Is Social Work the Right Career Choice for You?
If you are looking for a rewarding career that offers exceptional job satisfaction and long-term job security, then social work is well worth considering. Social workers help other people in a number of different ways according to their individual circumstances. The field of social work attracts applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds, reflecting the diverse range of jobs that are available in social care. Whether you are passionate about helping others or you have direct experience of the importance of social work, this is a career that is worth considering.
It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. – Dalai Lama
What Does a Social Worker Do?
Social workers work in a variety of different settings to ensure that vulnerable people are taken care of properly. In some cases, people may be almost entirely dependent upon a social worker to assist them on a daily basis, and in other cases, clients only need a weekly or biweekly check-up with the social worker to make sure that they are okay. In delivering this care, social workers may have to take on a variety of different duties. Some of these are universal to all social workers, whereas others will be specific to individual types of social work.
Some social workers will be involved in making a medical diagnosis and will oversee the development of treatment plans. However, all social workers are involved in formulating treatment plans for their clients to some degree.
Many chronic and long-term conditions, especially mental health conditions, can only be diagnosed over a period of time. These diagnoses are generally made by clinical social workers, rather than direct social workers. Clinical social workers are more senior and are much more involved in developing and implementing treatment plans. Direct social workers, also known as non-clinical social workers, hold bachelor’s degrees and are more focused on assisting clients than devising treatment protocols.
What Types of Social Worker Are There?
There is a wide range of different roles that social workers can take on. Each one presents an opportunity to help patients in a different context.
Substance abuse social worker: Substance abuse social workers assist patients in overcoming physical and psychological addiction to recreational drugs. These can be legal or illegal, and many cases involve prescription drugs. Some drugs are more addictive than others, and some addictions are harder to shift than others. Addiction is a very personal disease that manifests differently in every sufferer and, as such, substance abuse social workers need to be versatile and dynamic in their approach to treating patients. Understanding of drug addiction has evolved enormously over the recent decades, and we now have a range of treatment options available for helping drug addicts. In addition to rehabilitation facilities that promote abstinence, there is a range of pharmaceutical options that can help people to reduce or eliminate their drug use.
Community social worker: Community social workers play a vital role in improving the lives of disadvantaged people by helping them to take a leading role in bringing about change in their communities. Community workers lead a number of community programs and are available for members of local communities who want to turn their lives around. Most community workers will work with other community workers, each with their own specialty. Any individual community worker can either focus on communities as a whole or specific subset of them. For example, a lot of community workers work specifically with women who are fleeing from abusive households. Community social workers don’t just help individual people; they need to represent the interests of large groups of people. Community social workers often work very closely with other agencies and organizations such as police and schools.
Hospice and palliative care social worker: Providing palliative care to patients in hospices who are approaching the end of their lives is certainly one of the more challenging environments that a social worker can work in. However, it is also one that many people find to be very rewarding and ultimately, almost comforting. Many social workers who are initially apprehensive about taking on a placement in a hospice actually come to find the experience that they gain to be incredibly valuable. Working with people who are dying is a unique situation and not one that you will encounter so directly in many other social work contexts. As is often the case with healthcare-related roles, the more that you are willing to put into them, the greater the reward that you will be able to take out of them. Working in challenging environments such as hospices is an excellent way to develop skills as a social worker that you would otherwise never get an opportunity to use.
Military and veterans social worker: After returning from active service, many military personnel find that they have difficulty in adjusting back to civilian life. In some cases, veterans will be returning to life-changing injuries and will have to make significant adjustments as they come to terms with their new circumstances. Having a social worker on hand during this difficult time will make it considerably easier for them. This is a unique opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of individuals who have put themselves on the line for the good of their country. As well as helping those who have recently left the military, military social workers also work with personnel who are currently on active duty and require support. Many soldiers who come back from a tour abroad have no intention of leaving their job but are suffering from the after-effects of trauma such as PTSD and excessive survivor’s guilt.
Child and family social worker: Child and family social workers work with children who are at risk of abuse, as well as parents who are struggling to properly look after their children on their own. Working in these kinds of situations can be extremely emotionally challenging, but the work that these social workers do is essential. As well as assisting children and parents in cases that are brought to their attention, social workers are also trained to identify at-risk children and to assess whether they are in danger or not. Some child social workers will work within schools and other educational institutions, helping both students and their parents with any issues they might be having.
