Social work is a career designed to allow those who seek to help their fellow man to do so. Social workers help with various problems people encounter through their lives, be it poverty, hunger, or domestic upheaval. It is a very education-intense field to enter but the benefits and personal rewards can make the extra school time well worth the effort.
One who has an early interest in this field should investigate to see if a high school volunteer worker’s aide position is available in your local community. This can allow you first-hand experience in what is involved in the job of social worker, and give a clue as to whether you wish to devote your future to it.
Your college education will be directed towards obtaining the Bachelors degree in Social Work (B.S.W.) even for entry-level positions. Further schooling to acquire the Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Social Work can establish you in a higher-level professional social work position. These degrees allow you to work in select specialized fields as well as aspire to case management levels of social work employment. These degrees must be obtained from a Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) approved educational institution.
As with the volunteer aide programs in high school, attempting to acquire a paid internship while attending college will further your practical experience and can provide valuable leads and contacts when seeking full-time employment after graduation.
Be aware that each degree level you aspire to will require many hours of supervised field training. The bachelor’s degree alone will demand four hundred hours of this service while the Master’s degree requires an additional nine hundred hours of field experience under a trained professional. In addition, there is a two year requirement that you work under a licensed Master of Social Work professional before you can qualify to take the licensing examination yourself.
Learning a second language, while not a requirement, can offer a much wider career choice. Knowing the main secondary language spoken in the area(s) you wish to work in can be an invaluable asset for the social worker dealing with immigrants and other newcomers to our country. Currently in the United States it is increasingly helpful to have a good working understanding of Mexican Spanish, as so many migrant workers and entry level employees from the South are in need of understanding the ways of this country as they attempt to better their lives here.
One of the hardest parts for some to understand about the field of social work is that you must train yourself to not get too emotionally involved with the cases you will be working on. While some think that such empathy should make one better able to help, losing one’s objectivity can create more problems than just failing to see the most effective course of action for your clients. It can lead to emotional overload and burnout. Often a worker who has become too attached to a specific client or family will tend to focus on that one problem to the detriment of other cases. If you do not feel that you can remain objective on the job, then social work may not be the best career choice you could invest your time toward.