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A future in Social Work
By Jennifer Bailey
Social work is an impactful career area as is related to the field of psychology. If you are looking for a career that is rewarding, yet challenging, and you want to contribute to society by helping people overcome hard things and improve lives, then a career in the field of social work could be just for you! Many people who work in this realm start by earning an undergraduate degree before moving on to graduate school. Doctorate programs are also available if that is your long-term goal.
This field uses social theories to understand human issues and then finds ways to help improve people's lives and society as a whole. It is interdisciplinary, which means that it draws on theories and practices from many areas of study including sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics and even economics.
Many who are in social work specialize in particular areas; like helping children and are passionate about helping those with life-threatening issues such as addiction or those with disabilities, diseases or social issues like unemployment. They are also responsible for helping people with everyday things that impact their daily lives including personal, family and relationship issues that are often very dysfunctional and destructive. Families with domestic conflicts can also turn to social workers for relief and guidance during difficult times. The bottom line is that Social Workers are mental health professionals who help people with a broad range of issues, including psychological, financial, health, relationship and substance abuse problems.
As a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work, you can expect courses in social work practice, issues in social welfare, history and philosophy of social welfare, diversity and the struggle for human rights, promotion of social and economic justice, social welfare policy, social work practice, social research methods and human behavior theory. You may also take electives such as psychological studies, cultural anthropology, sociology and biology.
Generally, you will participate in field assignments and/or internships, which provide a great hands on experience within a human service agency such as a child welfare agency, community center, detention center, domestic violence agency, medical and psychiatric hospital, school, nursing home, mental health clinic, youth service agency, substance abuse clinic or residential treatment facility.
Of course, there are the traditional places you may think this career would take you such as in a social services office that deals with domestic issues including child welfare cases; however, here are a few out of the box ideas of where you might also use this degree: Adoption agencies, prison and correctional facilities, police departments, Head Start clinics, hospice organizations, school districts and even Veteran agencies.
It would be most helpful for someone interested in the social work field to be naturally drawn to the idea of being an advocate for others, enjoys teaching people new skills, are a natural problem solver, enjoy doing research, are comfortable networking in a community, likes to counsel others and takes pride in good follow through.
The outlook in the field is very promising as The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that social work careers are expected to grow faster than the average over the next ten years. While it is predicted employment opportunities in urban areas will be more competitive, the Department of Labor suggests that job demand will also be good in rural locations.