How to change your current study to Social Work degree In Australia

What is Social Work?

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that 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 work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.

Why is there an increased interest in international study of Social Work in Australia?

There are various factors involved in the choice to pursue studies in the social work field for international students who want to study in Australia. Primarily, international students that choose to study social work tend to have a great interest in social responsibilities, social sciences and the overall importance of human rights and services. However, there are also great job opportunity options as well as easier pathways for permanent residency through skilled migration in Australia.

That is why currently many international students are deciding to change into social work degrees. Students can choose to study Master of social work if they already have studied a bachelor’s degree and have taken some subjects or previous studies in social related subjects. But if they are currently studying bachelor's degree or they have recently graduated from year 12, they can study Bachelor of social work. 

International Student’s Backgrounds

We can see an increasing number of international students with various backgrounds such as IT, Computer, engineering, Education etc.. wanting to change to a Social work degree in Australia. Australian universities provide admissions for those students as long as they have studied public health or social sciences related subjects they can qualify primarily to apply for social work. Otherwise, some Australian universities provide a pathway into Master of social work. 

Areas of previous study that can be considered as credit towards Social work

The social sciences are focused on understanding society and its institutions. The social science disciplines represented by the Academy include:

Accounting, Anthropology, Demography, Economic History, Economics, Education, Geography, History, Law, Linguistics, Management, Marketing, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Social Medicine, Sociology, Statistics.

New Admission Requirements

IELTS is the main prerequisite for students who are interested in studying or changing to the social work degree. Applicants must demonstrate that they have an IELTS of overall 7, 

There is new admissions requirements regarding English proficiency for Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work (Graduate Entry) for 2021 onwards. The Australia Association of Social Workers (AASW) released the final version of the new accreditation standards earlier this year, which will come into effect in 2021.


Applicants must demonstrate they have an IELTS or equivalent overall score of 7.0 with 7.0 in listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Evidence can be through the completion of approved secondary or tertiary qualification taught in the English language in a country where English is the official or primary language spoken. Alternatively, completing a pre-course English program from an approved ELICOS provider or valid and accepted English language test result, as per the University’s policy.

Credit Transfer

There are limitations on credit transfer available to applicants for these courses where all students must undertake all core social work topics and cannot be exempted from these topics on the basis of qualification that led to their initial acceptance to the course. Students transferring from one AASW accredited course to another of the same Bachelor level will get credit for equivalent topics, including core social work topics, up to the maximum allowed by the University.

Master of Social Work (Graduate Entry)

Applicants must hold a bachelor degree or equivalent qualification in any discipline other than social work; and must also have completed the equivalent of one year full-time (36 units) of social science (as defined by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia ie education, psychology, law, political science, history, accounting, economics, marketing, sociology, management, geography etc) topics within their undergraduate studies.

Applicants with less than a full-time year or no social science studies in their undergraduate degree should apply for the Graduate Certificate in Society and the Individual (SATAC code 2GC144) to meet this requirement.

As selection is based on academic merit applicants who do not have a competitive Grade Point Average but meet the social science studies requirement may wish to complete a Graduate Certificate such as Graduate Certificate in Loss, Grief and Trauma Counselling (SATAC code 2GC036) or Graduate Certificate in Counselling Vulnerable Children and Young People (SATAC code 2GC140) as they will achieve a new GPA for consideration provided the course is completed in its entirety.


Applicants must hold a Bachelor degree or equivalent qualification and must also have completed at least a one-year full-time equivalent study at Bachelor degree level or above in social and behavioural sciences. The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia is a useful resource on what study areas make up social and behavioural sciences.

Social Work Job opportunities:

There are many challenging and fascinating career pathways for professionally qualified social workers. After they have completed the accredited social work university education, social workers may go on to undertake roles in casework, counselling, advocacy, community engagement and social action to assist people at both the personal and social level.

Social workers also contribute to policy development, education and research, particularly on issues of social justice, disadvantage and marginalisation. They are also concerned with the wellbeing of individuals, families, groups and communities and always work with people in the context of their physical, cultural, social and structural environments.

Some of those career opportunities include professional social work positions in hospitals, community health care, child protection, justice, community development, local government, government policy, social research, advocacy and many more.

Post-Study Work Visa

Studying social work at a regional campus allows you to apply for the Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485). This visa is for international students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution. It allows the applicant, if successful, to live, work and study in Australia, temporarily for up to 4 extra years depending on the qualification. It also allows the applicant to bring immediate family to come and stay with them.

Permanent Residency:

If students have completed an AASW accredited Bachelor of Social Work or Master of Social Work, they are eligible to apply for a skills assessment through the AASW. The AASW must be able to verify that you met all the higher education provider requirements and have or are eligible to graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work or a Master of Social Work. The AASW must also see evidence that all applicants for migration skills assessment purposes meet the AASW English language requirements.

A list of accredited courses can be found on the AASW website under AASW Accredited Social Work programs by State and Higher Education Provider.

What are the considerations as to which university students should choose?

With the current scenario, students prefer to go to regional universities. In Victoria, the most popular is Federation university because of the fees especially after the scholarships the fees go down. 

University Key Selling Points:

Federation university

In case a student hasn't completed the pre-requisites in previous studies, Federation has a pathway program which is a graduate certificate of Social and Community services which will be available to start in Semester 2, 2020 at the Berwick Campus (non regional area).... Master of Social Work for Semester 1 commences at the Berwick campus and for Semester 2 at the Ballarat campus. In Semester 1 2021 the graduate certificate will be available in Ballarat.

