A brief history of social work in Poland

Theory and practice of social work in the education system

Academic social work has been developing in Poland for about 30 years, with its first centers in Kraków, Łódź and Warsaw. Social work is not an academic discipline in Poland, but rather a major and refers to one of the three leading disciplines: pedagogy, sociology and political science. To this day, the theory derived from these disciplines is strongly present in social work studies!

Given the practical aspects, the studies are implemented in accordance with the Bologna System (3 +2), which means that the general qualification framework defines 240 hours of first-cycle studies, and the second-cycle studies are not defined at all, meaning that they do not have to be implemented. Approximately 40 entities in Poland are trained in social work and none of them choose not to practice at the level of 240-300 practice hours, however, they are very individualized and there is no general framework as education is autonomous (free).

Basics of performing a social work profession in Poland

Eligibility to work as a trainee is given to the person who received the diploma of the school which teaches in the field of social work.

Historically, we distinguish three periods of development of social work in Poland. The first period was 1960-1989, when social and vocational training took place in vocational schools and in vocational schools practically oriented. The second period is from 1989 to 2013 when social work was introduced into higher education institutions, and the training took place within the specialization of sociology, pedagogy and political science. The third period, which begins in 2013 and lasts until today, finishes the specialization phase and introduces the major of social work, which is in accordance with the Bologna System in 3 + 2.

Specializations and practical application

Since the late 1990s, there have been first and second degree professional specializations with the possibility of choosing specialties defined in the Social Welfare Act.

Supervision – has been introduced recently and is oriented towards the professional development of social workers. There is also the Code of Ethics for Social Workers and Social Welfare Workers worked out by the Polish Federation of Social Workers and Social Workers (http://federacjasocjalnych.pl/materialy/dokumenty). It is worth mentioning that The Polish Federation of Social Workers and Social Service Employees Unions is an independent and nationwide trade union organization established in 2012.

Social work in practice

In addition to the classic state welfare system, social work is present in local government and NGO’s – where many social work graduates are employed, although they positions they take at work are not necessarily consistent with the professional profile; and in a gradually emerging open market space.

In the legislative framework, social work does not have a statute regulating a profession, whereas its (occupation) definition is entered in the Social Welfare Act, that is one of the possible sectors of social workers activity.


Service user involvement in Kraków – FIRST Polish research study promoting mental health in student groups and applying it in social work education.

Open Spaces for Dialogue: Promoting Mental Health as a Social Work Education Methodology (read more)


Polish Federation of Social Workers and Social Service Employees Unions (Polska Federacja Związkowa Pracowników Socjalnych i Pomocy Społecznej)

Polish Association of Schools of Social Work (Polskie Stowarzyszenie Szkół Pracy Socjalnej)

Institute for Therapy and Social Education – Association (Instytut Terapii i Edukacji Społecznej – Stowarzyszenie)

Scientific Board of Social Work Students at Jagiellonian University (Koło Naukowe Studentów Pracy Socjalnej UJ)

Polish Journal of Social Work – Issues in Social Work (Zeszyty Pracy Socjalnej)