Healthcare social worker: Healthcare social workers are responsible for assisting patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital either with life-changing injuries or with the need to make adjustments to their living situation in order to accommodate and injury. Health care social workers help these patients to navigate through the physical, emotional, and financial hardships that are associated with a life-changing medical condition. Both patients and their families can often have difficulty adjusting to these new circumstances, and a social worker can help them to come to terms with them.
Benefits of Working in Social Care
The social work industry has a lot to offer those who work in it. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to help other people, but it is an industry that any dedicated and compassionate professional can excel in. If you are looking for a rewarding career that will give you job satisfaction for life, social work is a strong contender. Regardless of the specific field that you work in, social care gives you a unique opportunity to help people and families navigate difficult periods of their life.
There is a huge amount of variety to the available roles in the social work industry. As a result, qualified social workers can pretty much choose the kind of environment that they want to work in and the kind of people that they want to help. Some people choose to work in social work because they have the first-hand experience of the difference that these people can make to the lives of others. Others have seen a close friend or family member undergo some kind of difficulty in life and come to rely on a social worker. This can provide fantastic motivation for helping other people.
Not only will you get the satisfaction of helping others, but there are excellent career progression opportunities within the social work field. Social workers are like nurses in that they will always be needed and will always provide us with a vital function. Without social workers, a vital pillar of public health would be missing.
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits, including:
Good salary – social workers can earn an average of $50,500
Outlook – job growth is predicted to have grown by 25% between 2010 and 2020
Variety – social workers can choose from many specializations
Qualities a Social Worker Needs
Exactly what a social worker does on a day-to-day basis will depend entirely on the specific role that they are working in, but for now, let’s look at some of the skills that are universal across the industry.
While it is not the most exciting or rewarding part of the job, keeping accurate records and being efficient with the administration side of things are both important in ensuring proper patient care. The consequences of inaccurate notes can potentially be fatal. It is important that you are able to not only keep accurate records for yourself, but to keep records that would be useful to other healthcare professionals who come after you. Similarly, social workers need to be good communicators, as poor communication can result in potentially serious consequences such as a patient being administered the wrong drug or wrong dose of a drug.
Good communication is also important for social workers and their clients. Many of the clients that social workers come into contact with will be vulnerable people and may be reluctant to trust a stranger. Social workers need to be able to put these people at ease as quickly as possible and begin establishing a long-term relationship with them.
Obviously, social workers need to be understanding and compassionate. Having empathy for clients is a very important part of delivering a well-rounded care plan. Every client is different and will have their own individual needs that you need to take into account. Many of the people who social workers work with will have difficulty in expressing themselves. If the social worker is not able to compensate for their difficulties in communicating, then it can result in a frustrating experience for both parties. Social workers, therefore, need to be adept at spotting where these communication problems occur, and gently encouraging clients to overcome them.
Being a social worker can be a very emotionally challenging experience. For example, as mentioned, some social workers will work with cases of abused children and parents who are unable to properly look after their children. These kinds of cases can be difficult to encounter and can take a serious emotional toll on a social worker. Social workers need to be resilient to the stresses and also able to detach themselves to some extent. It is important to care about their patients, but social workers cannot help their patients if they themselves are unable to cope.
How to Become a Social Worker
If you want to work as a social worker, then you will first need to secure the necessary qualifications. The bachelor’s in social work will prepare you to work as a social worker in a number of different settings. You can study a BSW online if studying on a part-time basis is a better option for you. Studying online will also save you money on your tuition. The BSW is the equivalent of an undergraduate degree and serves as an excellent launchpad for a master’s of social work – the postgraduate equivalent.
Social work is a career that has an enormous amount to offer workers. Social workers will sometimes face some very difficult cases and will need to be emotionally resilient in order to survive. However, there are few roles that anyone can take on that are as noble or as rewarding as social work has the potential to be.
There are social work opportunities in a variety of different settings and contexts, meaning that social workers can choose the kind of people that they want to help, and the context within which they want to help them.