Career Profile: Social Worker
Helping people can be a satisfying experience. You probably know the good feeling you get when you help your grandparents or friends with jobs that need to be done, such as raking leaves in the yard or helping them move to a new home. You might not enjoy everything about the job itself, but in the end, you can feel good about doing something to help people in need. If you enjoy helping people, even with difficult or unpleasant tasks, a career as a social worker might be right for you.
Becoming a social worker is a bit like helping friends and family with the things they need to have done. Not everything that social workers do is pleasant or even safe. Sometimes they have to deal with dangerous situations and it may seem as if nothing they do can help improve people’s lives. However, all of these struggles are part of their job.
Basically, social workers help people in crisis. They might go into the hospital to help someone who needs assistance in everyday tasks because of an accident or major illness. In Canada, about 85% of social workers are in hospitals. Others take children from dangerous homes and find them safe places to live. Social workers help unemployed people, the homeless, people with physical or mental disabilities, young people who have committed crimes, and many others. To do this, they often work with counselors, psychologists, and other professionals.
For each person or family that social workers help, they have to make a plan. They decide what information to give on government programs or arrange for meetings with a counsellor who can help people with their family, employment, or personal problems. It usually means spending time with the client (the person in need) to see what help is necessary. People are all different, and social workers have to try to find out the best treatment for each one. Over the next months or years, the social workers have to keep on checking in with the client to make sure that everything is working and report back to other people working in the field. Often, this means that they spend a lot of time writing reports on what they have done.
Many people do social work without ever having official training. Someone who washes the dishes at a homeless shelter, for example, is doing social work. However, becoming a full-time, official social worker usually requires university training to learn the theories and principles of the field. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work or social services is often necessary for high-level jobs, although many lower-level workers often need no special education.
A career in social work can be difficult, but it can have many rewards. If you like working with people and want to help them, it might be a good career path to consider.