You have decided to pursue a degree in social work. You understand the great value that social workers hold today and that the need for your help is consistently ripening. You know that earning your bachelor’s degree will place you on a rewarding career path, one that can move you in countless directions. Where will you let it take you?
There are many specializations, industries, and opportunities within the field of social work. You can serve individuals, families, organizations, or communities. You can help those suffering from trauma, addiction, disability, poverty, or terminal illnesses. You can work in public welfare, prisons, or the school system. No matter what path you choose to walk down, there are certain core skills you will need to carry close: flexibility, empathy, self-sufficiency, resiliency, respect, strength. These are qualities that you will develop in your social work program so that they can be maximized to their fullest potential.
Whether you are a new, seasoned, or student social worker, it is important to understand how maximizing the many facets of a social work degree can help you seal the career of your dreams. The National Association of Social Workers’ publication, “Outside the Lines: Maximizing the Flexibility of a Social Work Degree,” shows us just this. Learn how to best take advantage of your social worker degree, during and after college, with these five tips from the NASW:
- Tap into the strengths and skills acquired from all prior social work experience
In a social work degree program, the curriculum is vast. That is because there is so much to know about, so much you can do within, the social work field. As a student, you have the opportunity to study it all. In your program, you will develop a multitude of skills, strengths, and knowledge areas that can be applied to your future careers.
This process of skill development does not end after completing your social work program, it also carries on into many social work careers. For example, working in a private practice can help enhance your crisis intervention skills. If you choose to focus on critical policy issues in social work, you will most often flex your research and advocacy skillset. The more experience you have, the more skills you will obtain from each given position.
- Keep track of your accomplishments
As a social worker, you are likely to experience a range of different roles. That is because there are so many positions you can fulfill after achieving a social worker degree. It is important, therefore, to keep record of the separate roles and acknowledgements you receive throughout your social work experience. This should start the minute you enter the classroom doors. The NASW recommends you take note of any leadership positions, committee or task force participations, credible presentations, and awards or certifications that you earn on this journey. Recognizing your accomplishments will not only help build your resume, but also lead you to other areas of social work.
- Work the field and explore different social work settings
When you first begin your social work degree, you may not know exactly what your work preference is. You may not know all of the different social work settings available to you as a student considering your career options. And even if you do know what you want right off the bat, your preferences will likely change as you continue down your path as a social worker. What is great about a career in social work is that there is flexibility. You can work in a direct practice or a hospital setting. You can specialize in one subject or generalize in all aspects of social work. You can work on your own, with a team, or behind the scenes. In order to identify where you best fit in, it is important to gain experience in multiple workplaces. But before you dive into the application process, put some thought into the “big picture.” Have an idea of what job settings will be most fitting to you.
- Explore different areas of social work
Just as different workplaces will give you great experience a social worker, so will the exploration of the different specializations within social work. Maybe you have done an internship surrounding foster care, but are unsure if it is the right fit. Try pursuing a temporary position at a rehabilitation center to test other waters, as well. While in school, gain as much training you can on the various fields of social work. Develop the skills you need to adapt to the many different career possibilities. Deepen those skills through classes, internships, and volunteer work. Connect with other social workers in those fields.
- Leave yourself room to learn and grow
There is always something new to learn within the field of social work. Even after you have completed your social work degree, make sure that you continue to give yourself room to grow. Every opportunity you pursue is one more experience, one more jump-off point, one step closer to your perfect social work career. Continue to keep an open mind by joining classes, trainings, and conferences as a professional social worker. By consistently building your knowledge-base, you will be better able to move down your career path and maximize your social worker degree.
Enhance your social work career and become a caregiver at Goodwin College today.