Is social work a good career? 7 things for you to know
Updated 4 November 2022
If you want a job where you're able to help others, social work may be an ideal career path for you. Social workers work closely with people who need support in various environments and situations. Understanding more about this job, including its opportunities and what it involves, may give you a better idea of whether you want to pursue this career further. In this article, we answer the question 'Is social work a good career?' by exploring the skills you may develop, the opportunities it brings and the job outlook, along with the requirements and different paths available.
Is social work a good career?
To answer 'Is social work a good career?', it helps if you first evaluable your career goals and how you might achieve them. Here's a list of seven reasons why becoming a social worker is so rewarding, based on advice given by social work graduates:
1. Offers great job satisfaction
Social workers face a range of unpredictable situations due to the multiple caseloads they manage. They require extensive organisation skills to ensure they all get enough attention and that they may solve them effectively. Although some situations may demand tough decision-making skills and high levels of empathy, it's a profession that also comes with high rewards.
Social workers provide solutions for people who are struggling, giving them better lives and sometimes even saving lives in the process. This may involve protecting vulnerable people from harm or helping elderly, disabled or ill people to live independently, for example. The sense that you've helped someone is valuable and confirms that your job makes a positive difference in the community. This motivates social workers to continue their work so that they might reach more people who need vital help.
2. Tackles the big issues
Every day, social workers face a variety of issues and people from all backgrounds and cultures. They help to tackle problems of social inequality, which have left particular groups disproportionately at risk and disadvantaged. They represent underrepresented communities that need the most help. If you feel strongly about social justice and achieving equality, becoming a social worker gives you a way to do this by being in touch with the issues affecting certain communities and working to bring change.
The job gives you a more rounded outlook of the world around you as it offers you greater insights into different groups of people and the daily struggles that they face. This develops your critical thinking skills and makes you more aware of the importance of equality.
3. Provides variety each day
Many people think that social work is just about working with children. Although you may work primarily with children, the job is highly varied and supports all ages and groups. This means that it may still appeal to you if you want to work with other sectors of society. Social workers work closely with the following:
people with mental health problems, learning difficulties or physical disabilities
people with substance misuse problems
refugees and asylum seekers
vulnerable people at risk of harm
foster carers and adopters
The career is well-suited to anyone who wants to help others, and it's beneficial if social workers are diverse so that the people they work with feel represented and listened to. Employers look for people with the right skills who can provide real support to those who need it.
4. Requires strong teamwork
Social work requires high levels of communication with a team of people working together to develop the best solutions. If you enjoy collaborating with different people, this is a highly rewarding career path. Social workers may communicate with colleagues alongside local authorities, doctors and teachers to gain a full understanding of each situation and provide tailored solutions that include the services of these institutions. This is all while building a good relationship with the client and their family so that you may work with them to make positive changes in their life.
Related: 13 essential social worker skills
5. Offers a varied working environment
A social worker's working environment may change daily, which some people find attractive when looking for a job. You might work in a school one day and a hospital or community centre the next. You may also do some office work, such as recording information and contacting decision-makers to confirm treatment plans. Social workers often visit their clients in their homes, care homes, hostels, hospitals or prisons. This variety makes the job more exciting.
6. Features opportunities to specialise
Due to the many people that rely on social care, social workers have the chance to specialise in a field
they're particularly passionate about. Through experience and training, it's possible to work out which area you're most interested in and apply for jobs in this area. For example, you may want to work in hospitals or with families, older people, offenders or vulnerable adults. Social work is a wide-reaching field, and there are many specific roles. This allows you to focus on one area and hone your skills towards it.
Read more: What can you do with a social worker degree?
7. Provides excellent employment prospects
This career is in high demand, meaning employment prospects are good for social work graduates. All communities have people who require support, and it helps to have social workers who are able to cover every sector. There are many settings that have social worker roles, including specialised ones. With this comes the chance for career progression into higher roles, such as a head of a department or specialised officer, meaning more responsibility and a higher salary.
What are the requirements for a career in social work?
In England, all social workers register with Social Work England before they're allowed to practise. To do this, consider completing an approved undergraduate or postgraduate degree programme or degree apprenticeship in social work. To qualify for these, you usually require two or three A-levels or an equivalent qualification, in addition to five GCSEs at grades 4-9 or A*-C, including English and maths. Different institutions have different entry requirements, so make sure you check these first.
In other parts of the UK, you may complete a course accredited by a separate government body such as Social Care Wales or the Scottish Social Services Council.
What are the different types of social work career paths?
As mentioned, social workers have many opportunities to specialise in a particular field that interests them. Here are some of the most common social worker careers:
Healthcare and hospital social workers: These social workers work in healthcare environments to support those going through health problems and help with their emotional and physical effects.
Child welfare and family social workers: Child welfare officers work with vulnerable children and their families who may face psychological or social issues at home, school or in the community. They may support the parent or carer or place the child in a safer environment.
Substance misuse social workers: These social workers work with clients who have drug, alcohol or other substance misuse problems to help them overcome their addiction and build an improved life with connections to family, counsellors, doctors and rehabilitation centres.
Adult elderly social workers: These social workers work with elderly clients to help them maintain independence and quality of life by providing access to necessary services.
Criminal justice social workers: These social workers work with former prisoners, those on probation, inmates in the criminal justice system and young offenders to help them rehabilitate and transition to life in society.
Disability social workers: Disability social workers work with children or adults with physical disabilities or learning disabilities, providing the resources to help them live as independently as possible.
Mental health social workers: These social workers work with clients who have mental health disorders and require psychiatric support, developing care plans and treatment methods for them. They aim to help them overcome distress and manage their lives independently.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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