A Look Into Career in Social Work

A Look Into Career in Social Work

Taking a career decision is not an easy task  when you have to choose between many options available to you; especially when you are in the early phase of your career when high paying jobs seems lucrative.

If you are a person who would like to earn by helping others or making  some impact in lives of others; social work is a career for you. Having stated this, what is social work?

Social work is a specialized  and a skill based profession in which professionals work in a variety of fields. They basically work with people to solve their personal or social problems at the micro level and inclusive development at the macro level .

Some important facts you need to know before choosing social work as a career are enlisted below.

Areas of practice 

Unlike other professions, viz. law, medicine, etc.  social workers  work in a variety of fields and settings, since it deals with human problems. Few of the areas are as follows:

Gerontology

Old age brings with it a number of issues  which needs to be addressed.  Social workers  look into the  health,  family and social security of the elderly . This area of practice is emerging especially in the individualistic societies where elderly are often provided institutional care.

Clinical and mental health

Another area for social work practice is hospitals where they work as paraprofessionals. Professionals who specialize in psychiatric social work  are employed in the area of psychiatry.  

Besides the physical  ailment , some disease bring with them, the patients also need social and emotional support . Social workers  play a vital role in this area.

Women and children

Another very broad and important  area where social workers contribute is working with vulnerable women and children. There are different types of problems faced by this group at the individual and community level . Interventions are made at the various aspects of their issues at various levels (eg. Child marriage and child sexual abuse, domestic  violence and gender based violence, women empowerment)  

Social and community medicine

This branch of social work addresses the social aspects of any  disease or disorder , viz.,HIV/AIDS, Cancer, acute mental disorders. These type of illnesses  are associated with some degree of stigma and discrimination in the society.

Social workers  mainly work for the prevention  and  awareness generation at the  at the community level and rehabilitation of these individuals after their treatment. Social workers are also involved in advocacy activities to fight for the rights of such vulnerable group.

Drug addiction

Addiction, be it drugs or alcohol; leads to many social and family problems. Youths especially adolescents are the  more vulnerable group. Social workers work in de-addiction  centres and also aid in rehabilitation after the treatment.  

Disaster Rehabilitation

Disasters often occur in our environment in various form, e.g, earthquakes, cyclone, landslides etc. Social workers actively work for the disaster victims, be it natural or accidents.

Rehabilitation is one of the most important aspect when working with victims of disaster. Social workers work with a team of professionals of different field for the relief of the victims.    

School social work

Schools hire social workers to look into the psycho-social needs of the children.  Cases of  bullying,  truancy, academic lag etc. are common in schools which has to be dealt with a professional expertise.  

Refugee

With many communities in several countries facing the wrath of civil wars, people flee their  country and take refuge in other countries. Refugees have their own set of problems in the host country which the social workers strive to address.

The issue of refugees is administered by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) which has its offices in various countries who accept refugees.  

Levels of practice 

Since social work believes in inclusive growth , it works on various levels. When social workers work with  individuals to solve their problems it is called micro practice.

Here the social workers work with an individual and deal with his/her specific problem.  When they intervene  with families or small groups it is known as meso practice. Here the social workers deal with problems which are common to several groups of people.

When social workers  work towards solving social problems and promote change at the community , society or global level it is called macro practice.  Agencies and  organizations collaborate together to address the issues of  communities and large group of people.

They focus to bring change at the  political and policy level through advocacy and social action.  

 Educational/Professional degree and training 

The minimum requirement to become a social worker is a BSW degree. Further specialization can be done at MSW level. In most countries one need to obtain a license from an accrediting body (e.g CASW, NASW, CSWE)  to be able to practice in that country.  

Educational Institutes offer social work program in regular as well as in distance and online learning; field training being the core part of the curriculum.  Further research study can also be taken up at the PhD level.

Skills required for practice

Social workers require  certain skills, specifically peoples skills,  to carry out their profession.  

Few are mentioned as follows:  

Active listening skills

This skill is most important especially when working with individuals. When a person with a problem comes to a social worker , he or she is under some degree of stress. Some may immediately start talking about their problem while some may be hesitant to share their issue.

When the social worker actively and patiently listens to the person (the client), a sense of trust develops and the client feels that somebody is there  to listen to them, and from here the healing process starts. The gestures, postures and facial expressions of the social worker play a vital role in exhibiting active listening skills.

Empathy

Another  very fundamental skill  for  social worker is to have empathy. It plays a vital role in the problem solving process of a client. An empathetic attitude helps the worker to gain insight into the issue and intervene  accordingly.  It also prevents the worker from getting emotionally involved during the problem solving process.

Networking

Networking skills is the key to provide effective  intervention.  Social workers  need to  be aware of the community resources in order to connect their  client to them when required.  Often social work agencies collaborate to address some issues holistically.

Interviewing

The social worker need to know every aspect of the problem and for this he or she has to ask some questions to the client. It needs a certain degree of skill as to how to put the question to the client to get the desired information. 

Advocacy skills

This skill helps the social worker to speak for a specific  social  cause and influence policy making leading  to a systematic social change .

This fast changing world often witnesses emerging of new types  of problems  which needs to be addressed in a planned way. Social work is a decently  paid job and  surely it is a  fulfilling career since  it is a helping profession.

Author: Rafat Aara

Rafat Aara works as a faculty member at MANUU, India . She teaches professional development to post graduate students and is associated as an independent consultant with Oxfam India.  View all posts by Rafat Aara