Social work is regarded as a career that complements those with a caring nature and a strong desire to establish the right work-life balance, with benefits such as flexible working, rewarding connections, and a competitive ladder to climb for the most ambitious workers. In this guide, you’ll learn whether this is a career that will suit you and how you can enter this vocation – acquiring the skills you need to become a social worker or care giver. Read on for a complete guide to social work in 2020.
Introducing Social Work
Firstly, it’s important to introduce social work – so that you know what you’re getting into when you set your sights on a career in this field.
Social work is often equated with providing care for the elderly, children with needs, or adults with disabilities. But it is actually a much wider field than that – encompassing any individual or group that needs help and support.
As a social worker, you’ll have the opportunity to work with those who have suffered from domestic abuse or young people who have been abandoned by their parents. You’ll be able to work within hospitals or educational institutions, or as a home-visiting professional who visits the homes of the neediest individuals and communities.
Is Social Work for Me?
So, what might you expect from a career in social work, and will it suit your expectations for a job that’s challenging, rewarding, and meaningful?
Well, it’s worth looking in online forums and job review websites to get an idea of what it’s like to become a social worker. In many of these enclaves of the internet, you’ll find like-minded people with whom you can chat about the highs and lows of a career in social work. Prestigious publications like the New York Times or the Washington Post often publish articles written by social workers.
In these articles and their appraisal of their careers, social workers frequently cite the fact that they know they’re making a difference. They’re aware that they are delivering something meaningful to people’s lives, and that, in turn, delivers a powerful feeling of meaning – a rewarding sense that you’re helping your community.
Meanwhile, social work is a job that tends to suit those with a caring disposition and a drive to use their emotional intelligence and communication skills to help those around them. It’s a career regularly chosen by the religious – and Christian colleges often offer an online social work degree, as it chimes with their spiritual calling.
How to Get into Social Work
If what you’ve read so far has piqued your interest, then it’s time to look at how you can begin planning your way into the world of social work. To do this, you’re going to need to get qualified, and this is most easily done via an online social work degree. You’ll be able to find these courses by searching for an online social work degree on the internet. Focus on finding the course that’s most aligned with your ambitions and the free time that you have at your disposal.
Social workers exist without qualifications; many thousands of care givers learn on the job and without any formal qualifications. However, if you want to have the full range of social work experiences available to you, you should get a degree. An online social work degree can be taken in conjunction with your current job – and will open doors that only those with a bachelor’s degree can get through.
Getting to University
It’s strongly advised that you elect to study online for your degree. While there are in-person degrees in social work available in many universities across the US, they tend to be more expensive, and you’ll be required to relocate to a new city where rent and living costs may be high. We’re also living in the aftermath of a global pandemic, and the ability of universities to protect their students from the coronavirus has not been fully tested yet.
The online social work degree is considered a superior option for those hoping to get qualified in social work. Not only will you be able to continue living at your current address – you’ll be free to continue in your job (perhaps even full-time) while you study. This all means minimal disruption to your life and minimal effort invested in getting your qualification – and the conclusion of your online social work degree will see you qualified to work in a variety of social worker roles in your locality.
How to Ace Your Degree
An online social work degree requires that you’re able to operate with a great deal of self-discipline. Degrees are a serious business, and they’re not awarded to people who fail to take an interest in their course or those who find it difficult to motivate themselves to meet deadlines.
Meanwhile, funding your degree – for the full three-year program – can be difficult if you’ve not put a plan in place to help you pay off your student loans or to help you save a little cash each month for when those tuition fees come home to roost. This should always be a large part of your online social work degree planning: to be able to earn or save enough to pay for your tuition for the entirety of your course.
Tips for Studying
Remember that studying a course – whether online or offline – is a privilege that few people get to enjoy, so you need to make the most of your time. It’s worthwhile to think about your strategies for learning while you’re in university. These will help set you apart from your fellow students and prepare you for the exciting career you’ll be stepping into to complete your online social work degree.
Let’s look at some of the tried-and-tested tips out there to help you make the most of your studies and ensure that the teachings you recall from your online social work degree course apply to many of the situations that arise in your future career.
- Take meticulous and neat notes. You’ll never know when something mentioned in a lecture, a seminar, or a textbook might come in handy in the future.
