Career In Focus – Social Work

Posted October 21, 2019, by Elesha

If you have a true desire to do good, make an impact and love working with people and communities, social work just might be the career path for you. Let’s take a look at this very important field of work and the type of people who thrive as social workers. 

Should I Be A Social Worker? 

We’ve put together our top 5 reasons social work can make a wonderful career choice!

#1 – You like working with people to help empower them to live their best lives and advocate for those who are vulnerable. You want to make a difference and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment in your chosen career path. 

#2 – You’ve had personal experience with addiction, medical challenges or hardship and want to help others overcome a similar challenge.

#3 –  You are interested in joining a profession with various career paths and options. Social work is a growing field!

#4 – You love the challenge of working in multiple environments, managing different goals and situations with many different people from various backgrounds. No two cases are the same so you’ll always be problem-solving and applying your experience to new situations. 

#5 – You don’t want a regular desk job! Social work is definitely a field that gets you out of the office. You have to attend people’s homes, schools, hospitals and community centres often at short notice or in times of crisis.  

What Does A Social Worker Do? Let’s Break It Down

A social worker’s day is busy and varied, working alongside families, children, elderly people, groups and communities to help them overcome challenges and live fulfilling lives. Essentially, they identify the hurdles their clients are facing, put a plan in place to tackle the issue and support their client through the process. 

Social work has many faces and encompasses 8 broad sectors:

  • Health care 
  • Substance abuse and addictions 
  • Immigrant and refugee advocacy 
  • Indigenous services and communities 
  • Criminal justice 
  • Disability services
  • Child protection 
  • Family counselling

Daily activities a social worker engages in can include –  

  • Research and connect their clients to appropriate community services and aid – for example, healthcare and financial support.
  • Assist clients in completing administrative requirements to apply for government assistance such as medicare.
  • Respond to emergency situations in family homes.
  • Check in with clients to see how they are progressing with their situation.
  • Help clients navigate major changes in their lives such as unemployment, dealing with grief and divorce.
  • Process paperwork and administrative tasks in relation to each case. 

Career paths in social work

Throughout the course of their career, social workers can choose to specialise in a particular area.

For example, becoming a subject matter expert with a professional focus on working with juvenile offenders or advocating for people with disabilities. 

There is also the opportunity to take on leadership roles in social work. Managers are responsible for the development of their team of workers, staying up to date with case events and make informed decisions.

Depending on the type of work they do, a social worker can work in a variety of settings including –  

  • Nursing homes
  • Private practices
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • State and local governments
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Schools and universities 
  • Clinics for substance abuse
  • Hospitals 
  • Military bases and hospitals

How Much Do Social Workers Get Paid? 

”Do social workers get paid well?”

According to Payscale, the average salary for a social worker is $63,574 per annum. The lower 10% of the pay range earn approx $48k per annum, while those in the top 10% earn around $86k per annum. 

The Emotional Toll Of Social Work

It’s no secret that social work is incredibly demanding. It can take a huge emotional toll and if you don’t take the right approach to self-care as a social worker, burn out is inevitable. 

Being regularly exposed to peoples distressing experiences, whether it’s a terminal illness or child abuse, a social worker must be able to cope with how their client’s situation affects them emotionally.

Feeling the pressure to “always be on”, it’s easy for a social worker to neglect their own mental wellness.

If it’s a career choice you’re considering, know you’ll need to up your own level of self-care and work-life balance to be in the best position to take care of others. 

What Qualifications Do I Need To Be A Social Worker?

To work as a social worker in Australia, you will need either a Bachelor of Social Work or a relevant Bachelors degree in another subject with a Master of Social Work.

Explore your study options with a range of social worker courses to get your career started!

It’s also important to know when a course requires you to undertake a professional placement, depending on the area,  you’ll also need to have a national police certificate, first aid certificate and immunisations, and pass a working with children check. 

What Kind Of Person Best Suits A Role In Social Work?

It’s not only about your qualifications – having certain soft skills are essential to be a social worker, including excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with people from diverse backgrounds. 

Effective communication skills, both in writing and verbally, and good record-keeping abilities are also vital. Social workers also require excellent organisational skills and the ability to manage competing priorities. Basically, they need to be masters of time management!

The Future Of Social Work In Australia (It’s Bright!)

Social work is a fast-growing profession in Australia and around the globe. According to the Australian Association Of Social Workers – 

“Jobs in both professions are set to boom, according to Department of Employment figures, with work for skilled counsellors predicted to grow by more than 24 per cent and demand for social workers to rise by 22.5 per cent by 2022.

That’s good news for school leavers thinking about working in youth justice, child protection, mental health, aged care and community care, or starting a career in counselling.”

It takes a special mix of compassion, emotional resilience and a relentless drive to make a difference to take on a career in social work. While it’s not a career path for everyone, those who choose to take up the call will find it an incredibly rewarding one. 

Decided social work is a path you want to pursue? Find out what you need and exactly how to become a social worker in Australia


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