Deciding to pursue any given field requires a thoughtful consideration of many factors from career outlook to one’s own character. The latter, often innate process of self-reflection becomes even more important for those who are considering social work — a field often characterized as emotionally demanding, requiring courage, empathy, and a deep passion and care for others.
Lisa Glenn, a professor and alumni of the Limestone College Bachelor of Social Work Program, explains that certain personality traits are especially important for social workers. “I think you have to be the type of person who has empathy for another — not sympathy. [Empathy] pushes you to do whatever it is you need to do for a person and it allows you to put that person’s emotions and feelings before your own.”
To help you decide whether social work is right for you, we’ve put together some tips and considerations to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
- Do your research
It may sound like a no-brainer but knowing as much as possible about the profession is the key to deciding if it is right for you. While the Internet provides access to numerous resources, a few easy places to start include:
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
- The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
- Social Work Licensure (http://www.socialworklicensure.org/)
- This blog!
- Talk to others
Talking to teachers, career counselors and social workers can help fill the gaps in your research. For example, professors can help answer pressing questions you may have about the field. Career counselors can advise on various career opportunities, and social work professionals can help you gain personal insights that you might not have uncovered otherwise.
- Intern or volunteer
Regardless of how much you learn from independent research or by talking with others, there is simply no substitute for hands-on experience. When searching for internship or volunteer opportunities, look for the ones that align with your area of interest. For example, if you are interested in working with the elderly, consider reaching out to local retirement and nursing home facilities.
- Consider career outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “the employment of social workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022.” Use the link above to explore data and learn about social work services and specialties that will experience the greatest growth as well as demand for social workers across the U.S.
- Manage your schedule
How much time will it take to complete a degree? Do you intend to work while going to school and if so, what options exist to help you manage your schedule? As of January 2015, Limestone College offers a Bachelor of Social Work completely online along with more traditional in-person classes. While virtual learning is convenient, it may not be right for everyone, which is why Limestone’s Bachelor of Social Work is unique in providing online, on-campus or combination options. Decide what works best for your lifestyle with this self-assessment tool.