If you want to spend your time improving other people’s lives, social work is one of the most rewarding career choices available. Simple actions on your part will turn people’s lives around, enabling them to solve what were previously insurmountable problems, while the more challenging cases offer work that is varied and interesting and give you the chance to bring positive change to some of the country’s most vulnerable people. One of the other great things about this profession is that it offers many different areas to work, all based on the same initial qualification. This article gives you some insight into a few of the most popular options, to help you choose what’s right for you.
Family life presents many more challenges than we are generally willing to admit, and it’s something we have no training for, and we are generally left to figure out by ourselves. It should come as no surprise that some people run into trouble. When this happens, social workers are there to pick up the pieces and help people get back on their feet. They help children who are suffering from abuse or neglect and step in when families want to do the right thing but need help to put food on the table or access healthcare. They help people in unhealthy relationships repair or escape them, and help families overcome challenges like language barriers and disabilities. They provide structured opportunities for broken families to come together in a non-confrontational way so that children can spend time with parents they no longer live with.
What does a social worker do in schools to help children? Everything from helping children to develop their social skills to tackling bullying, arranging access to mental health support, and providing support for struggling teachers. As reputable institutions such as Keuka University highlight in their online Master of Social Work programs, social workers can deliver targeted interventions to resolve behavioral problems, teach anger management techniques and organize tailored learning support for students that need additional intellectual stimulation. They assist with integration for students with special needs and make home visits to resolve family problems that are interfering with schoolwork. They also act as a bridge between schools and communities, helping students connect with community organizations to arrange volunteering and mentoring opportunities.
Changes in health can make a huge difference to how well we are able to cope with day-to-day life. Social workers involved in healthcare help people to manage these difficulties. In this role, you could find yourself assisting a family with moving an elderly relative into a nursing home, making sure that all involved have the support they need or you could be making the practical arrangements necessary to help a disabled person continue living independently. You could intervene with employers to ensure that suitable adjustments are needed to help disabled people continue working or to ensure that time off due to illness doesn’t cost somebody their job. Healthcare social workers help people who are going to the hospital to establish any special needs they may have, such as language support or assistance with keeping up their religious obligations. They also liaise with community organizations to ensure that the necessary support is in place when someone is released from the hospital.
In the justice system
A quick look at the statistics connecting conviction rates with age, sex, race and geography makes it clear that people frequently find themselves in trouble for social reasons. When this happens, they need somebody who understands the underlying factors which have put them in that situation, and the bias-related barriers which they may need to overcome to reintegrate into the community and change the way they live their lives. Social workers play a vital role in this process. They liaise with people at all levels in the court system to make sure that their clients are properly supported, understand what’s happening to them and can engage constructively with the system. In this way, a good social worker can help people to avoid being caught up in a cycle of reoffending. Social workers can also intervene when problems such as addiction or poor mental health are contributing to offending, ensuring that proper treatment is available.
In the private sector
Most people expect social workers to be paid and work for the state, but they are increasingly found within the offices of large companies, where they are responsible for the welfare of staff. This arrangement enables such organizations to ensure that all their staff are properly cared for, reducing the degree to which problems in other aspects of their lives impact their work. Unlike HR professionals, social workers are available to help employees deal with housing and healthcare issues, as well as supporting their families. They identify any developing mental health problems and arrange therapy where necessary. They also advise their employers on areas such as inclusivity and work-life balance, making sure that every employee has the best possible working arrangement to enable them to be happy and productive. When this is done well, the employees have better lives, and the company saves money as a result.
These are the most popular areas for social workers to work in but there’s a lot more to explore in this exciting field. In addition, if you start out in one area and find that it’s really not working out for you in the way you imagined, it’s comparatively easy to transfer to another. Many people work in more than one area over the course of their careers and build up intersectional knowledge in the process, better enabling them to serve the needs of all their clients. When you find your true passion, however, you won’t want to be anywhere else, because work like this gives you the opportunity to live a truly fulfilling life.