Social Service as a Career in the 21st century
Opting for Social Service as a career not only opens you up to endless opportunities but also provides a platform to help the under-privileged
Social Service, in the 21st century, has established itself as a leading profession at par with any other profession. It was established under humanitarian and democratic ideals, and its values are based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. In solidarity with those who are under-privileged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote peace and harmony.
Social workers help people to overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges such as poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. It’s a noble profession that serves individuals, families, and communities who seek preventative and rehabilitative interventions for an improved quality of life.
In India, it has already passed its infancy long ago and in the last few decades it has emerged as one of the most sought after professions. A person holding a Bachelor (BSW) or Master (M.A in Social Work/MSW) degree in Social Work is generally considered a professional social worker. As far as Indian scenario is concerned, both Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have a lot to offer if you are willing to work with immense dedication, which is of course a prerequisite in any profession. International organizations too are socially aware and hence a number of opportunities are available in international social work. Industrial and commercial units too are looking to hire social workers.
A degree or diploma in Social Work creates a large number of opportunities in various sectors, depending on specialization and area of interest. Few of them are articulated below;
Child Welfare Social Worker:
The core responsibility of a child welfare social worker is to protect children from situations of abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment. They focus on ensuring the social, physical, psychological and emotional well-being of their clients. They do this by making home visits to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, providing assessments to determine whether a parent or guardian is fit to provide care, evaluating whether a child should be temporarily or permanently removed from his living situation and placing children with foster care or adoptive families.
Child welfare social workers usually need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work, or BSW, although sometimes, they may have undergraduate degrees in related fields like psychology or sociology. Many child welfare social workers earn master’s degrees in social work, and a very limited number of candidates have doctoral degrees.
Addiction/Substance Abuse Social Worker:
A substance abuse social worker will usually start by meeting and interviewing a client who’s caught in the vicious cycle in either rehabilitation centers or reformatory homes. This enables them to determine the frequency and intensity of the abuse. In order to assess a client, the social worker will usually interview him, and possibly his loved ones. The social worker might also talk with a client’s medical doctors or mental health professionals to get a thorough knowledge about the client’s mental and physical condition. After assessing a client, a substance abuse social worker will then usually help a client come up with a treatment plan. They create treatment plans based on what best suits each individual client, based on their needs, abilities and severity of the abuse.
Most areas require substance abuse social workers to have at least a master’s degree in social work (MSW) in order to become licensed. Along with obtaining this type of degree, substance abuse social workers are also required to have several hours of supervised social work experience before becoming licensed. In addition, they can also obtain an M.Phil. degree and tie up with rehabilitation centers to communicate with addicts and gain considerable experience.
School Social Worker:
A school social worker provides social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and to maximize their academic functioning. They ensure that students reach their academic and personal potential. In addition, they address problems such as misbehavior, truancy, and teenage pregnancy. Increasingly, school social workers teach workshops to entire classes. They are usually employed or contracted by school districts or other educational institutions to help students cope with personal and psychological issues that affect their school performance, behavior and socialization. They also might assist teachers and administrators in dealing with behavioral or attitude issues by communicating with students to find the causes of their distress.
Mostly, a master’s or bachelor’s degree in social work is the key to open the gates of Social Sector. However, pertaining to school social work, a course in psychology would be extremely helpful as it will give you an insight into child psychology and behavioral disorders that trigger problems in their community. Visiting schools and institutions with a valid practicing license and holding sessions with children and teachers can polish your school social service skills on a large scale.
Mental Health Social Worker:
Mental health social workers work with individuals with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar, dementia, trauma, etc and solve psychosocial problems such as family distress, unemployment, disability, poverty and trauma. They work with issues such as depression, anxiety, mood and personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, relationship problems, adjustment issues, trauma and family conflicts. Mental Health Social workers are usually employed at psychiatric hospitals where they indulge in psychosocial assessments and provide therapy. They are in frequent contact with the family members of patients. They meet with other members of the mental health team (psychiatrists, nurse practitioners etc.) to discuss patient care.
Although a bachelor’s degree in social work may provide some edge, they will not expose you to psychotherapy and mental illness, which is a prerequisite for this domain. Ideally, a programme with a more clinical focus and fieldwork such as Master’s in Social Work should be considered.
Community Social Workers:
Community social workers help communities function. Some work directly with individuals, conducting needs assessments and making referrals to resources in the community. Others assess needs on a larger scale. They may plan and administer programs. They may be employed by various nonprofits and grassroots organizations to raise funds, write grants, plan infrastructure etc. There is a particular need for community social workers when traditional support structures fail in the wake of war or natural disaster. They not only help people with immediate needs, but set up systems that will endure after they leave.
A professional can do community social work with either a BSW or MSW. Bachelor’s programmes are considered generalist and entry level; they typically include, within the practice methods, community organization and community referral. Whereas, advanced practice generally requires a master’s degree. It covers every aspect of community service in a holistic way.
Geriatric/Old Age Social Workers:
Although older adults serve as essential resources to their communities, they face a great risk of marginalization. Older adults often experience both social devaluation and poverty upon leaving the labour market; financial market fluctuations contribute to income and social insecurity regardless of employment history, especially in countries with developing and transitioning economies. Social devaluation holds an impact on people with disabilities, people with a migration background, and people who do not belong to the majority racial or ethnic group of any given society. A strong workforce is essential to advance the health and well-being of older adults.
Old age social workers are uniquely prepared to help both formal and informal caregivers and provide the psychosocial aspects of quality of life in old age and the problems attached to it. A master’s degree in social work is the key to become a geriatric social worker. However, a diploma or a doctoral will expose you to higher dimensions pertinent to this domain.
Medical Social Worker:
Medical social workers are usually hospital or nursing facility employees who work with patients and their families to help them deal with psychological issues they are going through. They usually pay close attention to the social, mental, and emotional development and well-being of each patient in the facility so they can treat and prevent any issues from becoming recurring problems. They assess client needs by consulting with medical professionals, providing medical and financial assistance. They monitor client progress and treatment plans against measurable goals.
The usual requirement for a medical social worker is a Master of Social Work degree. Some jobs may be available to social workers who only have a Bachelor of Social Work, but these jobs are usually lower-level assistant positions. Ideally, a doctoral or a master’s degree will pave the way for a desired career in this domain.
Administrative Social Workers:
Administrative social workers should possess knowledge about social policies and the delivery of social services, vision for future planning, an understanding of human behavior, and commitment to social work ethics and values. An administrative social worker’s role may include policy formulation, programme design and implementation, budget development, operations management, personnel direction and supervision, fund development and resource allocation, public relations, marketing, and evaluation. Day-to-day tasks include goal setting, resource acquisition, problem solving, negotiation, team and coalition building, information management, assessment, and quality control. It also covers the issues that are undertaken with regard to an individual, group and community in the process of organization and direction of a social institution.
A bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level jobs in the administrative social services sector. However, a master’s degree typically covers human behavior, diversity, social welfare policy, family dynamics and social justice. Specializations in specific areas are often offered.
Social Workers exist in every facet of community life be it old age homes, orphanages, schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, prisons, corporations and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals and families in need. Social work is not just about doing good deeds and helping the under-privileged, but having extensive knowledge about community resources and having the perseverance to work in emotionally stressful conditions.
If you are willing to work for emotional fulfillment and your purpose is not just financial, then this career will prove to be an ideal choice for you!