If you have ever envisioned yourself entering a career that allows you to improve other’s lives, then you have most likely wondered how to become a social worker. Social workers work with vulnerable individuals and families to improve their living situations by interviewing and creating action plans, making it a role that contributes to the betterment of society.
The main goals of a social worker are to: improve communities, reduce isolation, balance the healthcare gap, help young people’s development, and stop any violence going on within households. It is a career full to the brim with responsibility, which means it takes a certain kind of person to succeed.
Becoming a social worker is not just about getting the correct qualifications and applying to jobs; you must also understand the skills and personality traits that will help you succeed. If your goal is to become a successful social worker, then read on to find out how you can do so.
Know that it is for You
Social work is not an easy career, so make sure you understand that before you jump in and start your human services degree. There will be hardships to face every day, such as difficult patients, upsetting situations, and mountains of paperwork. No matter how much you care about other people, you will need more than compassion to get you through each day. You must understand what it takes to succeed and think about whether you are willing to commit fully.
A great way to see if you are cut out for a career helping vulnerable families is to look around for volunteering opportunities in a similar field. Spend some time volunteering to see if it is the kind of responsibility you can handle before you spend your money and time pursuing a role in social work.
Attain a Bachelor’s Degree
Once you know that social work is the right career choice for you, then you should look into attaining your bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Spend some time looking at different courses to determine what one works best for you. You’ll need to take into account your finances, the kind of social work you want to go into, and how far you are willing to travel for your education.
Whether you are planning to study for a human health services degree or a social work degree, make sure you have the time and energy to attain the best grades possible. Create a study plan and a weekly schedule to ensure that you get all your work done on time and impress your tutors. After all, they will be the ones giving you recommendations!
Get Your Master’s Degree
After your bachelor’s degree, you should move onto your master’s. One excellent master’s choice is a human services degree, as it will give you the skills and qualifications you need to provide excellent care to patients.
Many master’s students are mature students who cannot travel across the country or find excellent scholarships but do not let this deter you. If you are already working full-time, then there are plenty of online master’s courses for you to pursue your education. A truly dedicated person who wants to become a social worker will find a way to attain the qualifications they need to succeed.
Get Enough Work Experience
While qualifications are necessary, work experience is what will secure you the interview. During your human services degree, you will come across opportunities to fit in work experience, which will help you understand what it is actually like on the job.
Once you have completed your studies, you might still need to fit in some training before securing your first role. Not only is this great for improving your resume, but it will also give you an idea about what kind of social work area you want to work in. It will also allow you to meet like-minded individuals who are also in the social work field, meaning you can make valuable connections that will help you later when you are applying for jobs.
Find a Supervisor
If you truly want to succeed, then a supervisor will help you get there. No matter how well you study for exams or how many books you read on social work, nothing compares to having a real person guide you through your education and work experience. Your supervisor will have been in your position before, have completed their human services degree, and understand what you need to succeed. Due to this, they are invaluable.
Find a supervisor that genuinely cares about pushing you forward and gives you advice that helps you stand out. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, they will be there to give you a helping hand and push you in the correct direction. Supervisors are extremely crucial when you are just starting your work experience, as you might feel lost at first, and they will be the light you need to carry on.
Choose Your Specialty
When you are first starting your pursuit of a social working career, you might not know what specialty you want to pursue. This is completely normal, and you don’t need to push yourself to decide within the first few years. In fact, it is actually better to simply enjoy the process and experience as much as you can. By doing this, you will later have a better understanding of what you are best at.
After some time, you will most likely have an idea about the specialty you want to go into. Some of these include:
- Working in hospitals
- Working for government agencies
- Working in schools
- Working in colleges
- Dealing with trauma
- Child welfare
- Working with seniors
- Working in communities
Once you have completed your bachelor’s and gained some work experience, you should assess your skills and decide what kind of area you want to work in. If you are struggling, then ask your supervisor for some advice.