There are 2 options: 

For the students who do not meet the one year full study, and don't mind studying in a non regional area, they have the option to commence at the Berwick campus. They study the 2nd Semester- July graduate certificate followed by Semester 1 of the following year at the Berwick campus Master of Social Work. However, There is also an option to commence studies in Semester 1, 2020 at the Ballarat campus which is a regional area, leading into Semester 2 Master of Social Work.

If the student wishes to commence the  main course in January then it will be at the Berwick Campus and then at the Ballarat Campus in semester 2. Similarly, if it's a graduate certificate, it will be the opposite.

If students wish to study in Ballarat, then they are required to start in July in Australia so that they study for 6 months during semester 2 2020 and change for semester 1, 2021. If the student arrives in Australia for the Semester 1 intake, then they must study for an entire year and then change.

Post Study Work visa rights

Studying Social Work in Ballarat will give students 4 years (2+2) of post study work rights. However, the students have to meet the first 2 year requirements, they have to still be studying in the regional area to be eligible for the extra 2 years. If a student studies for 2 years full time, they will be eligible for a Post graduate work visa for 2 years. If the student has lived in those regional areas for 2 years, then they will get an additional 2 years. This is exclusive to the Ballarat campus and  La Trobe Albury-Wodonga campus only. Studying anywhere else will only entitle the student for 1 additional year on top of the 2 years.

For students studying 2 years or more full time, then they are entitled to additional years, whether it's one or two years depending on the region that the students are living, because some areas in Australia are considered more regional than others depending on their geographical location. For example, at the moment, Perth and Adelaide are considered regional but students only get 1 year additional. So this extra one year is for most of the regional areas, but the additional extra year is mostly for Federation university (All campuses in Ballarat) and La Trobe University (Albury-Wodonga campus).

University of Tasmania

Most universities have social work but they don't have the pathway like Federation uni that recently came up with the graduate certificate leading to Master.

University of Tasmania offers a main course/package course Bachelor of Social Work leading to Master of Social Work: 1 year of Bachelor of Social work (Honours) then the students receive credits to go for the Master of Social Work for 2 years. This means the students receive a double degree upon completion.

The advantage of studying in Tasmania is the eligibility of the state nomination, the 491 visa the students can apply for after studying for 1 year. Tasmania gives state nomination or sponsorship due to the low population, it provides an incentive for students to remain in the region and live there for their opportunity to claim a 4 years temporary visa. 

So the advantage of studying in Tasmania is the opportunity for the student to apply for a Skilled Work Regional Visa or 491 visa subclass after graduation which gives them the opportunity to live in that regional area for 5 years and apply for permanent residency after 3 years.

Flinders University

Unlike Federation University, Flinders University does not have a pathway program. Students who study at Flinders receive an additional year on top of the 2 years of post study work rights . During their studies they pass practical courses (CRICOS registered courses) and experiences at the university. They are also required to complete 980 hours of work based stream. This is beneficial for the students because due to the intimate size of the community, they are more likely to be hired if they excel.

La trobe University

La Trobe's Master of Social Work is for graduates of other disciplines who wish to move into social work from a related area. The course will prepare you to work in direct practice, social policy, social research, organisational planning and administration, and to conduct effective community work.

You can study the course for two years full-time or three to four years part-time at our Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo, Melbourne, Shepparton and Mildura campuses.

Practical placements allow you to gain valuable skills and experience in the field by working alongside professionals. In each year of your course, you'll complete a 70-day block placement during which you'll be supervised by a qualified social worker and will work towards developing the skills required for professional practice. You might even choose to complete your placement overseas with one of our partner organisations in Fiji, India, Nepal or the Philippines.

Charles Sturt University

The Master of Social Work (Professional Qualifying) encompasses areas such as child protection, cross-cultural and Indigenous studies, ethics, human rights, law, mental health, social policy, and in-depth study of social work methods and theories. You'll learn about people, communities, groups and social structures and how to think, communicate and respond to need and opportunity.

Achieve an internationally recognised qualification

Charles Sturt University's Master of Social Work (Professional Qualifying) has full Australian Association of Social Workers accreditation, meaning your qualification is recognised throughout Australia. As a graduate, you'll also be eligible for membership of the International Federation of Social Workers.

Benefit from our reputation

CSU is a leading provider of social work education in Australia with more than 27 years' experience delivering social work programs.

Gain authentic experience

You'll develop strong practical skills and hands-on learning through 1000 hours of supported workplace learning, offering unique opportunities to observe, question and model social work behaviour. If you choose, you can broaden your horizons by embarking on a two-week social work tour in a country such as India, China or Indonesia.

Learn from leading educators

Whether you're studying full-time or part-time, you can be assured of quality learning support and personal contact from dedicated staff who have extensive industry experience and are leaders in their profession. Charles Sturt University's award-winning academics have contributed to the development of social work education in Australia and are continuously engaged in extensive education-based research to inform Charles Sturt University's field education and international programs.

Master of Social work in non-regional area

For those who want to remain in metropolitan cities and still would love to practice social work, these are the following options that you can benefit from:

Monash University

This course prepares graduates for careers as professionally qualified social workers.

The course includes studies in theory, skills development and supervised professional practice, and opportunities for group-based learning, community engagement, practice research and integration of social work theory and practice. Theoretical content builds on knowledge acquired by graduates in previous higher education, while social work skills components and professional practice introduce students to contemporary social work practice.

The course is accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), including 1000 hours of supervised professional practice.

RMIT University

Social workers promote human wellbeing and foster social inclusion. They mobilise the forces of individuals, the community, and state organisations to transform lives and create lasting and meaningful social change.

RMIT has been teaching social work for over 40 years, and our programs continue to reflect up-to-date ideas about social work and its place in a changing world.

Our graduates are resilient, outspoken members of society who advocate a fairer world for all.

Field education forms a large component of the social work course. You'll undertake 140 days of work placements within human and community service organisations.