Social work is not the most glamorous of professions. The typical day of a social worker involves meeting clients who are poor, have mental health or addiction problems and need special care for one reason or another.
Yet more and more young people are enrolling in social work courses. They want to become a licensed social worker. Why?
Because it is considered one of the most rewarding careers for those who want to contribute directly to their communities, if you are lucky enough to be invited to attend an interview for a social work job, one of the questions you can expect to be asked is why you want to become a social worker.
The reason why employers are keen to ask this question is that they understand that it is a demanding role. Not only do you have lots of responsibilities, but your job also doesn’t end when the day does. Many social workers find themselves visiting clients long after their official workday has ended.
Employers want to know why you want to become a social worker so that they can gauge your passion and commitment to the job.
Social work is all about bringing about a positive change in people’s lives. You work directly with your clients and watch them as their lives improve for the better. A social worker is like a nurse or a teacher. Every day, they get to see the results of their work and take pride in a job well done.
To help you make up your mind about becoming a licensed social worker, this post tells you some of the best reasons why so many are opting for this career.
There are plenty of employment opportunities
The need for social workers in the United States is bigger than it’s ever been. There are good reasons for the increase in demand.
The American population is aging. It is estimated that by 2030 1 in every 5 citizens will be a baby boomer. This is a special group with unique problems that require the expertise of social work professionals. Those with the right qualifications are in a position to take advantage of this.
Behavioral health issues are also contributing to the increased demand for social workers. The number of adults who suffer from addiction and mental health issues has increased in recent years. Families and communities struggle to cope with the burden. If they are lucky, they get committed social workers to help them work through the issues posed by this challenge.
The number of at-risk children has also increased. According to a report by the National Center for Children in Poverty, more than 11 million children in the US now live below the poverty line. Other risk factors for young children and adolescents include inadequate caregivers, drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, and neglect.
Each of these presents a unique opportunity for anyone trained to do social work. With the right qualifications, you will secure employment working with families and individuals who struggle with these issues.
You can make your voice heard
Have you seen something in your community that is affecting a particular group that you would like to change? Many of us sometimes feel helpless when we look at our communities because we don’t have the skills or resources to tackle the issues that are holding them back.
A job in social work is a great way to become an advocate for those around you. You learn how to tackle problems that affect different populations, and your job provides the resources you need to bring about the necessary changes.
You work in diverse environments
By becoming a licensed social worker, you can serve within communities, in hospitals, government facilities, rehab centers, non-profits, and community health centers.
Some people are under the impression that social workers have to go into dangerous neighborhoods to meet their clients. This is rarely true. Your employer is mandated to ensure that you can always perform your jobs in safe conditions.
Social workers are paid well
Social workers in the United States are paid well enough to live comfortably. You may not be a millionaire by the time you are thirty, but you have everything you need to live comfortably.
Salaries vary depending on where you live and work. Those who work under dangerous conditions, for example, are paid an allowance to compensate for the risk.
The higher your education, the higher your salary. Those who have a master’s degree in social work, for example, are paid more than those who have only a bachelor’s.
Your skills are needed everywhere in the world.
Working abroad is a big draw for some. Institutions like the Red Cross and MSF recruit social workers every year. To qualify for a well-paying job, you should earn a master’s degree and have at least 5 years of experience. Learning a foreign language will boost your career prospects. You should also take the time to understand other cultures.
The job equips you with transferrable skills
A career in social work equips you with skills that you can use to transition into other careers. You can, for example, move to a new career in public health or public policy, or even human resource management.
Learning the benefits of becoming a licensed social worker is important, but what does the day-to-day involve?
Any seasoned social worker will tell you that no two days are alike. Every day you meet different clients and tackle different challenges.
Typically, a social worker’s day starts early. They review their caseload for the day, looking at the clients they need to visit and coming up with strategies to help them.
They then meet with their supervisors to discuss what they plan to do for the day, and they meet with other social workers to develop collaborative strategies for their clients.
Before they leave the office, they check their email and make important phone calls. Outside the office, their job involves meeting with clients. Sometimes they work with police officers, and sometimes they work alone.
Their job, once they meet with a client, is to assess their situation and help provide solutions. They assess ongoing cases to determine whether they are making progress. If they are not, a social worker can refer the case to their supervisor for advice on a different course of action.
Social workers often go over and above the call of duty. They are like a lifeline for many of their clients. It is not unusual for them to get calls in the middle of the night to assist. In such cases, they are often accompanied by police on their visits.
Before becoming a licensed social worker, there are certain soft skills you need. Some are developed along the way, but many are innate.
- Empathy – many of the people you meet are in desperate situations. Can you empathize with them? Can you connect and understand their problems?
- Patience – many social workers will tell you that one of the toughest things they had to do was learn to be patient. Your clients are resistant to change, and new ideas and your solutions may not be welcome. You need the patience to enact lasting change.
- Good communication – today’s client may be a woman who is struggling with healthcare. Tomorrow’s maybe a teenager who is struggling with addiction, and the next day you may be dealing with an at-risk child. You need to be able to communicate with each of these people, understand their problems and offer tailored solutions.
- Attention to detail – it is your job to notice the little things that may get in the way of progress for your clients. You also have to remember each of your cases and follow up as required.
- Flexibility – if you are flexible, your clients will be open to your suggestions. Rigid social workers often find their ideas rejected. Remember, you must adhere to rules and regulations at all times.
- Critical thinking – many of the situations you encounter are unique and will not have textbook answers. Critical thinking helps you develop solutions for your clients that address the specific problems they are facing.
- Open-mindedness – if you are the sort of individual who has a problem understanding the perspectives of others, you may not be a good social worker. You need to keep an open mind to be accepted by your clients.
Becoming a licensed social worker is a great way to contribute to your community. The need for social workers in the United States is growing every year. If you have the right training and certification, you can get a job that allows you to work with those who need help the most.
Although social work is a busy job, it is also highly rewarding. It puts you in touch with diverse people, and you can get employment in different settings. The career pays well enough for you to live comfortably off your wages.