Is social work a bad idea?

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Comments (17)

reneegavin in Pittston, Pennsylvania

39 months ago

I applied to a social work program earlier this week and was SO excited. However, since then, it seems tons of people have been telling me it's a bad idea.....no jobs, horribly depressing work, awful pay... My ultimate goal is to get my master's and go into counseling. Even then is the job outlook and pay horrible? I'm not doing this to get rich, but at 38, I will be spending a large chunk of my savings, and will have to pay back even more in student loans. I will also be giving up 4-5 years of my family and work life in order to do this. If the outlook, even for LCSWs is bad, I may have to look into other options. Thanks in advance for any advice or opinions.

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Jacky in Everett, Washington

39 months ago

Most people do not understand what social workers do. And, I'm sure their take on "depressing" work has a lot to do with their personal views/bias of certain populations.....homeless people are not worth helping, etc. The field is very broad and dynamic. The pay is always relative to educational attainment, physical location, and agency. Where I live the average salary for MSW is 50,000 a year.
I would have to say that lots of people go into social work because they feel its their calling. If you feel this way, don't let others discourage you...follow what feels right to you.
For me, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

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reneegavin in Freeland, Pennsylvania

39 months ago

Jacky in Everett, Washington said: Most people do not understand what social workers do. And, I'm sure their take on "depressing" work has a lot to do with their personal views/bias of certain populations.....homeless people are not worth helping, etc. The field is very broad and dynamic. The pay is always relative to educational attainment, physical location, and agency. Where I live the average salary for MSW is 50,000 a year.
I would have to say that lots of people go into social work because they feel its their calling. If you feel this way, don't let others discourage you...follow what feels right to you.
For me, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

I love helping people that really need help. Like I said, what I really want to do is counsel, and I know getting a master's in social work is the quickest way to do that. However, I know I would need a few years of experience in the field after getting my master's before getting into counseling. I wouldn't want to do anything with home visitations. I've heard too many scary stories in this area. I love the elderly, so something in that field would be of interest to me.

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Ntheory in Arizona

31 months ago

Do not do it! Social work is a high burnout field for a reason. I have an msw and have been in the field for 6 years. I am now starting over and pursuing a degree in engineering. I chose engineering because this seemed like the farthest from social work as I could get. I am actually well paid in my social work job, but I just cannot stand working in the field any longer. Reason 1: Agencies, hopsitals, clinics ,etc are not setup to actually help the people seeking/requiring services. They are simply throwing benefits, services, etc at the patient as opposed to actually helping them maximize their potential and becoming contributing members of society. 2: I have learned that the clients we set out to help are not interested in truly helping themselves. Most social workers perpetuate this by allowing them to blame their problems on somebody else and not owning their own mistakes in life. The ungratefulness of the entitled knows no bounds, and you will certainly find this out the hard way if you choose social work as a profession.

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Lola in Dallas, Texas

31 months ago

Like everyone else said - If it isn't your calling you won't like it. It was my calling and I can't imagine doing anything else. You have to be willing to put in your dues, know that you wont' open a private practice right out of grad school. You have to be willing to take the time to build a career in your chosen field but it is a very rewarding one. You will always have patients/clients/consumers who are challenging but if you come to see them as Ntheory does - get out! There are plenty of opportunities to be of service to others who both need it and will appreciate it. Geriatric social work is a very promising field. Just be ready to WORK

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findjob in North Carolina

31 months ago

Social work is what you make of it. I am a recent social work graduate. I currently work with youth that have behavior and mental health issues. I do a lot of home visits. As a social worker, you have to make time for yourself and do something you love to do. Otherwise, it is easy to get burnt out. Learn to separate work life and home life. My new job starting pay is very good. It's the most money I ever made per hour!!! I am still learning my new job and once I get everything down pat, I will be good to go!!! If social work is in your heart, then by all means JUST DO IT!!!

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marlonbourque in Lafayette, Louisiana

31 months ago

After 5 years working with special needs populations I have recognized those individuals across a broad spectrum of areas; HIV/AIDS, mental health, troubled youth/teens, & grieving parents. Yes, the lack of motivation and mindset of entitlement are great obstacles to redirect; however keep in mind my motto "I can only help as much as the client allows me and should not place my high level of expectations toward my clients goals. As a liver disease survivor since 1986, life threatening decision of chemotherapy has programmed me as a grateful healthcare provider wanting to give back to my community the gift of helping others achieve their life goals. If just one child presents with progress then I must hold on to that small accomplishment to carry me when the 99% are works in progress. Social workers need a built in mechanism of self reinforcement and self-gratification in their accomplished efforts or they face signs of burnout. Ask yourself am I willing to sacrifice long hours at improving my art or do I require instant gratification from each client? Deep introspection of self motive toward helping others should be assessed before entering into social work. Best of luck in your final decision...for me I am looking forward to finding an area niche from which I can secure a LCSW. Will challenge LMSW this Spring.

