Social workers are not in great demand in the United States because of rapidly emerging job opportunities that require the services of someone with educational degrees and experience in social work. It is widely believed that professional social workers are now the most highly paid individuals in the field of public service.
This paper presents an in-depth study of the emerging field of professional social workers and focuses on every important aspect of this career choice.
DUTIES AND RESPONSBILITIES
Social work has recently been gaining tremendous attention as a career option because there apparently is a serious dearth of qualified social work practitioners in our country. Apart from this reason, another important factor, which has contributed towards the evolvement of social work as a profession, is connected with emerging branches of various fields, which require services of social workers. We need to understand that social work as a profession is not very old and therefore our conventional definition of this occupation may no longer be valid. Leslie Margolin in his book titled 'Invention of social work' traces the history of this rapidly emerging profession and writes, "Before social work, poor people were mainly vulnerable to starvation, disease, homelessness; with the advent of detailed record-keeping, however, they became vulnerable to judgment" (p.43) While it is true that social work is connected with compassion and care, we cannot however solely relate it to philanthropic activities which obviously go unpaid. The new social worker professional is a person who extends his services to the community and also gets duly paid for this. This work as a profession may not be very old, but it has grown at an incredible speed and now social work graduates no longer need to worry about future job prospects. Social workers do not exactly provide monetary help to the needy as a charity worker or a philanthropist would do, instead the professional social worker is required to offer a piece of his/her professionally managed heart to the client. He helps them cope with various social, family and job problems depending on the setting in which he chooses to work.
Occupational Outlook Handbook (1998) sheds light on some of the very important job responsibilities of a social worker, "Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help people. Social workers help people deal with their relationships with others; solve their personal, family, and community problems; and grow and develop as they learn to cope with or shape the social and environmental forces affecting daily life. Social workers often encounter clients facing a life-threatening disease or a social problem requiring a quick solution. These situations may include inadequate housing, unemployment, lack of job skills, financial distress, serious illness or disability, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancy, or antisocial behavior. They also assist families that have serious conflicts, including those involving child or spousal abuse."
No matter where the social worker chooses to work, one thing serves as the unifying elements for this profession and that is a sincere desire to promote human welfare. In simple words, a social worker is required to offer emotional and psychological support to their clients in a very professional manner. Their professional approach is what the client looks for because it promises to bring them out of their present depressed state. In the United States, children and adults are faced with numerous emotional and psychological problems that need to be sorted out with the help of a real professional. For this reason social workers are being actively recruited by organizations, which do not fall in the category of health care alone. This shows that the need to employ social work professional is increasing mainly due to the overwhelming influence of modern day stressors.
Positive features of this profession:
Social work is without doubt a very demanding profession. It requires 100% commitment and dedication at all times, which can lead to stress and fatigue. But the positive points of this profession are numerous and this is the reason why an increasing number of qualified graduates are seriously considering this profession as their career choice. The positive features apart from monetary advantages refer to emotional, psychological and social benefits that a social work gains by virtue of his constant interaction with the community. Daily interaction with members of the community can help lessen the anxiety and stress accruing from one's own personal problems. Suffering and pain of others can help in shifting the focus from one's troubles that leads to clearer thinking as the social work views things from a broader perspective.
Independent (2001) writes, "What is most persuasive about a career in social work is the importance and value of what you do on a day-to-day basis. Input is so often a literally life-changing event, providing a positive influence for those who need it most. Previous public perceptions have often assumed social workers deal only with negative events, but in reality they are more often confronted by challenging intellectual and emotional situations, which can transform people's lives. There are other plusses that social workers talk about. You're not stuck behind a desk. Every day really is different. You have scope to manage your own time and make your own decisions. But as part of a team you'll enjoy professional support and training to develop your skills. There's no denying social work can be tough. As with any job, there are lows as well as highs. But equally, social work has some very attractive and certainly very rewarding qualities."
As far as educational requirement is concerned, a lot depends on the setting in which the person wants to work. This is because academic requirements differ from setting to setting depending on their screening criterion and some legal state-level provisions. However according to general standards, for entry-level jobs in the field of social work, a person must be equipped with an accredited bachelors degree in social work. Numerous well-known colleges in the United States are offering this program, which opens doors to entry-level jobs in various organizations.
But most professional organizations require at least a Masters degree in social work because the jobs in such settings focus on specific needs of the community. For example a schools social worker must be adorned with a Master's degree. In fact The National Association of Social Workers requires all school social work professional to possess two-year supervised school social work experience along with a master's degree.
Before social work emerged a viable career choice, most people who entered this field did not require a specialized degree. But that is no longer possible and most institutions now recruit social workers with a relevant academic background.
We must not forget that while social work is gaining nationwide popularity as a conventional career choice, still this profession is not suitable for everyone. Unlike other conventional professionals such as doctors and lawyers, a social worker cannot become successful with the help of quality education. This is because a social worker needs to possess some important personal qualities such as a very strong desire to help others, flexibility, tolerance, patience, sensitivity, compassion etc.
Independent (2001) writes, "Social work puts you in an extremely responsible position. Being interested in people is important, but it's not enough. Social workers also have to be quick thinking, thorough, persuasive and committed. When the solutions fall into place, the results can be very rewarding."
VARIOUS EMPLOYMENT SETTINGS
Social workers work in various settings, which determine the scope of their responsibilities and future growth prospects. Some of the famous setting are marriage counseling clinics, schools, medical and psychiatric clinics, family counseling centers, corporate sector, juvenile and adult prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, adult day care institutions. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (2002) writes, "Many social workers specialize in child welfare, geriatric social work, marriage and family social work, physical and mental health, social policy and community practice. They work in community advocacy groups, government agencies, HIV / AIDS clinics, home health agencies, hospitals, mental health and substance abuse centers, nursing homes, prisons, schools and social service agencies." The job responsibilities differ from one setting to another and therefore important to know what each type of setting requires.
Child and family welfare:
Social workers specializing in the field of child and family welfare provide help to children and adults in coping with family crisis. Children are given support in case of school problems, parents' divorce crisis and are taught ways to provide adequate care to the ill member of the family. Parents on the other hand are helped in dealing with emotionally disturbed or physically unwell children. Families also seek the services of social workers when the old family structure breaks down. Children and adults find it very difficult to adjust to new realities in case of a death or divorce in the family. In such cases, social workers provide emotional support and also arrange for medical and psychological treatment if it is needed.
Child protective services:
Social workers working in child protective services keep a…