What Is Social Work?
By Lacretia Davis
“Why in the world do you want to be a social worker?” “Oh, you want to take peoples kids away?” These are just a couple of the questions I got when I decided to change my major from psychology to social work. After much reflection, I realized that psychology was not the major for me and that I needed to follow my heart and focus on social work. My career goal is to have a private practice that focuses on the mental health of children with disorders such as autism, pervasive developmental disorders, and other behavioral challenging disorders. My practice would also include parents and caregivers in the treatment and intervention processes and would educate them on their child’s disorder.
When most people hear the term “social work,” they automatically think of child protective services and department of human services workers. It is a wide belief in our society that social workers only break families apart and assist with gaining welfare. I know firsthand, that is not the case at all. Having a social work degree allows for employment in a variety of settings. My mom has worked in the social work field for over 23 years now. She has held positions such as a residential housing worker, a juvenile probation officer, protective services worker, a therapist for young mothers and she is currently a contractual in-home therapist for children and families. These are just a handful of the positions social workers can obtain. Social workers can work in school, hospital, government, political settings, and many others. Social workers can also hold macro level positions. Many are not aware that social workers are able to advocate and push for policy change, work in organizational and community practice, administrative practice, and conduct research.
Social work is a field that aims to assist in the improvement of individuals daily functioning in their environment. I have always believed that in order to be an effective social worker you must have a heart for the job, you must innately care about the well-being of other individuals and have a passion for helping others. Despite some of the gruesome stories that I have come across so far in my career journey, I would not trade my profession for the world. It’s something about building relationships and making a difference in peoples’ lives that brings great joy to my heart. In high school, my favorite English teacher always instilled in her students that we can be world conquerors and I believe that through social work I will accomplish that, one person/family at a time.
Most social work programs require students to have a yearlong internship that provides hands on experience in the field. This allows students to develop professionally before actually starting their career. As a student the internship was the best part for me because not only was I able to interact with clients I was able to apply the concepts I learned in classes. The internship experience also helped me feel confident in my helping skills once I began to work in a social work position.
Contrary to popular belief, the demand for social workers is projected to rise faster than the average for all occupations (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos060.htm). As long as there are inequalities in our society, there will always be a need for social workers. So if you’re considering grad school or a change of career and you think you have the heart, passion and drive to be a great social worker, I strongly suggest looking into Michigan State’s Social Work graduate program (http://socialwork.msu.edu ). Of course there are other amazing social work graduate programs, but what kind of Spartan would I be if I didn’t put it out there that our social work program is awesome?
Lacretia Davis is Career Services Assistant for MSU Alumni Career Services. She is also a graduate student studying Social Work at MSU. She is anticipating graduation in May of 2013.