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iamasocialworker in Harrison, New Jersey

31 months ago

Marlon I really liked your Motto!

As many other profession social work also has its own difficulties!
But believe me you won't regret! It's hard but the work that you will do is priceless.
Of course you are not working for charities! But I don't know if you are aware but the social work profession is a growing and popular profession!
According to BLS SW profession expect a 20% growth until 2020: www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm

You can also take a look to the following infographic which gives an overview on the Social Work profession :
www.gradschools.com/search-programs/social-work-msw/infographic-careers

Good luck!

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socialwork struggle in Washington, District of Columbia

18 months ago

What is writer does not mention is that getting the first job in the field is very, very difficult. I graduated from a well-regarded school, networked with people in the field, took on extra responsibilities at my field placement, and graduated at the top of my class. I have applied to more than 90 jobs during the past five months, and have not been offered a single position.

More than 70 percent of the positions posted will not consider someone with only an LGSW.

I am a mid-career changer, and have always been able to find a job. I desperately want to do this work...but no one will hire me. My contacts and mentors have no feedback. I need to hear more than, "just keep at it!" I have burned through most of my savings, and stock shelves at night.

Please help me - with SPECIFIC ideas - find a way to help me find any position.

Jacky in Everett, Washington said: Most people do not understand what social workers do. And, I'm sure their take on "depressing" work has a lot to do with their personal views/bias of certain populations.....homeless people are not worth helping, etc. The field is very broad and dynamic. The pay is always relative to educational attainment, physical location, and agency. Where I live the average salary for MSW is 50,000 a year.
I would have to say that lots of people go into social work because they feel its their calling. If you feel this way, don't let others discourage you...follow what feels right to you.
For me, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

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reneegavin in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

18 months ago

Unfortunately, I just don't know HOW I'd do it. Right now, I am working PT and taking 2 classes to update my med office asst degree (not really what I want to do, but the most logical for me right now). There is NO way I would be able to not work at all, so I would be looking at taking 1-2 classes per semester until I get my bachelor's degree. Masters would be done while working FT in a social work job (hopefully). It would take me until my late 40 until I got even my bachelor's degree! I am also leery on starting any school around here, because we are looking to move out of state once my dd graduates next year. I don't want to take credits that won't transfer. My only option, as far as I can tell, would be to earn the degree online, and I don't even know if there are any reliable schools that offer SW as major online. I guess I could go the counseling route, but my initial jobs would be SO much more limited. Although this is the only field I keep coming back to, I think I may have to give up on it :(. Although my ultimate goal would be to work with people with eating disorders and/or anxiety, any position where I could truly help people who want and need the help would be something I would be happy with.

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Torrie in Tucson, Arizona

17 months ago

I AGREE 100% I worked as an ABA therapist for 2 years and I was burnt out fairly quickly. I'm now pursuing a career as a chef. Anything but social services! And let me tell you, Ive done severs humanitarian missions around the world and that is 100x more rewarding than being a pawn to the current mental health system in the US.

Ntheory in Arizona said: Do not do it! Social work is a high burnout field for a reason. I have an msw and have been in the field for 6 years. I am now starting over and pursuing a degree in engineering . I chose engineering because this seemed like the farthest from social work as I could get. I am actually well paid in my social work job, but I just cannot stand working in the field any longer. Reason 1: Agencies, hopsitals, clinics ,etc are not setup to actually help the people seeking/requiring services. They are simply throwing benefits, services, etc at the patient as opposed to actually helping them maximize their potential and becoming contributing members of society. 2: I have learned that the clients we set out to help are not interested in truly helping themselves. Most social workers perpetuate this by allowing them to blame their problems on somebody else and not owning their own mistakes in life. The ungratefulness of the entitled knows no bounds, and you will certainly find this out the hard way if you choose social work as a profession.

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Relentless in Marietta, Georgia

16 months ago

Thanks for your comment.. I have a BA in psychology and pursing a MA in human services can I still apply to become a social worker?

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Laura in Roseville, California

1 month ago

I have been a Licensed Clinical social Worker for over 30 years.