Get Your License
Getting your license doesn’t take any skill, but it is a vital step for becoming a social worker. Once you have gained the necessary qualifications, such as your human services degree, and completed the right number of work experience hours, then you should apply for your license to become a fully qualified social worker.
Get a Ph.D.
While a Ph.D. is not a necessity when it comes to social work, many of the best social workers decide to pursue one. Once you have completed a human services degree, you should consider expanding your education to a doctorate level to stand out from the crowd and learn how to give your patients the best care possible.
A Ph.D. also allows you to hone your skills and choose a specific specialty. Have a look at different programs and choose the one that is right for you. At this point in your journey, you will have a better understanding of where your skills lie and what kind of social work you enjoy the most, so your choice, of course, is more likely to be the right one.
Improve Your Skillset
Once you have a bunch of qualifications and work experience hours under your belt, it is time to improve your skills even further if you want to become a successful social worker. It is more than just what is on your resume – it is about the quality of care you can provide.
First of all, you must understand the kind of skills you need to be the best social worker you can. These include:
Communication is one of the most crucial skills you will need to succeed. You will be speaking with a variety of patients each day, so you must be able to deliver your speech with clarity, confidence, and compassion. Work on your speech and listening skills to make your patients feel at ease while giving them the information they need.
Social work is a career with lots of paperwork and appointments. Due to this, you must be excellent at time management. Get into healthy habits of showing up early and keeping a weekly schedule that you consistently refer to. You should hone your time management skills while you are doing your human services degree so that it is second nature by the time you are on the job.
When it comes to social work, you must be an empathetic person. This is more than just kindness – it is being able to understand your patient’s struggles from their point of view.
A Thick Skin
There is no reason to sugarcoat the truth – there will be times when you have to deal with complicated and difficult individuals and families. It will be tough, and there will be days where you feel like you have had enough. What you will need on those types of days is a thick skin to fight against any hurtful words that might be used against you.
With the number of cases that you will have to deal with, there will be some that you simply cannot understand. You will be working with a vast array of people and situations, meaning it is essential that you stay open-minded. While you might not understand everything, that doesn’t mean your quality of care should suffer.
With the high level of responsibility that comes with social work, you must keep a high level of professionalism at all times. That doesn’t mean you cannot have a sense of humor, but it does mean that you should take everything seriously and conduct yourself in a professional manner. You have to let your experience and personality keep evolving and staging like rick of wood.
While there are plenty more skills that are necessary to succeed, these are the ones that are most essential. Find ways to improve them, and you will see your success increase at work.
Find the Perfect Work-Life Balance
When working with vulnerable people, it is easy to get caught up in their lives and start to neglect your own. You must avoid doing this. While it is part of your job to care, you cannot provide the right quality of care if you are too invested in their lives. Remember, your health is just as important!
If you are starting to feel that you are always thinking about work, then it is time for a break. Remember to see your friends and family on your time off, and make some time for yourself, too. It will help prevent burnout and give you the space to readjust your thoughts.
One simple way of ensuring you have a life outside of work is by pursuing a separate hobby. Find something you are interested in other than social work and commit to that outside of your working hours. It could be something simple like crossword puzzles or something intense like snowboarding. Whatever it is, make it something you look forward to – it will help on the highly stressful days.
If you are struggling to find a balance while studying for your human services degree, then consider asking to cut back on your working hours.
Once you have managed to become a success within social work, then it is time to give back to others who have the same dream as you. If you truly want to succeed, then you should become an inspiration. We are mortals but our work can lasts in other people even more than the oldest bonsai tree.
If there are any co-workers working below you or students doing work experience where you work, then make an effort to lift them as much as you can. Give them advice, show them the ropes, and make sure they know they can come to you when they are struggling.
Social work is not always easy, and what will get you through the toughest days is passion. Once you have completed a human services degree, got your experience, and worked in the field for years, you might start to feel run down. This is completely normal, and you should push back with your passion.
Social work is an admirable career that is all about giving, so it isn’t difficult to remember why you started. Think about how much you want to help people live better lives, and let that motivate you on the toughest days.