Career Closeup: Making a difference one-on-one
Social workers provide comfort and support to their clients. They also help them pay bills and remind them to take medication.
Special to amNewYork
While its not the highest paying or most glamorous job out there, social workers can feel good about themselves, knowing they help people with emotional, medical and government boosts.
Social workers are committed to social and economic justice for all, said Darrell P. Wheeler, associate dean of Hunter College School of Social Work.
What social work involves
The basic job is case work, or counseling, with individuals and families. Work environments include schools, hospitals, clinics, senior residences, group homes, community centers, government agencies, private foundations, courts and prisons.
Some social workers supervise other social workers, run agencies and nonprofits or become policy advocates.Social work training
An M.S.W. (masters in social work) is the desirable credential that allows a social worker to manage her own cases and move up the ladder, said Wheeler. Hunter Colleges highly regarded M.S.W. program is offered full- and part-time.
The M.S.W. is followed up with a licensing exam. Two more years can bring the C.S.W. (clinical social work) designation. This lets a social worker open a private therapy practice, often to supplement a staff job.
To get a taste of a career change to social work, volunteer with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters, said Samantha Alvarez, a social worker with Good Shepherd Services, a New York social services and youth development agency.
What to expect
Social work is not a routine office job, Alvarez said. Youre a part of your clinical team, and you become like family with your clients. Every day is varied, interesting and rewarding.
One major downside is that the job can be emotionally draining, because youre dealing with tough cases, that sometimes dont get that much better.
But it can still be a nice change for those looking to make a difference and get out of the cubicle.
Added Wheeler, People are tired of pushing products and crunching numbers. Whats more meaningful than improving lives? Our careers motto is the power to change.
Job Snapshot: Social Worker
Education: L.M.S.W. (License plus Masters in Social Work). The M.S.W. program at Hunter takes about two years; www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork
Salary: With new L.M.S.W.:40-50K; higher with experience, therapy practice or director duties
Skills: Commitment; patience; time and project management; foreign languages a plus
Drawbacks: Must deal with bureaucracy, tough, harrowing situations and often low pay
Forecast: Field is expanding; growth specialties are kids, veterans, seniors