Sometimes we have the best intentions for wanting to pursue a particular career however, reality kicks in.
Reality sets in when we have to consider the pros and cons of choosing a particular profession or career.
Let’s face it, if you are reading this article today it means you like the idea of helping people and advocating for vulnerable people in society.
You may have thought about social work as a career.
But when exactly are you going to sit down and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of being a social worker?
Or perhaps you have considered the pros and cons of social work but still can’t decide because of feeling confused and overwhelmed by constant information.
Don’t worry, I have you covered and I can assure you the time is right for you to weigh up the pros and cons of being a social worker.
Let’s delve into it now, shall we?
Pros and Cons of Social Work
Social work differs somewhat from other professions because the practice involves looking at factors that impact a person’s life and finding out ways that may help improve their situation.
As cliché as it may sound, having a passion for helping others motivated me to go into social work.
I also felt that I had the right values and skills to work in social work.
Why Social Work?
Social work has been ever growing since 1898, and millions of people have been able to leverage their professional skills to support people to work towards a better-quality life.
If you are considering pursuing social work, it will be useful to familiarise yourself with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (NASW) which sets out values social workers should aspire to have.
Experience and qualifications needed to get into social work
Prior to getting into social work, I did a research and found out that a degree in social work is required for me to practice as a social worker.
Once I completed, I registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) now Social Work England.
What is Social Work England?
Social Work England is the new regulator of all social workers in England.
Social Work England keeps a register of individual social workers who practice in England and meet their standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health.
This statutory list provides the guarantee that registered social workers in England have the right skills and qualifications and are capable of safe and effective practice.
What do you need to get started in social work?
Please note that each University has their own unique entry requirements but you will need to have three A-Levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications, and five supporting GCSE’s including English, maths and science.
Some Universities may accept qualifications such as a HND, NVQ or health and social care access course.
I already had a degree in Communities and Development, as a result, I did a two-year master’s degree in social work.
If you already have a degree, you can choose this same route or apply for a fast track training route such as Think Ahead, Frontline or Step Up to Social Work.
Before making my application, I volunteered at a children’s centre and a nursing home.
I found this experience very useful in deciding to choose social work as a career.
You could also gain this experience from your personal life or through your work place depending on the job you do.
What skills do you need to become a social worker?
- Literacy skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Multi-tasking skills
- Organisation skills
- Relationship-building skills
- Empathic skills
- Research skills
- Information and Technology skills
- Communication skills
- Ability to stay calm under pressure
- Team work skills
- Time management skills
- Professional skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to recognise social injustice
- Anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice
- Advocacy skills
How can you progress in your career as a social worker?
After my social work degree, they offered me an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) role.
The ASYE gave me the opportunity to master my social work skills with a protected case load.
This means that you will be supervised regularly and may have less complex cases (although this does not always happen in my experience).
Is the ASYE compulsory?
The ASYE is not compulsory, but it has been endorsed by the Social Work Reform Board (SWRB).
Personally I feel it was very useful as I felt supported with my cases allowing me not to become too overwhelmed.
I received regular supervision, less complex cases, a training and development plan and extra time to do more learning and development, which I took an opportunity of.
What if you fail your ASYE?
I received a fitness to practice certificate after completing my ASYE.
They then gave me a training pathway to help me progress with my career.
However, all training approval is subject to the discretion of the manager and staffing/workload.
Should you fail your ASYE, for some workplaces, it may mean that you cannot continue to work for them.
You may then have to restart the whole ASYE programme again elsewhere.
Keeping your knowledge up to date on social work
Every graduate has the desire to build a successful career. Since graduating in 2017, I have joined the British Association of
Social Workers (BASW) to help keep my knowledge up to date with news and information on continuing professional development courses to help improve their skills and knowledge.
I have also signed up for community care news letter where I am able to access resources to help me keep up-to-date with the best practice and the law, and contribute to continuing professional development (CPD).
I work with adults who appear to have needs for care and support under the Care Act 2014.
CPD opportunities you may want to pursue if you want to work in Adult Services include Practice Educator, Approved Mental Health Practitioner, Best Interests Assessor (soon to change to Approved Mental Capacity Professional (AMCP).
Alternatively, you could progress into specialist social work roles such as a senior mental health practitioner or safeguarding and reviewing specialists.
This means you would specialise in one area of work.
In Children Services you could also become a Practice Educator and mentor students or become a form F Assessor.
Why become social worker?
Though on the surface, social work may seem like a desirable role to take on, there are some pros and cons that you may want to weigh up to see if this is genuinely the right career path for you.
I have outlined below some pros and cons:
Tips for success in social work
- Have a vision
- Have a personal and professional development plan
- Decide which area in social work you want to focus on early
- Have a mentor
- Be creative and innovative
- How can you be successful in this niche?
- Be resilient
- Take action
- Have good time management skills
- Have excellent communication skills
List of the Pros of Being a Social Worker
1. Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction is a crucial element for many people when it comes to getting involved with social work.
For some, this trumps all other cons.
You get to help people and children who need support or are living in poverty, facing financial difficulties, addiction, divorce, abuse, and so much more.
You can make a positive, meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of others.