Pros and Cons about the profession:

Cons:
There is a lot of scapegoating and bullying in the field.
It does not pay a lot and the pay has not even kept abreast of other historically low paid professions( ie: teaching and nursing.)
Public sector agencies that historically hire social workers have been tightening their (financial) belts for decades.
The agencies that hire social workers can be very toxic and dysfunctional to work at and may not accomplish the mission of their agency( ie: to help people.)
Managed care insurance can soul destroying to deal with; so people try not to work with it.
(Maybe I should have started with the pros, first )

Pros:
Historically, low paid jobs have been plentiful.
The field is a lovely, idealistic profession.
Managed care insurance has created a niche where social workers have been allowed to play with the big boys and may be self employed as psychotherapists.
I would not invest huge amounts of money into this field; as you may never make enough to pay back school loans.
Social work is a female dominated job: if you have someone else who will be the primary wage earner that's good. It was never designed to support a family.

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Laura in Roseville, California

1 month ago

Relentless in Marietta, Georgia said: Thanks for your comment.. I have a BA in psychology and pursing a MA in human services can I still apply to become a social worker?

Hello relentless,

You may have an answer to your question by now but here goes...it depends on what you want to do.

Really, anyone may call themselves a social worker but if you want to become a licensed social worker usually you have to get a degree from a college that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. And some states, like California, discourage out of state degrees, even those accredited by the CSWE.

Hope this helps,
Laura :)

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Laura in Roseville, California

1 month ago

socialwork struggle in Washington, District of Columbia said: What is writer does not mention is that getting the first job in the field is very, very difficult. I graduated from a well-regarded school, networked with people in the field, took on extra responsibilities at my field placement, and graduated at the top of my class. I have applied to more than 90 jobs during the past five months, and have not been offered a single position.

More than 70 percent of the positions posted will not consider someone with only an LGSW.

I am a mid-career changer, and have always been able to find a job. I desperately want to do this work...but no one will hire me. My contacts and mentors have no feedback. I need to hear more than, "just keep at it!" I have burned through most of my savings, and stock shelves at night.

Please help me - with SPECIFIC ideas - find a way to help me find any position.

I'm sorry I'm reading this post so late; I will try to be helpful none-the-less.
Try to work for a not for profit social service agency, www.opportunityknocks.org is a listing of various not for profits and can be a good hopping off point.Try to work at a residential treatment center. These are 24 hour operations and as a consequence need a lot of staffing. This will also give you a sense of the mental health field.
Also, does your school have an alumnae department. Speak with them and try to network with other more established graduates from your school.Also try a social work staffing agency. The one local to DC is Delta T group.
Most public social services are at the County level of govt., but I believe DC does not have this. They do have social services that are run by the City but these, I believe, have been in "receivership" for years.
Consider exploring Northern Virginia or Maryland for jobs. Sorry out of space:(
Good luck!
Laura

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Possible Social Work Student in Albuquerque, New Mexico

1 day ago

I have always had the passion & drive to help others which is what brought me to my current fork in the road: social work or nursing? Every single time I tell someone I'm considering the 2 they always say GO NURSING! "Nursing has more opportunities, they have better job security, they get paid better, it's not as depressing as social work" blah blah blah. After doing some research I have found that social workers tend to average around $45K a year as a new grad, which in my opinion isn't bad at all especially when you know you will eventually get a raise (granite I also have a husband who is active duty military so he brings in a decent paycheck and great benefits). Can anyone confirm the starting pay to be true for Albuquerque, NM area? I've looked on indeed and other websites but I'm not sure how accurate they are with this type of information. I would LOVE to work in mental health preferably at the VA hospital but would also like to look into at risk youth. Do any of you have experience in this particular career field that you're willing to share with me??

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Laura in Portland, Oregon

19 hours ago

Hello,

I am a LCSW with over 30 years experience.

The problem is not what social work starts out paying, it's what it ends up paying. For the first five years it pays what a lot of other fields pay; after around five years you hit a pay ceiling that other professions do not have.

In my experience, with a master's in nursing, you can be a nurse practitioner or physicians assistant and make around $100,000 a year, no comparison to social work. Also, nurses are more organized than social workers so they are starting to provide the services that social workers have historically provided. The people who advised you to go into nursing have a strong point. That being said if you do not need to be a primary provider for your family and have another income to rely on and you are at peace with perhaps not earning a living wage.... go for it. You will need a master's degree to obtain the positions you mention and if the field is not a good fit for you in 5 or 10 years you can always change fields. Social Work has a high turnover rate. In addition, a lot of the employers in these fields can be very broken or dysfunctional and ultimately do not help people. This, over time, can become discouraging as well. The good news is I think the field will offer the jobs you want, you just may not want them over time. Perhaps, if you walk into the field with your eyes open wide you'll have a better experience.

Good luck!

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