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infosheetsocialwork-226pxPeople, Diversity, Community - Mana Tangata

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Why Study Social Work?

People who are interested in helping others and their community will be drawn to studying social work. The purpose of social work is to enable people to develop their potential, promote their human rights and
pursue social justice. Professional social work focuses on problem solving and change. Social workers are, therefore, change agents in the lives of individuals, families and communities, as people’s problems often stem from factors in all these domains.

Social work ranges from direct work with individuals, working with organisations to become more responsive to people’s needs, right through to the development of social policy and legislation. The various roles include counselling, clinical social work, family therapy, helping people obtain services and resources, agency administration, community work, social policy, and political action.

Social Work at Otago

Otago’s involvement in social work and community development began in 1978. The programme has grown from a work-based certificate into full undergraduate degrees right through to postgraduate, masters, and PhD qualifications.

Our professional qualifications are recognised by the Social Workers Registration Board for social work registration (Social Workers Registration Act 2003). Also our qualifications have been professionally assessed and approved by the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.

A distinctive element of our majors is the attention to intervention skills and methods, which lead to a versatile career path, particularly when taken with other social science disciplines. The combination of many
different academic subjects and ‘hands on’ skills/methods provides many new career opportunities.

See detailed information about Social Work papers.

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Background required

No specialist knowledge is required, but an interest in working with people is important. Subjects to take at school include English, Māori, and other social science subjects. To go on to the professional programmes some experience with a social service organisation such as the Buddy Programme, Youthline, Women’s Refuge, IHC, etc. is needed.

Career opportunities

Job opportunities arise in both policy and practice in a range of human services in education, health, welfare and justice sectors. These include government social service agencies, voluntary, and community agencies. Graduates work as health workers, social workers, teachers, probation officers, counsellors, advocates, community workers, policy advisors and analysts, and researchers.

Students are encouraged to tailor courses to their career aspirations by combining social work courses with other subjects to open up new fields of opportunity such as:

  • Community development
  • Cultural services
  • Correctional services/Police
  • Health services
  • Individual care and counselling
  • Law
  • Māori and Iwi development
  • Management
  • Policy advice and development
  • Political studies
  • Treaty based services