“All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others,” said Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. People who are passionate about helping others might want to consider a career in the field of social work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those interested in this career would be joining a large and ever-growing professional community, in 2010, there were 650, 500 social workers in the United States. What exactly do social work professionals do? The answer to this question is more complicated than it may seem. To begin the discussion about what the role of a social worker is let’s start by dispelling some common myths about the profession.
Myth: “Social workers do not make much money.”
Fact: Salaries can vary based on several factors, including educational background, qualifications, geographic location, and specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a social worker employed in the field of individual and family services earns a median salary of $39,310 per year while the median salary of a social worker employed in an elementary or secondary school is to $54,260 per year.
Myth: “Social workers work primarily with the poor.”
Fact: It is true that the practice of social work was rooted in helping individuals living in poverty, when the profession first originated in the 19th century which is also why social work is often mistakenly only viewed as charity work. However, in modern times, social workers provide services to individuals with all backgrounds, ages and socio-economic status.
Myth: “The majority of social workers are employed either in social services or child welfare.”
Fact: Social workers work in a variety of venues, including hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, mental health clinics, substance abuse divisions (like me!), prisons, private practices, schools, nonprofit agencies, welfare agencies, children and family services, government offices, policy divisions, etc.
Myth: “Social work is depressing because you are always involved with individuals’ problems.”
Fact: It is true that social workers try to improve others’ lives by helping those in need cope with and solve personal problems and other issues. Social workers may also work to assist those who face disabilities, life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence or substance abuse. Yet, the job of a social worker is not always depressing. Social workers aim to enhance others’ well-being with a focus on empowering individuals and recognizing their needs, strengths and abilities, and social workers are often rewarded when they are able to witness their clients personal victories. Additionally, there are also special trainings to help social workers manage their feelings of stress or sadness.
It is surprising how little people know about the field of social work. Once you get past the myths, you will realize what an important role a social worker plays in society and that it takes a very special kind of a person to do social work.