What is a Social Worker?

  • A social worker is an individual who is an agent of change in the world. The role can look different based on the setting you work in. It is important to remember that there are a variety of roles/positions/settings, as well as expectations of a social worker.
  • A social worker is a trained professional who is committed to helping individuals, families, and communities cope with various social issues and challenges.
  • Social workers are trained to use their knowledge and skills to assist individuals in improving their lives by connecting them with resources and services that can help them overcome obstacles such as poverty, addiction, mental health concerns, and abuse. 
  • They also work with individuals and groups to develop strategies and interventions that can promote positive change and improve social and economic outcomes.  
  • Regardless of their setting or specialization, social workers are guided by a commitment to social justice and a belief that everyone deserves access to basic human rights and resources.
  • Social workers work collaboratively with clients and other professionals to develop solutions tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of each individual or community.

Variety of Social Work Roles

  • One of the significant benefits of being a social worker is the wide range of roles and settings in which social workers can work, including hospitals, child welfare services, non-profit agencies, administrative roles, schools, private practice, for-profit agencies, prisons, juvenile justice systems, forensics, and in academia.
  • This variety of roles and settings allows social workers to explore different areas of interest, gain new experiences, and make a difference in diverse communities. 
  • Additionally, social workers can work with individuals across different age groups and cultural backgrounds, which allows them to expand their understanding of the world and develop more inclusive and culturally competent practices.
  • Social workers may specialize in working with specific populations such as children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities. 

Advocating, Connecting, and Strengthening People and Communities

  • Another benefit of being a social worker is the opportunity to help others.
  • By providing support, resources, and interventions, social workers can help people overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
  • Knowing that they have made a difference in someone’s life can be a powerful motivator and can contribute to a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their work. Personally, the clients and families that I have interacted with during my time as a social worker have taught me such valuable lessons and are people that I hold closely.
  • Social workers are trained to understand social systems and policies and to identify ways to address social injustices and inequalities. They can advocate for changes at the individual, community, or policy level that can improve the lives of those they serve.

Flexible Work Hours

  • Social Work can offer professionals the opportunity to balance their career and personal life. By understanding these options, social workers can tailor their career paths to suit individual needs while continuing to provide essential care for their clients.
Per DiemPer diem social workers are hired on an as-needed basis to provide coverage during staff absences, vacations, or when there is an increased workload. This work arrangement allows social workers to have more control over their schedule, as they can choose which assignments to accept and when to work.A per diem social worker might accept a few assignments per month at a hospital. They can choose which shifts they want to work, and this arrangement allows them to supplement their income while still maintaining a flexible schedule.
On-CallSocial workers who are on-call are available to respond to emergencies or urgent situations outside of regular business hours. This arrangement allows social workers to work irregular hours, but they must be prepared to respond at any time.An on-call social worker might work for a child protection agency. They are available outside of regular business hours to respond to reports of child abuse or neglect, and their schedule may be unpredictable as they must be prepared to respond to urgent situations.
Private PracticeSocial workers who operate a private practice work for themselves and can set their own schedule. This arrangement allows social workers to have complete control over their work schedule, but it also comes with the added responsibility of running a business.A social worker who operates a private practice might schedule appointments with clients during times that work best for them. They can also choose which clients to take on and how much work to take on, allowing for greater flexibility.
Contract WorkContract social workers are hired for a specific period of time to work on a particular project or task. This arrangement allows social workers to have control over their schedule, as they can negotiate the terms of their contract.A contract social worker might be hired to work on a research project for a non-profit organization. They can negotiate their hourly rate and the number of hours they will work each week, allowing them to have greater control over their schedule.
Part-Time EmploymentSocial workers who work part-time work fewer hours than full-time employees. This arrangement allows social workers to have more control over their schedule, as they may be able to work less days or hours each week.A social worker who works part-time might work three days per week at a community mental health center. This arrangement allows them to have more time for personal pursuits while still maintaining a career in social work.
Remote WorkRemote social workers work from a location outside of their employer’s office, such as from home. This arrangement allows social workers to have greater control over their schedule, as they can often choose when and where they work.A remote social worker might work for a telehealth company and conduct virtual therapy sessions from their home office. They can schedule appointments during times that work best for them, and they don’t have to worry about commuting to a physical office.
School-Based Social WorkSchool-based social workers provide support services to students within a school setting. This arrangement allows social workers to have a more predictable schedule, as their work schedule often aligns with the school calendar.A school-based social worker might work in a high school and have a schedule that aligns with the school day. This arrangement allows them to have weekends, holidays, and summers off, which can provide greater work-life balance.

Lived Experience

  • Another advantage of being a social worker is the potential to draw upon lived experience. Social workers with personal experiences with mental health, addiction, trauma, or other challenges can bring a unique perspective to their work. 
  • They may be able to connect with clients in a more meaningful way and use their experiences to inform their practice. This can also be a source of strength and resilience for social workers who have overcome challenges in their own lives.