Across America, there are hundreds of thousands of people providing care for those in their communities. Whether these are sons and daughters caring for their elderly relatives, parents caring for their children, or volunteers working in shelters and hospices, care holds our society together. Those who make a career of their caring disposition (and help perform the crucial social work that helps the most vulnerable in society) are among the most valuable people in society. These social workers are unsung heroes in our world. This article introduces all you need to know about the kind of work they do – and how you can join their number.
What is Social Work?
Social work might sound like an oxymoron to you. After all, our common perception of work is something that’s not fun and is often boring. Conducted in cubicles and without interaction with your friends and colleagues, work can often seem far from social.
But the ‘social’ in social work doesn’t mean that you’ll be chatting to friends all day and getting paid for it. It actually relates to society – you’ll be helping communities around you heal and deal with stress and trauma. Social work is social in the sense that it helps build bridges between people.
And when you consider how many people are in need within our society, you come to realize just how varied and rewarding career in social work can be. You might help vulnerable children, toxic families, those suffering from drug addiction, or those with mental health disorders. One week you might be assigned to a hospital, and the next, you might be doing home visits downtown.
Social work is fundamentally important to helping those in need – and it’s also fundamentally varied. You’ll never have the same day twice when pursuing a career in social work.
Highs and Lows of Social Work
Of course, given the above, social work is often seen as one of the most rewarding careers to pursue. As a social worker, you’ll be out there helping those who are most desperate for some form of assistance, and you’ll notice the positive impact you’re having on the lives of people around you. It’s a constant source of meaning and fulfillment.
Nonetheless, it would be disingenuous to suggest that social work is all warm fuzzy feelings and caring hugs and smiles. It’s also a career that will challenge you, bring you to tears, and reveal to you some desperate individuals living in desperate circumstances. Part of your job – and part of a social worker’s remit – is to respond professionally to the pain that you experience and witness and to use your training to try to help as much as you can.
It’s this challenging aspect of social work that actually makes it so rewarding. Helping those for whom you feel a deep sense of empathy can form strong friendships and lifelong bonds with those around you.
Becoming a Social Worker
Before committing to a social work career – which will require you to study an online social work degree – you should first consider whether you’re the right fit to work in care and related activities. The best way to get a feel for the social work vocation is to talk to those who currently practice social work – and you’ll be able to find these individuals by searching online.
You’ll find that managers and staff members in social work institutions are more than happy to organize a meeting with you to share their experiences and advice about the road ahead. You’ll also find that most social workers love their careers and recommend it to anyone with aspirations to work in a meaningful and rewarding job.
After getting to grips with a social worker’s expectations and hearing first-hand how social workers feel about their jobs, it’s time to get yourself qualified. The quickest and most effective way to do this is via an online social work degree, which will open doors to all kinds of career paths in the future.
By studying an online social work degree, you’ll qualify yourself for the full range of opportunities out there for social workers, including working with domestic abuse victims, working with hard-up families, or with children who are suffering from mental health issues. Your training at university will prepare you to lend a hand to those in need across society.
Finding an online social work degree is easy: you simply need to search online for a program that suits you and apply for their next batch of undergraduates. Studying online – especially in these virus-hit times is considered a safer and cheaper alternative to in-person teaching. For mature students and families to support, online study means flexibility and enables individuals to continue earning in their jobs alongside their studies.
Working on your online social work degree will take time, patience, and a lot of hard work. Learning in an online environment means that you’ll have to motivate yourself to hit deadlines, and you’ll need to maintain a drive and determination to learn on weekends, during the night, and during your lunch breaks at work.
Your online social work degree is your chance to learn all of the skills, knowledge, and social work theory in one comprehensive course. As such, you should regard your studies not as a means to an end, but as a process of skills acquisition that will enable you to hit the ground running in your first job upon graduation. Stay engaged and keep working hard on your assignments to make the most out of your time within the educational institution of your choosing.
How to Ace University
But how can you truly extract the most value from your investment in an online social work degree? Here are some tips to help you ace your time at university – extracting knowledge, skills, and contacts from your time studying in preparation for your future career:
- Make contacts. These can be within your class or amongst your tutors, mentors, and professors. The more you communicate with those around you on your course, the stronger your contact book will be throughout your career.
