Everyone knows social workers aren’t paid enough. Despite their profound importance to the high functioning of our society — like other public officials, such as teachers — social workers will never tell you that they do their job for the money.
Rather, social workers are motivated to do their jobs well for other reasons. If you are considering a career in social work, here are a few of the most common reasons to enter social work — and none of them are the wages.
While plenty of professionals can sink deep into daily routines, most social workers enjoy a healthy variety in their workdays. This is because social workers participate in diverse numbers of projects; each case is different, requiring unique skills and actions, so there is little risk of falling into a sense of monotony when you are a social worker.
What’s more, there is great variation within the social work career — which is to say that if you grow weary of one type of social work, you can try something new. Some types of social work include:
- Child, family and school
- Military and veterans
- Criminal justice
- Palliative and hospice
- Medical and health
- Mental health and substance abuse
Though some higher-level social workers are often confined to offices, most social workers are incredibly active in their work. This means that social workers often flit from here to there to seek assistance for their clients, performing home visits, meeting with doctors, teachers, recruiters and other professionals and seeking out resources to improve their clients’ sense of well-being. The high levels of activity enjoyed by social workers are envied by many other professionals, who go stir crazy cooped up in their cubicles.
While social workers certainly do answer to a higher authority, most are given a great degree of independence in how they provide services to clients. This is often because bosses do not understand cases in intimate detail; thus, they cannot dictate how social workers respond in individual instances. As a result, social workers often get to choose their own hours and devise their own treatment strategies to best serve their clients.
What’s more, clinical social workers can open up their own practices, creating their own work environments, allotting their own pay and choosing their own cases. To become a clinical social worker, you need to earn a master’s degree in social work online or at a university campus.
There is little denying that social work is a difficult job. Every day, social workers are forced to make difficult decisions for the sake of their clients or those around them; while most of the time those decisions have positive results, they can negatively impact one or more people in a client’s life. Social workers must be careful to weigh facts, emotions and other issues before taking any actions. In this way, social work is challenging, demanding dozens of skills and intense focus. Yet, for many, this type of work is ultimately the most satisfying.
It should go without saying that social work has a dramatic impact on the lives of clients assisted by social workers, but you might be interested to learn that social work also significantly affects entire communities. Through their diligent efforts, social workers can improve thousands, even millions of lives, influencing first individuals, then families, then communities. No person is an island, so when one life is improved, the community will feel it and respond.
When helping others, one often becomes better at helping oneself. Social workers often find that leading their clients down paths to self-discovery and self-improvement also helps the workers themselves gain insight into their own personal strengths, weaknesses, fears and ambitions. You will likely find yourself in extreme situations when you enter the social work field, and these situations will reveal aspects of yourself you might never have uncovered. Self-growth is important for every human, and social workers gain greater opportunities than most to learn and improve themselves.
If you are still on the fence about starting a social work career, you might be swayed by the knowledge that social work is one of the most stable jobs available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for social workers will increase 16 percent by 2026 — which is much faster than the average for all jobs. It doesn’t matter where you go, you will always be assured employment as a social worker.