If you have a passion for helping people, you may consider studying a social and community services course. These courses provide graduates with the skills they need to help those who may be experiencing difficulties in their lives — whether they are short-term difficulties, such as settling into a new area, or long-term struggles, including issues experienced by those living with a disability or illness. Sometimes the focus may be on a particular group, such as the aged, the poor or youth.
For more information about studying social and community services in New Zealand, visit the following websites:
What you can study
At certificate level, programmes include community support services; health, disability and aged support; offender management; youth work; community psychiatric care; and alcohol and drug studies. Courses at diploma level cover many of the same areas as certificates, with programmes also available in counselling, mental health support work, child and adolescent guidance counselling, health and human behaviour, and violence and trauma studies.
At undergraduate level, you can choose from programmes in addiction studies, social work, counselling and human services. You’ll find that there are also a number of social and community services specialisations available within arts or humanities degrees. Postgraduate social and community services programmes are available at postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma, masters and doctoral level. There are two types of courses available at postgraduate level — those that allow students who already hold relevant qualifications to gain further knowledge in a specialised area and those that allow students with backgrounds in other fields to gain the qualifications needed for practice in social work or counselling. There is also the opportunity for research.
Although registration of social workers and counsellors in New Zealand is not compulsory, employers are more likely to hire those who are registered with the relevant associations. To become a Registered New Zealand Social Worker you need gain membership to the Social Workers Registration Board. Membership requires an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in social work or applied social work from a recognised institution, as well as a Competence Certificate, which requires the completion of a competence assessment.
The minimum qualification needed for membership of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors is a diploma in counselling, although programmes are also available at undergraduate and postgraduate level. In addition to a recognised qualification, to gain membership to the association you must also complete 200 hours of face-to-face counselling practice, including 20 hours of supervised practice. Students enrolled in a counselling course are able to apply for provisional member status.
Where to study
Social and community services courses are on offer at a wide range of institutions across New Zealand, including universities, institutes of technology, polytechnics and private colleges. When looking at providers, you should look for opportunities for placements or work experience. If you are looking to become a registered social worker or counsellor, you need to make sure any courses you are considering are approved by the relevant associations.