognition (issued by the Home Office Central Training Council in Child Care from 1947 to 1971)


Once you have a social work qualification, you will need to apply to the Scottish Social Services Council to be placed on their Register in order to practice. The SSSC Register was set up under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 to regulate social service workers (including social workers) and to promote their education and training. To register, social workers need to pay a fee of £80 each year and provide evidence of post registration training and learning (PRTL). Social workers need to provide evidence that they have undertaken at least 15 days of training and learning each year, 5 days of which should focus on child and adult protection.