- Extra work. Always look for opportunities to expand your knowledge base and build new skills outside your core subject. If possible, take elective modules and extra-curricular university courses to prepare you for your social work career.
- Look to practical experience. Studying online removes the in-person communication that is so vital for social work. Make sure that you’re compensating for this by seizing any opportunity that comes your way to meet and work with people in person.
- Achieve high grades. It might not matter for your career, but proving to yourself that you’re capable of top grades and high praise will boost your confidence when it comes to your job search upon graduation.
An online social work degree is going to be challenging. You’ll have lots to learn, and much of it will be without supervision. You’ll have to find the time, and space, to study alone – and you’ll need to hit all your deadlines, making sacrifices to do so. But on completion, your online social work degree will enable you to apply for exciting jobs in your local area, making all this hard work well worth it in the long run.
Finding a Job
Social work is a popular vocation chosen by thousands of Americans each year – and yet, with a growing burden of care within society, there are often more jobs than applicants to fill vacancies. This unbalanced job market is good news for those searching for social work jobs after completing their online social work degree.
Nonetheless, you shouldn’t necessarily leap at the first job that presents itself to you after you’ve graduated. There are dozens of opportunities in different sectors of care and social work to consider – and your degree means that you’re able to apply for the most attractive opportunities out there. When searching for the right job for you, consider the following variables:
- Will there be opportunities for career progression? Will you be joining a firm in which there are various seniority levels and pay increases for high performers?
- How much flexibility are you looking for in your work? Are you willing to work weekends to have extra days off? Or would you like to work for an agency at which you decide your hours?
- What are your particular interests? While studying, you’ll have developed an interest in specific social work areas – pursue these when you graduate and search for a job.
- What reputation does your potential employer have? Look on Glassdoor and other review sites to develop an understanding of the organization you’re applying to work for.
- Is the salary competitive? Remember that you’re in the power position with your online social work degree, and you’re able to pick and choose the salary that suits you on the job market.
The job search is always an unenviable stage in one’s career – involving writing plenty of resumes and cover letters and filling in countless online forms. It also means preparing yourself for interviews and presenting yourself in the best possible light. But with the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to continue searching to find the job that best suits your criteria.
Your First Social Work Position
There’s no doubt that your first position in social work is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking. You may have spent many months training for this moment, but you’re aware that you’re about to be thrown into the deep end and asked to tread water in some challenging – but ultimately rewarding – scenarios.
It’s worth talking with your employer in your first weeks on the job to get the support you need to succeed. You’ll find that employers usually have a gentle onboarding system that involves plenty of mentoring and feedback, which will help ease the load on you for the initial weeks of the job.
Furthermore, this is a time to rely on the support of friends and family, who will be there to listen to your worries and to reassure you in the first tricky weeks of your job.
Loving Your Career
Once these first tumultuous weeks are over and you’ve ascended the steep learning curve that always comes with your first position in social work, you’ll start hitting your stride. You’ll put your training into practice, and your online social work degree will return to you, time and again, to help you manage and help cases and clients on your roster.
As you continue to get to know those who you are working with and those who you are helping, you’ll begin to experience the benefits and the highs of a career in social work. What we mentioned at the beginning of this article – that wholesome sense that you’re doing something meaningful for those in your community – will become your reality. You’ll begin to love the work you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with.
Progressing Your Career
Social work is complex with many layers and tiers and different avenues to explore and further specialize in. Some workers prefer always to resist rising through the ranks to a management position to preserve what they love about the job: helping people daily.
Though their sights are set higher for others, and opportunities to progress your career as a social worker are multiple and diverse. You might choose to go into public advocacy and public relations, share stories from your vocation, or advise policymakers in your locality. You may wish instead to head up a new team of social workers addressing a specific problem or join an international organization focused on an issue you care about deeply. However, you choose to progress, remember that your first role experiences will always stay with you in your future, more senior positions.
Social work comes with its fair share of highs and lows – but if you’re looking for a career that centers on care and empathy, and has a noticeable impact on the lives of those around you, this is a vocation that delivers meaning and fulfillment, time and again, to thousands across the USA.