Social workers play an important role in our society, and one that is not being acknowledged enough. They are often the glue that keeps families and communities together. They help inmates become productive and functional members of society. They help substance abusers get back on track and get a fresh new start.
This is also a great career path for someone who has great interpersonal skills and a profound desire to help. And it is a career that can be extremely fulfilling, though it can be demanding as well. But if you have the personality for it and really want to make a change, this could be the perfect field for you.
Here are a few reasons you should consider pursuing a career in social work:
No two days are the same
One of the best things about being a social worker is how diverse the job can be. No matter how much you try to plan, know that there can always be changes. You will often be asked to work on different cases and readjust your priorities.
And while you might need to do some office work from time to time, being a social worker is definitely not a desk job. You might be called in the middle of the day to deal with an emergency situation. You have to make visits to schools, community centres, hospitals, and homes. Being a social worker is all about being involved with the community, and that can’t be done from behind a desk.
Another thing people don’t realise about social work is how diverse it is and all the different opportunities it offers. “I had a friend who used to work with child protection services for ten years,” said social worker Rebecca Joy Novell. “But when she had her son, she found cases too challenging as she related to them too much. She still enjoyed working as a social worker, however. She has now moved to adult work, and she definitely loves the challenge.”
The career always allows you to advance and reach higher positions, such as research, for instance. Or you could open a rehab centre or non-profit organisation.
One of the things you could do is start with an undergraduate degree, get some experience in the field, and get an advanced degree online. Institutions like Wilfrid Laurier University have a great online Master of Social Work that can be completed in as little as 2–3 years.
With this formation, you could work in a range of fields, such as:
- Mental health therapist
- Clinical group worker
- Private consultant
- Mental health clinician
You’ll also be remunerated accordingly. As a matter of fact, you could end up earning up to $108,000 per year, depending on the position.
It’s a challenging career
If you are ready to be challenged like you wouldn’t in any other career, then social work is definitely the job for you. It is a job that can be both physically and emotionally challenging. “There were times when I had to figure out how I and my service user were going to haul a piece of furniture up 15 flights of stairs,’ shared Rebecca Joy. ‘It can be very challenging on the emotional level as well. The highs and lows do not compare with anything else.”
However, she also emphasised that it is very important for social workers to be able to handle the emotional roller coaster and to not get too attached to cases.
He added that she often felt like their successes and failures were her own. Social workers have to be able to establish a distance between them and their cases and not let them invade their space.
You will discover things about yourself
Another thing about social work is that you might discover some personal characteristics or strengths that you never knew you had. Maybe you have much higher mental fortitude or emotional intelligence than you thought or are especially good at bringing people together and defusing situations.
“The situations you will be put in will be unique and extreme,” remarked Rebecca Joy. “You might have to intervene during suicide situations, and you might discover that you have a talent for dealing with aggressive behaviour.”
You could become a policymaker
Becoming a social worker could also become the first step in you making changes at the systemic level and working on policy. Too many policymakers have absolutely no idea what it’s like in the field, and this is often reflected in their decisions.
“I went into this field with the intention of making a change,” said Rebecca Joy. “My career gave me the opportunity to be a chair on working groups and various organisations and work as an advocate for youths caught up in the criminal system.”
This is the kind of impact you could have as a social worker. Your unique perspective will prepare you to work on boards and even consider a career in the office. This could be your local school board or other positions in your local community.
Your expertise will be extremely valuable and give you the kind of understanding of your community that a few will be able to boast, and it will show.
You might end up changing someone’s life
There are few things that can be as fulfilling as seeing someone who was once completely broken get back on their feet. “You don’t get thank-you cards all the time, but occasionally, you’ll get one from a service user,” said Rebecca Joy. ‘When you hear that you were able to help them get through difficulty in their lives, you won’t be able to stop smiling.’
So, if you were thinking of pursuing a career as a social worker, we hope this will help you with your decision. If you feel like you have what it takes to succeed and thrive as a social worker, speak with someone in the role – or a counsellor – to see if it could be a viable career path for you.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.