Understanding the characteristics, motivations and experiences of student social workers is important to inform their professional education and support needs. To date there has been relatively little research about social work students in Ireland, both North and South. This study reports on an all-Ireland survey of students beginning their social work course in Autumn 2018 in the six Universities delivering social work education. It describes the characteristics of the student cohort, examines the motivations behind choosing this career and highlights some of the potentially relevant life experiences and beliefs which may have contributed to their ambition to join the social work profession. Implications for social work education, recommendations for curriculum development, workforce planning and the provision of appropriate support for students are discussed.