Hi i am currently working as a paralegal in a recoveries department. I absolutely hate my job, its extremely stressful, unrewarding and very hardcore. I am thinking of changing my career to social work and want to do my masters in social work on a part time basis in september. I heard there is a big demand for social workers and its more rewarding.
Further to Purple Rose's comments above, I'd like to add that a lot of councils are cutting back on their secondments for employees or graduate training schemes at the moment due to budget cuts, so I wouldn't rely on that as an in-route. Also, there are a lot of gripes and groans on the Community Care website mentioned above about newly qualified workers being unable to find work due to lack of experience. It seems to me like a similar thing is happening with social work as happened with law a few years back whereby people were getting their degrees but couldn't find training contracts. A few people I know who qualified recently are working in unqualified support worker roles to get more experience and to keep the money coming in while applying for qualified posts.
I'm due to finish my Masters in September, and I've enjoyed it very much. However, your description of paralegal work as "stressful, unrewarding, and very hardcore" can just as easily apply to social work. I love what I do, but it's pretty thankless and most parents I work with aren't particularly pleased to have me involved (e.g. refusing to answer the phone or the door, leaving abusive anonymous voicemails or making threatening phone calls, threatening to call the police on me when I give an answer they don't like) . Even on placement, I've been working long hours, but not as long as some of my colleagues. I've worked with a fair few cases that aren't very pleasant and one of my tutors' favourite sayings is that social workers work with "the mad, the sad and the bad" of society. Balancing the academic side of things with my placement and living off of peanuts for two years has been really tough too.
Sorry to sound a bit of a Debbie Downer there! Just thought I'd warn you that social work isn't all roses at the moment. Doing this course is still the best thing I've ever done though If I haven't moaned so much it's put you off, most unis require a 2:2 in a first degree (some unis request a relevant subject e.g. social sciences, childhood studies etc) and a minimum of 6 months' relevant experience. People do seem to find ways round the experience requirement though, but I think it's so important as preparation for what's in store. You've left it pretty late to apply to start for this September; I know my university's BA and MA courses are already full. I didn't think many unis offer the Masters part-time; where are you thinking of going? Read up on current issues in social work on the Community Care website and in the Society section of the Guardian.
Feel free to ask more questions, and again sorry for being a misery!