- Talk with all of your tutors and mentors and make sure that you’re making friends with those on your course. Contacts will help you build your career after you graduate from your online social work degree.
- Plan ahead when there are important essays and exams looming on the horizon. Build the time you need to revise and learn from materials you’ll apply in these assessments.
- When you’re working from home while studying, you must have a space to call your own and a desk to work on. Without peace and quiet, it’s far harder to concentrate for prolonged periods.
- Try to find extra opportunities – such as learning from others’ experience and taking modules in different but related fields – to broaden your knowledge base and your learning.
All of these tips will help you be a model student on your online social work degree program – ensuring that you’re using all of the knowledge you gain from university to boost your career in the future.
Getting Work Experience
Your online social work degree course will likely offer you the opportunity to get work experience. This will mean that you engage with offline work for some weeks of your comprehensive course – like helping children, the elderly, or those who are vulnerable within society. You should always make yourself available for these work experience opportunities. Social workers regularly cite these experiences as foundational in their careers.
Meanwhile, you can take it upon yourself to find work experience while you’re studying too. You should look in your local areas for institutions that require the skills that you’re currently learning in your degree and send a quick email introducing yourself. Feel free to drop into some of these centers for a chat or call up and ask for a manager to talk about work experience.
Getting experience working with people – developing social skills, communication skills, and empathy – is crucially important in social work. It marries perfectly with what you’re learning in the lecture hall and classroom – and it’s what will make you an excellent social worker in the future.
Concluding your online social work degree is a moment for celebration, and to feel pride in yourself for getting through a tough and challenging course. Enjoy time with your friends and family – as well as your colleagues on the course – in recognition of what you’ve so far achieved.
Importantly, though, this is now the time that you have been awarded that all-important piece of paper that qualifies you to work in some of the best-regarded social work institutions in the country. All those job adverts that require a social work degree are now open to you – and it’s time to get applying to the jobs that interest you the most.
Applying for Jobs
Suppose you’re a mature student with several years of experience in the job market. In that case, you’ll know how to conduct yourself when submitting a resume and a cover letter to employers, as well as getting yourself recognized as smart and capable in interviews.
But, if you’re unfamiliar with this process, it’s worth taking on board some of the tips for job applicants listed below:
- Be boastful: this is your chance to show off your experience and your excellence. Employers are looking for the best candidate – and you need to believe that this is you.
- Be meticulous: one spelling mistake on a CV or on a cover letter can show that you’re not serious about your application. Likewise, before an interview, ensure that you know your stuff about the employer with whom you are talking.
- Spotlight your achievements: did you finish top in the class in your online social work degree? Have previous employers praised you? Let hiring professionals know about your achievements to present yourself in the best light.
- Experiences: employers love to hear about your experiences – in work, in teams, and in your personal life. Mention times that you’ve overcome difficulties and resolved issues to show employers how reliable you are.
Searching for a job can often feel excruciatingly unrewarding, and sometimes it can take months to land the job that you’ve been working towards for years in your degree. It’s important that you’re able to take feedback well at this stage in your career and that you don’t take rejections personally. As a newly qualified graduate, several more experienced professionals are likely competing against you for the jobs to which you’re applying.
Your Career Progression
Happily, care work and social work are two fields that are generally recognized to be lacking in workers, and as such, there are more jobs than applicants. This means that sooner or later, you will certainly land a job that suits you, and you’ll be able to hit the ground running, applying the knowledge you’ve gained at university to the work you do daily.
As in any career, it pays to work hard in your first job. Accept extra work and take all the opportunities for more responsibility that are presented to you. Make friends fast and accept the feedback and criticisms of more senior staff members – as their guidance will help mold you into the ideal social worker in the future.
Above all, remember that this is the start of a long career, during which you’ll be working with hundreds of people who require your expert assistance. As you progress through the years, you’ll be able to achieve higher and higher positions in organizations set up to help the vulnerable, and you’ll be able to make a name for yourself in the industry at large. For the hardest workers, this progression can help you draw continual excitement and satisfaction from your career in social work.
Use the above advice to help you get onto the bottom rung of the social working ladder and climb fast into a successful career, helping those most in need in our society.