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  • 8 Reasons Why 2020 Is The Year To Start Your Masters In Social Work

    Published on September 15, 2020

    This year has been a tough one for a lot of people. The way we live our day to day lives has changed, with many of us working from home and not being able to spend our free time socializing with friends or going away on holidays. We’ve also seen how hard times have affected those around us, with poverty and mental illness rates increasing due in part to the uncertainty over income that many people are facing.

    A lot of us have been forced to think about what it is that we do for a living, and are starting to think about ways that we can bring more meaning to our lives and give something back to the people around us. Many institutions are now offering online MSW programs (Masters in Social Work), which could mean that a more fulfilling career is closer than you think.

    Switch To A More Fulfilling Career

    80,000 hours is a charity dedicated to helping people choose careers that are more meaningful for themselves and the world around them. They took their name from the number of hours that an average person works in their lifetime. It’s a lot of hours to spend doing something that you don’t like!

    They reviewed over sixty studies on job satisfaction to try and answer the question: what is a meaningful job?

    The information on their site is comprehensive, but in a nutshell the key parts of a job that you will find meaningful are:

    • Work that you are good at.
    • Work that helps others.
    • Supportive conditions: engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow; supportive colleagues; lack of major negatives like unfair pay; and work that fits your personal life.

    Their research revealed that although pay is important, we all need money to be able to live our lives, seeking ever increasing salaries isn’t the route to a satisfying career. In a similar way, pursuing your passion as a career isn’t always a great option either as although you may love it, it might not translate well into a career.

    If you are a person who has good communication skills, is good at dealing with other people’s emotions, has good professional interpersonal skills, has excellent organizational skills and good problem-solving ability, then pursuing online MSW programs could be a great next step for you.

    These are the skills that a good social worker needs, and if you possess them you will find that social work could be a career that matches the key factors that 80,000 hours listed as being part of a meaningful job. Social work is all about helping other people, and you will be able to directly see the impact you are having on the lives of your clients. It’s also a job where you become emotionally invested, which makes the work engaging. The financial incentives for social workers are also good, and it’s a career area which is set to grow over the next few years so by looking at online MSW programs you are taking the first step towards a stable career.

    Social Work Is A Growing Field

    According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) social work is set to grow thirteen percent between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average across other career areas.

    The specific level of growth varies depending on your specialization and the area of the country which you are working in, but online MSW programs are a way into a field that is growing and has great employment prospects.

    There are a few reasons why social work is expected to grow as a field over the next few years. Firstly, the population is aging. Due to increasing life expectancies and the ‘baby boomer’ generation, the number of older people in communities is expected to increase. This brings an increasing need for support in the community. Additionally, the rate of chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity is rising, and social workers are a key part of helping people suffering with these issues to live successfully in the community.

    Secondly, the rates of people struggling with mental illness and addiction issues are rising. Online MSW programs equip students with the skills they need to support these people and their families throughout their recovery, and to help them to find their place in the community again.

    Broad Spectrum of Specializations

    It’s possible to work in social work without obtaining a masters degree. If you obtain a Bachelor’s degree in social work you can work as what’s known as a ‘non-clinical social worker’. Typically non-clinical social workers are incredibly versatile, and can work across a number of different areas including private organizations offering job and career counseling, educational counseling or after school services. They may also work in public sector organizations such as rehabilitation facilities or things like welfare policy and social assistance.

    Online MSW programs give you the opportunity to become a ‘clinical social worker,’ meaning that you are certified to practice by your state in a medical capacity. Clinical social workers need to keep up their education in order to maintain their license, so it’s a high stakes and rewarding career option. Some of the specializations that are open to clinical social workers are:

    • Child and Family Social Work. This means working with vulnerable children and families who are in need of assistance. Your role will be first and foremost to advocate for the child. You might help a family to find housing, financial assistance or childcare services, or you might intervene when a child is in danger of neglect or abuse. Child and family social workers may assist with fostering or adoption.
    • School Social Work. Working with parents, teachers and children you will formulate strategies to help improve academic performance and help address any social or behavioral issues. Typically you would be working with children who are involved in bullying, are frequently absent from school or are displaying aggressive behavior.
    • Healthcare Social Work. This means working with people who are under medical care for a physical ailment. You might help them to get used to a new treatment plan or medication, or help them to reintegrate into their community after a stay in hospital. You will work with both the patient and their family to ensure that your clients’ needs are being met, and that the family is coping. Healthcare social workers may also act as an advocate for their client, helping doctors to understand the emotional and mental toll that a physical illness can have on a patient.
    • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Work. You would be working with people with a mental health or substance abuse issue, and their family. Your role would be to help your client to get the help that they need, for example signposting them to twelve step programs or support groups, and helping them to make changes to their lives to help minimize the risk of relapse. You would also work with their family to help provide them with the tools they need to support their loved one.