2. Variety in the work you do
Though the process of assessment itself is essentially the same, you will never have the same case twice.
Essentially, each day is different.
You visit families, care homes, hospitals, attend meetings and investigate claims of a safeguarding nature.
You really cannot predict what the day will be like, and that brings some diversity in the work we do as social workers.
There are many areas you can specialise in and can work in different areas of practice, such as hospitals, schools, private sector, local authorities, and nursing homes.
3. Good pay
I get it… some experienced social workers may disagree with me on this.
This is really up for debate.
I know just starting out as a social worker might not land you big pay, but the opportunity to earn more as you become experienced is high.
The average starting salary is about £28,000 a year in the United Kingdom and $42,000 in the United States, and that number will undoubtedly rise if you have completed a post qualifying training course.
In the United Kingdom and the United States, geographic location and area of practice influences the salary you earn as a social worker.
In addition, working for the state or a private setting will also affect how much money you earn.
I recommend you check out this article on Social Work Entry-Level Salaries in the UK.
4. High demand
The world needs social workers, and the demand for such professionals only continues to rise.
According to the Social Workers Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social workers worldwide is projected to grow 11% by 2028 worldwide.
5. You can make real positive impact
This ties back to job satisfaction.
As a social worker, you work with people when they are at their lowest point in life.
You have the knowledge and tools to support them in gaining their lives back and providing them with opportunities they would have otherwise missed.
That is something worth celebrating!
Do you have any tips on pros of being a social worker? I would love to share them with my readers!
List of cons of being a social worker
1. Long / Irregular Hours
Social workers typically do not have a 9-5 schedule.
When helping others, it can be all hours of the day, including weekends, in order to cultivate relationships.
This might conflict with family and home life, especially if you have young children of your own to care for.
Taking responsibility of your own self care is part of demonstrating professionalism (PCF 1, Professionalism)
2. Risk of Compassion Fatigue
As social workers, you have to be flooded with compassion for the people you are helping.
But caring about them constantly can take a toll on your own emotional health.
For instance, if you have a severe, saddening case, it could trigger compassion fatigue that could dim your empathy responses or even result in second-hand trauma stress.
Personally, I wish I had known just how quickly time goes when you are so busy all the time and just how emotionally affected I would so often be by some people and the situations I come across daily.
Emotional support is vital to manage this.
In addition, taking some time off work, setting clear boundaries and talking through your cases with colleagues and managers helps.
3. High Workload
There are going to be tons of fresh cases every day that need attention and resolution, and this can make you feel overwhelmed, especially when you are new in your role.
It is more like juggling 30 to 40 cases at once when, in reality, the balance should be 15-20 cases or fewer at the same time.
This does not only make you feel overwhelmed, but it could hinder your productivity overall.
4. You Might Be Seen As “The Enemy”
Social workers are often seen at the enemy to those who do not want them involved.
The perfect example of this would be cases involving children and families, where you have to be “the bad guy” and place a child in a safer home environment.
This leads to social workers getting a poor reputation and you may have to face a lot of resistance, even though all you are doing is trying to help keep a child safe.
5. You will need to be your own Therapist more often than not
This means engaging in self-help activities to manage your own stress and anxieties.
I recommend you read, share and bookmark this article on How to be Your Own Therapist.
6. The Learning Never Ends
After completing my social work degree, I had a personal development plan but assumed any further studies may not be necessary.
I wish I had known just how much more learning I would need to engage in beyond the social work degree.
Since qualifying in 2017, I have continued to learn something new every day, about myself, about practice, theory, policy, people in general.
I have come to accept that the learning really never stops, and it is indeed a lifelong learning process.
If you accept this, then you will not have any surprises and can start making your own personal development plan with these TIPS here!
7. Corporate Changes
Be prepared for changes in policies, legislation, and systems!.
I had been ingenuous about how much these changes would affect my work and that the change management process is seemingly resource led.
However, if you always stay faithful to your social work ethics and values, then you will embrace those changes and strive for the best for the people you support.
Prepare to learn keep up to date and learn as fast as you can!
I stand by the quote ” alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.
Social workers rise by lifting others however, we do not work in isolation and we need the support of the people we work with, their families, friends, carers and other professionals to help find effective ways to improve the lives of people.
Sometimes the people we are trying to help don’t want us around, and the workload can lead to burnout.
On the other hand, job satisfaction, diversity of cases and the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives are worth every challenging moment we face.
With that being said, only you can decide for yourself if you have the mindset and desire to be a social worker someday.
So, take time to go through and really think about what you want out of life, and decide if you feel like you have the right mindset that could allow you to thrive in this profession.
Not everyone is cut out for it, but if you are and ultimately decide that you want to be a social worker, then you are in for an extraordinary ride.
Do you have any tips on pros/cons of being a social worker? I would love to share them with my readers!
List of the Pros of Being a Social Worker
- Job Satisfaction
- Variety in the work you do
- Good pay
- High demand
- You can make a real positive impact
List of Cons of Being a Social Worker
- Long / Irregular Hours
- Risk of Compassion Fatigue
- High Workload
- You Might Be Seen As “The Enemy”
- The Learning Never Ends
- Corporate Changes