Many aspiring Master of Social Work (MSW) students wonder if they really have what it takes to enter the social work profession. The job is not without its rewards, but it can also be stressful, emotionally taxing, and physically demanding. Working conditions and pay can be just as daunting at times.
The fact is, entering this helping profession is not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to become a social worker. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree just to get started—a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) if you don’t plan to get an MSW. For many of social work’s most compelling professions—including clinical practice treating mental illness and other emotional challenges—your social work education will have to include an MSW.
Are you cut out for this path? Here are ten reasons why you should choose a career in social work:
Social work gives you a professional platform with which to engage your inner helper. An MSW degree will allow you to help people from all walks of life with all kinds of problems. Are you genuinely concerned about the mental and physical well-being of others? If not, this is not the job for you.
There are a couple of significant practical considerations:
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification
Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:
- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. ( )
A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. ( )
- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees
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You’re interested in feelings, behavior, and overall mental health. You’re perceptive about what motivates people. You know that people’s lives change when they are empowered, and you find the work of helping them rewarding.
Many social workers enter the profession after personally experiencing some adversity. Some survived difficult circumstances and now want to help people in similar positions; their experiences inspired a lifelong passion to advocate for child welfare or human rights issues, or simply to perform public service. Others want to continue their journeys of overcoming as part of their day-to-day jobs. As long as your career doesn’t become a never-ending odyssey of self-help, you’ll find yourself in the company of other professionals whose personal paths are similarly intertwined with social work.
Sure, some of your friends are off to glamorous careers or riches. But those things won’t satisfy you. You need a sense of meaning and a job that makes an impact to feel fulfilled, even if that job is less financially rewarding than others.
You may have been raised to believe in the good of others, or in doing good work yourself. Perhaps you want to live an ethics-driven life of integrity. As licensed professionals, social workers are not just do-gooders; they adhere to a high level of standards and ethics as defined by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is projected to grow by 16 percent over the next decade. That figure leaves a lot of other professions in the dust, and positions you for numerous employment opportunities. You could start off in the medical social work field, for example, switch to providing counseling, and then go into administration or return to case management. As a social worker, you have the option to reinvent yourself while staying true to your profession—whether you’re helping someone manage mental health issues, acquire necessary health services, claim victim rights, or overcome substance abuse challenges.
Becoming a mover and shaker is in your blood. You possess a sensitivity to those who are marginalized and victimized. You won’t stop until the inequities in the world are righted. You are primed for a mezzo- or macro-level social work career.
Licensed social workers are positioned to work in many fields and organizations. Some non-traditional areas of social work include tech, human resources, fundraising, philanthropic giving, diversity leadership, high school counseling, and college consulting. You won’t be confined to one limited career path when you earn your bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in social work. A social work degree delivers BIG career options.
A mundane desk job just won’t cut it for someone with your energy. Whether you choose to counsel individuals in private practice as a clinical social worker or champion social change as a community organizer, you want to be immersed in and committed to every moment of your working day. You are a full-time carer and doer.
Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done is your signature style. In the face of adversity, you are steely and strong. And you know how to stand up to injustice. You have strong feelings about what is right with the United States and the ways in which it can be made even better. You have the skills and commitment to do whatever it takes to reach the level you need to reach to be effective: by completing all necessary degree programs and certifications, earning your licensure, even pursuing a PhD if that’s what it takes to achieve your goals.
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