    You Will Be Rewarded For Your Hard Work

    Online MSW programs are an investment, so it’s important to weigh up what you will be spending against what you are likely to gain.

    In May 2019 the BLS reported that the median annual salary for a social worker was $50,470. This is a great deal higher than the average salary across other professions. The median salary is the salary amount where half of people employed in that profession earn more, and half earn less. The lowest ten percent earned less than $31,790 and the highest ten percent earned more than $82,540. Salaries for social workers are impacted by the area of the country which you are working in, so it’s worth carrying out some research to determine what the salary is likely to be in your state.

    Your area of specialization will also impact your salary. In May 2019 healthcare social workers had the highest median salary at $56,750, while mental health and substance abuse social workers earned an average of $46,650.

    A further factor that will impact your salary is the organization that you are working for. The BLS reported that social workers in local government earned a median salary of $55,500, while social workers in family services earned a median salary of $43,030.

    When you are weighing up whether to look at online MSW programs, consider which areas of specialization you are likely to want to pursue and then calculate your likely salary against the likely cost of your course. Of course, working in a fulfilling career isn’t all about the money, but you do need to make sure that it’s a realistic choice for you.

    Opportunity For Progression

    Once you have qualified as a social worker, you open yourself up to a lot of opportunities for progression. The skills you learn are applicable cross specialization, so you should have the opportunity to change specializations if this appeals to you after a little while.

    Senior social workers can also work as case managers. Case managers specialize in assessing the needs of multiple different clients and coordinating these needs across multiple different organizations and social workers are known as case managers.

    Social work case management is defined by the NASW as ‘a method of service delivery in which a qualified case manager conducts assessments of clients and their families. Based on the needs identified in an assessment, a case manager then arranges, coordinates and monitors multiple services from different providers to serve client needs’.

    To become a certified social work case manager, you must hold either a bachelors or a masters degree, and have three years or 4,500 hours of experience with an agency or organization that provides case management services.

    Studying Is More Accessible Than Ever

    Technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to keep up! The advances in education technology mean that opting for online MSW programs provides you with the same level of education as a similar program at a bricks and mortar institution, with the added bonus that you can structure your study around your life.

    When choosing your masters, it is important to select a course that will help you to meet your career goals. For example, the online MSW programs provided by a variety of institutions have been specifically formulated to help busy professional students become accredited clinical social workers.

    A Grant Can Help Pay For Your Study

    If you are worried about how costly it is to study, there are options from both private and public sector organizations that may be able to help you to pay your tuition.

    The Federal Government, for example,offers a number of college grants through the United States Department of Education. While these grants are not specifically for online MSW programs, they are for students who are pursuing a public service career path and so you may be eligible. The Federal Pell Grant is for students who can demonstrate financial need, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for students who have received the Pell Grant and still demonstrate a level of financial need, and the public service loan forgiveness program offers partial forgiveness of federal student loans for students who go on to work in public service.

    It’s also worth seeking out grants scholarships and fellowships supported by the professional associations that represent, and advocate for, social workers. Why? Well, these organizations routinely offer financial assistance to students who are pursuing degrees in social work. Two excellent places to start are the National Association of Black Social Workers and The National Association of Social Workers, both of whom support a wide range of scholarships for graduate level students.

    You Can Test The Water By Volunteering

    Unlike a lot of careers, you can test the water if you are interested in online MSW programs to see if it is the career choice that is right for you.

    Do some research into organizations who carry out social work and offer to volunteer to see if it’s the sort of work that you would like to do, and maybe even see if you can speak to one of their existing social workers about their role and what they like and dislike about it.

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