Social Worker Kaimahi Toko i te Ora

Social workers provide care, advice and support to people with personal or social problems, and help with community and social issues.

Social workers need to be registered with the Social Workers Registration Board and have a current Annual Practising Certificate. 

Non-registered social workers have until 2021 to become registered. You'll need to register to keep practising under the title of social worker.

Social workers may do some or all of the following:

  • support people in crisis, talk to them about their problems, and help them make decisions
  • help people to access benefits and accommodation
  • advise people on their rights and ways to improve their lives
  • write reports and case notes
  • advise policy-makers about solutions to social problems
  • work with communities to help build on their strengths.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for social workers includes:

  • welfare agency work
  • youth or community work
  • nursing work
  • teaching work
  • work with families, children or people with disabilities
  • counselling and support work, or other work that involves helping people
  • work within an iwi or Māori social service
  • work with people from various cultures.

Personal Qualities

Social workers need to be:

  • excellent communicators who can relate to people of all ages and cultures
  • good decision makers, with excellent problem-solving skills
  • understanding, empathetic, patient and honest
  • reliable, adaptable and able to cope with stressful situations
  • able to keep information private and work within a code of ethics
  • well organised, with good planning skills.


Social workers need to have:

  • knowledge of social work practice and theories
  • an understanding of social and cultural issues and problems
  • knowledge of human behaviour, development, relationships and social systems
  • counselling and negotiating skills
  • knowledge of social policy and how it is developed
  • an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Social workers specialising in working with Māori communities must have knowledge of te reo Māori and tikanga (Māori language and culture).


Social workers:

  • work full time or part time and may work long hours, be on call or do shift work
  • work in schools, hospitals, homes, marae, government agencies, residential centres and courts
  • may work in stressful conditions, dealing with challenging and highly distressed clients
  • may travel locally to visit people.

Social Workers can earn around $53K-$102K per year.

Pay for social workers varies depending on their skills, experience, the type of work they do and their employer.

Pay for social workers at Oranga Tamariki:

  • Qualified social workers usually earn between $61,000 and $102,000 a year.
  • Social workers with extra responsibilities, such as supervisor social workers, can earn between $82,000 and $106,000.

Pay for social workers at district health boards (DHBs):

  • Social workers employed usually start on $53,000 and progress to $72,000 a year.
  • Senior social workers with extra responsibilities can earn between $75,000 and $113,000.

Sources: District Health Boards/Public Sector Association, 'Allied, Public Health & Technical Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, 2020; and Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children and PSA, 'Collective Agreement 1 December 2018 - 30 June 2021', 2021.

Experienced social workers may move into management roles. They may also move into other areas, such as:

  • policy-making
  • research
  • teaching.

Social workers may specialise in working with certain groups, such as:

  • children, young people, and their families
  • older people
  • Māori communities.

Social workers may also specialise in certain areas, such as:

  • mental health
  • drug or alcohol addiction
  • disability
  • violence prevention
  • community development.

Years Of Training

4-6 years of training usually required.

To become a social worker you need to have a recognised qualification such as:

  • Bachelor of Social Work or Applied Social Work
  • Ngā Poutoko Whakarara Oranga - Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work
  • Poutuārongo Toiora Whānau - Bachelor of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work.

You also need to be registered with the Social Workers Registration Board.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Social Worker