Historically, the field of social work has been an excellent field for women to work in. Social work is not only hugely rewarding work that offers very high levels of job satisfaction, but it has also always provided women with excellent career progression opportunities.
Any woman looking for a new career path that will hold her interest in the long-term and provide her with valuable real-world experience should consider working towards a degree in social care. Social work still provides the same benefits to women as always, but the field has changed considerably over the previous couple of decades as our understanding of and approach to vulnerable people has evolved.
What Do Social Workers Do?
Social workers are required in a variety of different healthcare contexts, and they help patients to manage physical and psychological conditions on a day to day basis. Some social workers are clinical social workers who are involved in the diagnostic and treatment processes.
The roles of clinical social workers and regular social workers vary slightly, but are built on the same fundamental principles and approaches. The difference is akin to the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist – one is able to prescribe medications and treatments as a doctor, the other is not. However, both can help patients with psychological therapies.
The specific duties of a social worker will vary depending on the exact role that they take on and the setting that they work in, but there are some aspects of the job that are universal. For example, all social workers are involved in working with groups of people who are deemed to be vulnerable. These people can range from elderly people with mobility issues to young people with drug problems.
Both clinical and non-clinical social workers will need to be able to assess and diagnose patients to some degree. Only clinical social workers can make formal diagnoses and prescribe pharmaceutical treatments, but non-clinical social workers will also need to be able to assess the needs of the patients they work with and spot symptoms of common conditions. This is essential if they are to continue to provide appropriate support and treatments to clients.
Many people who come into contact with social services will have physical or emotional conditions that limit their independence. There will also be many cases of people who are still transitioning from a regular life to one that requires the support of a social worker on a day to day basis. Social workers will therefore need to help these people to manage what can often be a difficult transition. This includes helping them to adapt their lives and maybe even their homes to accommodate their changed circumstances.
As with other medical roles, lots of social workers also get involved with research that contributes to the advancement of the field and the development of our understanding of the needs of both patients and social workers themselves. This research is about more than just academic curiosity, and it often plays a central role in assisting governments to formulate coherent and evidence-based policies that deliver the best outcomes for both patients and sector workers.
Social workers are also needed to advocate on behalf of their patients to ensure that they are receiving all the appropriate social and governmental support that they are entitled to. For example, many of those who come into contact with social services will qualify for food stamps and other forms of government assistance. However, many clients will also have difficulties in applying for the programs that they are entitled to.
Depending on the setting in which they work, the work of a social worker can sometimes be very intense. Some social work settings, such as care homes for the elderly, tend to be reasonably easy going and relaxed. However, many social workers deal with issues like child abuse and mental health crises. Needless to say, these situations can be quite distressing and quite difficult for many people to work in on a daily basis.
Helping people through their deepest crisis can be difficult, but it is also among the most rewarding work that social workers do. For those who have the resilience and fortitude to work in these difficult conditions, there is a lot to like about the job.
After helping clients to navigate the initial stages of their crises, the work of a social worker continues. They then need to follow-up with clients to ensure that any lifestyle changes they have prescribed are sticking and that the client’s situation is improving.
Of course, in addition to working with clients, social workers will also need to complete a reasonable amount of admin work. There is always paperwork involved with health care, and social work is no exception to this. It isn’t the most exciting or rewarding part of the job, but efficient administration is important for ensuring that clients’ needs are being met and accurate records are recorded for the benefit of future social workers.
What Different Types of Social Worker Are There?
Social workers are required in a variety of different settings to assist their clients through a number of different potential situations. There are roles within social care to suit most types of personality and most skill sets, and social workers can find themselves working with people from all backgrounds. Whatever your individual strengths and weaknesses, and whatever your motive for wanting to work in social care, there is almost certainly a role out there to suit you.
- Child and Family – Child and family social workers work with vulnerable children, as well as adults who need assistance in looking after the children. Child and family social workers can help families find housing and access other support services that might be of benefit to them. They also help families to apply for benefits and ensure that they are receiving all the entitlements that they qualify for. These social workers also work with families who are adopting children to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
- School – School social workers, as you can probably guess, work within schools and other educational institutions providing guidance, mostly to students and their families, but also sometimes to staff as well. School counselors will often act as intermediaries whenever there are concerns with a pupil’s attendance or work.
