What is Social Work and is Social Work the Career for Me?

The United Nations predicts the human population will grow to 9.6 billion by 2050. By the same year, the United States population, is expected to increase to 439 million. This means more poor, more people with mental illness, more people with physical disabilities, more social problems of all kinds. These are sad statistics for mankind, but good news for people who like to work with people and are looking for a career.

101 Careers in Social Work, Second Edition serves as both a catalog of social work job descriptions as well as a guide to career planning. The authors highlight the interdisciplinary nature of social work, and include unconventional, cutting-edge career options such as forensic social work, entrepreneurship, working in political systems, international careers, community planning, and more.

Written in a user-friendly style, each chapter focuses on a specific social work career, and outlines the challenges, core competencies and skills, and educational requirements needed to succeed. This book also includes questionnaires and checklists to help readers choose a career tailored to their unique talents, interests, and passions.

Key Features:

A catalog of 101 social work careers, including careers in emerging fields
Helpful career development tools, including self-assessment checklists, interviews with practicing social workers, and questionnaires
Guidance on educational requirements, licensure, and continuing education
An entire chapter dedicated to job-hunting tips and career planning advice


This book will help you assess whether social work is for you. Or if you have already decided to be a professional social worker, this book will help you decide which specific fields of social work practice are a good fit for you based on your interests, skills, preferences, personality, and of course, your passions! In fact, this book profiles 101 different career options for social workers - including the classic or traditional social work vocations, emerging ones, and a few that are somewhat unconventional.

People find their way to social work in many different ways. Some of you may have a close friend or family member who is a social worker, so you are somewhat familiar with the kinds of things social workers do. Many of you have probably seen social workers portrayed in movies, such as "I Am Sam" or "White Oleander", or television shows, such as "ER" or "Judging Amy". (Unfortunately, many portrayals of social workers in the media are not always accurate or very positive depictions.)

Others find their way to social work because they know they want to help others or improve society but are not sure what path they want to go down exactly - perhaps teaching, or counseling, or psychology, or nursing, or law, or public policy, or maybe social work? In social work programs, you will find a wide range of students, from those young, traditional college students, to those who are not so traditional, such as mid-career changers who want to do something completely different in the second phase of their lives.

The variety of options available to those with a social work degree is extremely impressive and is one of the many reasons students choose to pursue a social work degree. If you are looking for a career that is meaningful and challenging, and never boring, social work might be the one for you. A degree in social work will enable you to create your own unique career path - one full of exciting possibilities.

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Separating the Facts From the Fiction

Some say social work is a science, and some say it is an art. We would argue that it is both. However, once you become a practicing social worker, you quickly learn that most people have a fairly narrow conception of what social workers do and the kinds of jobs they hold. There are also a number of myths about the social work profession. If you want to try an interesting experiment, ask people you know the following question: "What do social workers do?" One of the following responses is fairly typical: Social workers "help people"; they "work with troubled children and families"; they "work with poor people who are on welfare." While these answers are technically accurate, they barely skim the surface in terms of the options that are available to those interested in a career in social work and the knowledge and skill required to do this job.

Top 7 Myths about the Social Work Profession

Myth #1: Most social workers are employed by the government.

Fact: The majority of social workers work in the private sector - in non-profit organizations, for-profit settings, faith-based organizations, and many are self-employed.

Myth #2: All social workers are poorly paid.

Fact: While it is true that some social workers receive salaries that are lower than they should be, many social workers are well paid, particularly those who move into administrative or supervisory positions (see individual career chapters for more information about specific salary ranges).

Myth #3: All social workers have stressful jobs.

Fact: Though some social workers, such as child protection caseworkers, have very stressful jobs, many social workers have jobs that would rate low on the stress scale. However, an important skill for a social worker is self-care in order to avoid burnout.

Myth #4: Anyone who has ajob where they help others can be caled a social worker.

Fact: Only those who have earned a degree in social work can call themselves a social worker. In some states, you must also be licensed to use this title.

Myth #5: To do therapy or counseling, you need a degree in psychology or psychiatry.

Fact: Many social workers work as mental health providers. Some choose to have a private practice while others work in a counseling center or other setting.

Myth #6: Social workers "enable" their clients by solving their problems for them.

Fact: Social workers empower others by providing them with the skills and resources they need to solve their own problems.

Myth #7: Social work is "easy" since you are dealing with "touch-feely" stuff.

Fact: Though social workers are caring and compassionate individuals, they also need to be intelligent and have strong critical thinking skills in order to understand research, policy, and the various theories that guide social work practice.

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According to the Code of Ethics of the Nationla Association of Social Workers (1999), the primary mission of the social work profession is:

"to enhance human well-being and help meet human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession's focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.

One very simple definition of social work is that it is the study of social problems and human behavior. Thus, social workers address any number of important social problems in this country and around the world, including, but not limited to:

poverty and homelessness;
child abuse, neglect, and exploitation;
severe mental illness;
teen pregnancy, suicide, and other problems facing youth;
family problems such as poor communication, divorce, and domestic violence;
sexual assault;
depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems;
community problems such as crime, substandard schools, violence, lack of transportation, jobs, and childcare;
supporting older adults and those with disabilities;
assisting immigrants and refugees;
working with individuals diagnosed with AIDS and other chronic or terminal illnesses;
discrimination against women, people of color, and sexual minorities;
substance abuse; and
natural disasters.

Social workers are change agents who work with a wide variety of client populations in a vast array of settings. We work in schools; domestic violence shelters; adaption agencies; courts and prisons; hospitals; treatment centers; in government agencies; for profit, non-profit, and faith based organizations; counseling centers; nursing homes and long-term care facilities; homeless shelters; international organizations; and in the military.

We are community organizers, counselors and therapists, caseworkers, activists, researchers, academics, and human service administrators. We also work in the political arena as lobbyists and legislative aids. And the best part is that we can work with one client population for a number of years and then decide to switch to another arena for an exciting new challenge. Have we hooked you yet?

Shavon George of Brooklyn, NY says, "This book has explains a lot of careers in social work. Since I read this book, I feel positive about my future in the social work field. I gave this book five stars because it lists core competencies and skills, educational and licensing requirements, and best and challenging aspects of related careers. It also explains the compensation and employment outlook. A self-assessment checklist is also included to see if you fit this job. There are stories of real social workers throughout the book who work in the social work field, which gives you a look at what the job is like. The book also includes how to finance your education and job hunting tips. I recommend this book to anybody who wants to become a social worker or who is interested to know more about the careers in social work. Click here for more information.

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