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Why Do People Become Social Workers?

February 22, 2018

Social work is a rapidly growing career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for social workers is expected to increase by 16 percent by 2026, which is faster than most other occupations.1 However, the potential availability of jobs is only one of the many reasons to be a social worker. Social workers are instrumental in making a difference in the world, and in advocating for those who can’t always advocate for themselves. The field is ideal for someone who wants to be a force for change and empower those who need the most help.

While popular culture sometimes presents social workers as overworked and underappreciated, the field of social work is much more complex and rewarding than that. It can be an immensely satisfying and fulfilling career, and one where you have the chance to actually see how you are helping society in a number of concrete ways.

1. Social Workers Help Prevent Problems

In the past, social workers have typically been called only after a major problem presents itself, to find ways to fix the issue so that their clients can have healthy and productive lives moving forward. But a marked shift is happening in the field today. Social workers are becoming less focused on solving problems and more focused on “primary prevention,” providing interventions ahead of time to prevent problems from occurring in at-risk populations.2

For example, social workers in hospitals often work with patient families before discharge to ensure that the family is equipped to take care of the patient at home and that they have all the services, training and equipment they need before they leave the hospital. Their work helps prevent post-discharge complications and hospital readmission and gives families the tools and support they need for success.


2. Social Workers Make a Difference

According to one survey, nearly three quarters of prospective employees want a job where their work matters.3 Typically, those who feel like their work is meaningful are more productive and engaged in their work and feel more fulfilled. One of the best ways to feel like your work matters is to make a difference in the lives of others, and social work allows you to do just that.

In fact, many publications list social worker among the top 10 most meaningful jobs.4 Social workers are able to tackle immediate problems head-on with their clients and patients, rather than wringing their hands over systemic problems and wondering what they can do to help. As a social worker, it's possible that you could be the person that changes someone else's life for the better.

3. Social Work is Never Boring

If you want a sedentary desk job where you have defined tasks and a regular schedule, then social work might not be the best place for you. Social work is a highly varied career; not only do your day-to-day responsibilities change frequently, there are also a wide range of areas in which you might specialize. Some social workers opt to work in a school or hospital setting, for instance, while others go into human services or even law enforcement.

Regardless of where you work, you are unlikely to be at your desk for long, as you’ll more often be actively engaging with your clients and community. If you want work that keeps you on your toes, then social work is a good fit for you.

4. Social Work Allows for Personal Growth

Many social workers enter the field because of personal experiences in their own lives.5 A high percentage of social workers have faced their own challenges, among them poverty, violence and discrimination, and they choose the field because they want to use those experiences to make a difference in the lives of others. However, even those who haven't experienced those hardships in their lives find that entering the field helps them grow and develop beyond their own expectations.

Social work requires not only a great deal of empathy and emotional strength, but also creative problem-solving skills. Because of this, social workers are often personally challenged by their work. They are required to constantly learn, grow and develop their professional skills, which can make for a rewarding career in the long run.

Social workers are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of others, their communities and the world as a whole. Not only is it an in-demand job, it's also a challenging and meaningful one. If you have a passion for helping others and want to make real change, consider moving a career in social work.

If you want to learn more about why people become social workers and about starting on your path to this challenging and fulfilling career, contact Yeshiva University to learn more about our online Master of Social Work.

1. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
2. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from socialwork.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.001.0001/acrefore-9780199975839-e-300
3. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/sep/14/millennials-work-purpose-linkedin-survey
4. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from forbes.com/pictures/fjle45lhem/no-7-most-meaningful-job/#e79da94dfc1f
5. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2012/11/reason_to_choose_social_work_o.html