- Healthcare – A healthcare social worker is a social worker who assists patients in coming to terms with a new diagnosis and making any necessary adjustments to their homes, lifestyle, or other arrangements. Many people who leave the hospital with a life-changing injury will need assistance in transitioning from the hospital to the home environment. This can be an especially difficult process where someone is suffering from impaired mobility after a lifetime of full ambulation. Healthcare social workers mostly work with elderly patients, although they will come across patients of all ages and backgrounds in the course of their work.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse – Finally, another common type of social worker is a mental health and substance abuse social worker. Both of these types of care are distinct, but there is a considerable amount of overlap between them. A significant portion of people who have substance abuse issues also have mental health issues, and vice versa. Social workers who work with recovering drug addicts and those suffering from persistent mental health disorders assist their clients in accessing the right services and available programs.
Other options include:
- Military and veteran’s social worker
- Community social worker
- Psychiatric social worker
- Hospice and palliative care social worker
Reasons to Work in Social Care
The social care industry is a fantastic industry for women to work in. Not only does it present some fantastic career-progression opportunities, but it is also hugely rewarding and unique work. You can choose what type of social worker you want to be and focus your efforts on helping the people who you think are most in need of your assistance. This is one of the main attractions to the work for many people; lots of social workers work to assist people who are in a situation that they or someone close to them has been in in the past.
If you have a close friend or family member who has required assistance from social services in the past, then this can provide excellent motivation for pursuing a career as a social worker. It can also give you a unique perspective on your patients’ struggles and help you to empathize with them in a way that other social workers can’t. While it might not be ‘experience’ in the traditional sense, past encounters with social services in your own life often entail a deeper understanding of what they do and the value of their work.
It takes some time to ascend to the highest echelons of the social work profession, but this is a career path that gives women control over how and when they progress through the ranks. Not only are the opportunities for progressing to more senior positions a real boon for female workers, but social work is a career that offers consistently high levels of job satisfaction. Social workers are among the happiest and most satisfied workers, in spite of the often emotionally-difficult nature of the work they do.
You can even study to become a social care worker while you are working at another job. Online degrees are now a perfectly valid route to take in order to earn your qualifications. There are even degrees like this online MSW that have been designed to be flexible and accommodate working professionals who don’t have time to commit to a full-time university degree.
Becoming a Social Worker
If you think that social work is the right career path for you, then you need to look into your education and training options. We just mentioned online degrees, and these are an increasingly popular way for people to begin their training. Depending on the specific specialty that you want to work in, there are a number of different paths that you can take into the industry.
The most common route begins with studying for a bachelor’s degree in social work. The BSW trains students to undertake entry-level positions in social care. These are largely administrative roles, although some workers at this level will hold degrees in subjects like psychology or sociology rather than the BSW.
However, in order to take on clinical positions, students will need to study for a master’s degree in social work. This course usually takes two years to complete, although if you choose to study part-time through an online university, then it will take longer. The masters in social work prepares students to begin working in their chosen field and develop their ability to clinically assess patients. Completing the masters in social work will require students to undertake a placement within a social work setting. If you study online, then the university that runs your course will arrange this for you.
You don’t necessarily need to hold a bachelor’s in social work in order to study for a master’s degree. However, you will need to have a bachelor’s of some variety. Fortunately, just about any subject can potentially open the door to a masters in social work course for you. There are some programs that will enable students that hold a bachelor’s degree in social work to complete their master’s degree at an accelerated rate – sometimes as quickly as one year.
Giving all the potential scenarios in which social workers can work, there is bound to be a role out there to suit every person regardless of their individual skillset. If you have familial experience of social workers, or they have previously played a role in your own life, then this can give you valuable experience to draw upon and can enable you to make a real difference to someone else’s life.
In a world where women continue to be denied roles at the highest echelons of most industries, social work provides a rare but welcome exception. This is an excellent opportunity for compassionate women to advance their careers while helping other people and making a real difference. Anyone who wants to become a social worker can begin studying to do so. If you don’t already hold a bachelor’s degree, the BSW is a great starting point.