Social work has been put under the spotlight by cases such as Baby Peter's
Graduates in England will receive at least £15,000 to retrain as children's social workers under a new government-funded scheme.
The "Step Up to Social Work" programme has been developed in a bid to attract high-flyers into the profession.
Candidates will be paid to study for a Masters degree. Councils in eight areas are taking part in the scheme.
Recent high-profile cases where children have been let down have made it hard to recruit social workers.
The scheme is open to graduates who have at least a 2:1 degree and experience of working with children and families.
The programme has been created by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC), which receives most of its funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Keith Brumfitt, the CWDC's director of strategy, said: "This new scheme is a really positive step in ensuring that we attract the absolute best people to pursue a career in social work.
"We want to remove potential barriers which may prevent skilled professionals from seeking to train as a social worker."
The CWDC will provide £15,000 for each candidate but it will be for individual local authorities to decide how the money should be used.
Up to 200 places will be available on the programme, starting in September.
Masters courses are available across the country and in most cases last two years.
The local authority groupings taking part in the scheme are West London Alliance, Learning Together Partnership in Greater Merseyside, East Midlands Partnership and Greater Manchester Partnership.
The others are Yorkshire & Humberside, Central Bedfordshire/Luton Partnership, Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire, and Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Thurrock and Southend.
A number of initiatives have been announced to boost standards and morale in social work.
The profession has been placed under the spotlight after a number of high-profile failings, including the death of Baby Peter in the north London borough of Haringey in 2007.
Seventeen-month-old Peter Connolly died after suffering 50 injuries and despite 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police.
In November, the Local Government Association found six out of 10 councils in England had reported problems with retaining staff.