Why get into social work?
Very simply, social workers spend their entire careers helping others. Your entire job would be dedicated to helping people that encounter social problems on any scale. It’s an incredibly rewarding subsector to work in, as well as being one of the most emotionally demanding.
If you pursue a career in this area, you will get a real opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives – something that most other careers don’t offer.
What are a social worker's main tasks?
Your number one mission is to help people solve the problems that they are facing. However, often these problems cannot be ‘solved’. Consequently, a huge amount of understanding, flexibility and patience is required for anybody that wishes to work in this area.
The work can be hugely varied. You might be providing support to homeless people, helping individuals with mental health problems or aiding people that are addicted to drugs. Virtually any social problem could potentially fall under a social worker’s remit.
The majority of social work opportunities are offered within the public sector, usually for the NHS or local authorities. There are also a lot of opportunities available within independent charities and community projects, as well as in private hospitals and clinics.
Your working environment is usually quite varied and can place you in some potentially awkward and challenging situations. If you’re looking for a standard ‘sit down at a desk’ office job, this is not it. At times, you might be required to work in a hospital, in the house of a service user or in a specialist children’s home. Basically, you will constantly be kept on your toes!
Most social workers choose to specialise in child social work or adult social work. Although the purpose of your role will be very similar in either discipline, the work itself can be somewhat different.
If you choose to work with adults, you could be helping with all kinds of social issues, from housing and sexual health to drug addiction and domestic violence. If you’d prefer to work with children, you might be helping youngsters that are in trouble with the police or guiding children and families through the sensitive process of adoption.
Here, it’s important to note that if you develop a career in social work, you may find yourself working in certain situations that are particularly distressing. You will need to be as supportive as possible without getting emotionally attached. Given the number of distressing situations that you may encounter, it’s vital that you maintain a professional distance.
How do I get involved with social work?
So how do I get into social work? Well, unlike other social care careers, you will have to get a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate degree in social work before you can begin work as a social worker. The extra amount of responsibility that social workers have means that they require much more extensive training.
When it comes to the job itself, the first thing you’ll be required to do is to ascertain what social problems an individual is experiencing. You will analyse and evaluate the problem and determine the severity of the situation. You will then work to find the most suitable way of helping the service user and organise whatever needs to be done to alleviate their problems, or provide them with appropriate care and support.
Developing relationships is crucial here. You may be working with the same individual for a long time, so it’s important that you are able to build relationships based on trust and understanding with the service users in your care.
Are you the selfless type? Enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with helping others? Well, why not make a career out of it?