IS A CAREER IN SOCIAL WORK FOR YOU?
Social Work is a profession that offers employment opportunities in a wide variety of settings, both public and private, where social workers perform a wide range of tasks using a myriad of skills.
EMPLOYMENT POSSIBILITIES FOR THE BSW GRADUATE
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) defines social work as the "professional activity of helping individuals, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating social conditions favorable to that goal." (NASW, 1985) When working with people to enhance or restore social functioning, social workers are concerned with the interactions between people and their social environment. Those interactions might be enhanced or restored by using the following interventions:
1. Counseling at the individual, groups, or family level
2. Linking people with resources, services, and opportunities to improve their functioning
3. Changing environmental systems, institutions, and organizations so they become more responsive to people's needs
4. Changing existing policies and creating new social policies that provide for people's needs and well-being
Please consider the following questions to determine if a career in social work is for you. The more questions you answer with "yes," the better the fit for you and social work.
Do You Have the Qualities Needed to Pursue A Career in Social Work?
Do you care about people? Social workers need to have the ability to be empathetic with others; to be able to understand the other person's feelings. They also need to enjoy interacting with and solving problems with people.
Do You Value Individual Differences? An important quality that a social worker must possess is a non-judgmental attitude. While social workers are not expected to agree with or approve of the values and behaviors of other people, it is imperative that social workers communicate a non-judgmental attitude toward others. Acceptance of others and a belief in the worth and dignity of every human being are values that the social work profession holds dear.
Can You Keep A Secret? In social work, it is expected that the client's confidentiality will be safeguarded. Social workers must be able to respect a client's right to privacy, which affirms that person's worth and dignity, shows respect for that person, and builds trust with them.
Do You Like A Challenge? Social workers employ problem-solving skills when working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are challenged by the variety of problems presented to them by the client systems they serve. Problems vary by type and degree of severity. Social workers are challenged to creatively seek out and develop resources to assist with the different problems and client systems that they encounter. Social workers are challenged to be advocates for those that are unable to advocate for themselves. Some groups needing a social worker's advocacy include children, the aged, the disabled, minorities, and the poor.
Can You Make Tough Decisions? Social workers make decisions every day; some are difficult, such as whether to take an abused child into protective custody and place it in a foster home. Social workers frequently make decisions that are considered to be ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas pose difficult and painful challenges to social workers. For example, clients may reveal information potentially threatening to someone else. Taking preventative action by revealing the information to law enforcement officials, and to the person who is threatened, involves revealing information that a client shared in confidence. Can you make hard decisions like these and follow through with them?
Do You Have Good Interpersonal Skills? Do you get along well with others? Good communication and listening skills are needed by social workers. If you have good interpersonal skills, you are in a position to further develop them for social work practice. You will add skills such as confrontation, support, limit setting, self-disclosure, and others to your interviewing skills.
Can You Work As A Team Member? Good interpersonal skills make it easier for people to work cooperatively with others. In social work, there are many opportunities for you to work with other professionals on interdisciplinary teams using a team approach. An interdisciplinary team consists of team members from different professions that are all involved in the client's treatment plan. It is common for medical, legal, educational, and social work professionals to work together on interdisciplinary teams in an effort to develop and implement the best treatment approach for their clients or patients.
Do You Want To Know More? If you do, then consider making an appointment with one of the BSW Program faculty members at JSU. Dee Barclift, Maureen Newton, James Powe, Jenny Savage, Robyn Snider, Nancy Francisco Stewart, or Kim Womack will be happy to discuss the social work curriculum with you and answer any questions you might have about careers in social work. Click here to link to BSW Program Faculty for their contact information. Take Introduction to Social Work, SW 330, where you will spend the entire semester discussing information about social work so that you can make a fully informed decision about whether or not social work is a career for you.
Johnson, Louise C. Social Work Practice: A Generalist Approach. (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1983)
National Association of Social Workers. (Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers, 1985)
Pincus, Allen and Ann Minahan. Social Work Practice: Model and Method. (Staska, IL: F.E. Peacock Publishers, 1973)