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Studying Social Policy and Social Work in Germany

Social work is about helping people - in everyday life as well as in problem situations
An article by Antonia Kelloms

Studying Social Policy and Social Work in Germany
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Social Policy and Social Work

That is what it’s about

Many youth welfare offices are overburdened which also affects social work: The demand for social workers is great. But they not only help children and adolescents who are in trouble or have questions, but also support the disabled, for example, to lead a self-determined life, work with addicts or help refugees with the authorities and integration. Social workers and social educators (both job titles are common) help other people to cope with their everyday lives. The course is interdisciplinary, which means: It also includes pedagogical, sociological, psychological, political, business administration, medical and legal aspects. The degree program is available at state and private universities, in particular from church organizations, but also at some universities. Some colleges, such as the Evangelische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, offer degree courses in social work with an international focus. This orientation will later help the graduates to work with migrants in Germany.

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This is how the course runs

At the beginning of the course, you learn to work scientifically. Empirical foundations and research methods are on the curriculum, such as how to collect and interpret data. By means of role-playing, students practice coping with conflicts or settling family disputes. From the second or third semester, you will discover: What does the youth welfare office do? How do you work with migrants or people with disabilities? Work placements and practical projects are also part of the degree course. At many universities, they take place in the fourth semester. In order to obtain state recognition as a social worker, students must have at least 100 days of practical experience in social institutions, associations or public authorities. The prerequisites for accreditation vary from state to state and sometimes even within states. Students are free to choose the topic of the bachelor thesis. Afterwards, most people start to work. But you can also attach a master, for example for school social work or for psychosocial counselling and mediation.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How does the youth welfare office support families and young people in everyday life?
  • What are the tasks of street workers?
  • How do you get people to accept help?
  • What is meant by post-traumatic stress disorder?
  • How can you keep the necessary distance?
  • How does social work relate to volunteering?
  • How can the coexistence of people with and without disabilities succeed?
  • How can people treat each other more respectfully?

The subject suits you,...

...if you are helpful and empathetic, as that is important at work. Social workers often encounter people who consider themselves as having failed. They need to show them ways to help themselves. You have to be able to listen, understand complex situations, and you need assertiveness. It is important to balance human closeness with professional distance. Social workers have to deal with setbacks. "If things do not work out the way the protégé imagines, it can be frustrating," says Peter Schäfer, chairman of the social work department and professor at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. It is important for the course that you also deal with theories, articles and the history of the subject. It's not just a practical course. Anyone who does not have any training, for example as an educator or a social care worker should first do a voluntary service or an internship in order to check whether the profession suits him or her.

Is there a numerus clausus?

About two-thirds of the courses are subject to admission restrictions. Some universities require a suitable internship.

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