"Social workers are my collective heroes. They sit at the juncture between those with too much power and those with not enough. "
- Gloria Steinem -
Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives. Social workers assist people by helping them cope with issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems. (NASW)
The impulse to care for others is not common to the human race. We evolved focusing on self-care. It was the maternal instinct in women that gave rise to the impulse to care for anyone outside ourselves. That's why, even today, there are so many more women than men in the profession.
Thankfully, over the past century, the impulse to offer a leg up to the disadvantaged in society has inspired many men to join the social work profession.
Current Status of the SW Profession
We could find no better way to describe the current state of the profession than to quote the NASW:
- Professional social workers are found in every facet of community life—in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected office, private practices, prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals and families in need. Many also serve as social and community service directors.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), professional social workers are the nation’s largest group of mental health services providers. There are more clinically trained social workers—over 200,000—than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. Federal law and the National Institutes of Health recognize social work as one of five core mental health professions.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs more than 13,000 professional social workers. It is one of the largest employers of MSWs in the United States.
- More than 40% of all disaster mental health volunteers trained by the American Red Cross are professional social workers.
Why Consider Social Work as Your Profession
In a recent survey of college undergraduates 65% expressed little or no passion for the functional positions they found themselves drifting toward.
On the other hand, social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were more than 700,000 social work jobs in 2018. The profession is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2028.
Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.
The Real World
At GVT, we deal every day with social workers across the United States. They are coping with dramatically increasing case-loads, long hours, an abundance of paperwork, sometimes insensitive management, heart breaking human suffering, and the frustration of failing to solve some of their client's most intractable problems.
Yet, when we ask them if they would like to change professions, they are always astounded. 99% say they wouldn't think of it. Here's a few quotes:
- "I wouldn't think of it. Who would care for my clients?"
- "Never...this is meaningful work. These are real people with real problems. I can help them."
- "There is no other profession that I would find as satisfying. Oh...I get tired and frustrated and profoundly disappointed at times. But I'm connecting with my clients. I care about them, and I know I can always help in some small way."
- "Are you kidding? What would happen to my people? No, this is where I belong."
- "Oh, I know I'll never get rich doing this work. But do you have any idea how many people I have come to know and love? My people are society's forgotten and ignored. I notice them and they notice me. That connection is everything to me."
Just a Thought
Perhaps social work is for you.