Considering a Career in Social Work?
Suggestions and Resources
A career in social work can be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor for those who are well suited. Developing certainty about your suitability for a social work career is an important first step in planning pursuit of the social work major. The process of developing greater certainty in relationship to the selection of a social work career involves two primary steps:
1. Developing an understanding of YOU. Your interests, inclinations, values, skills, and aptitudes should lead your decision making in the selection of a career. An understanding of yourself is the first step in directing you to a career that permits you to express those aspects of yourself.
2. Developing specific knowledge about the careers you might consider. The more you know about where you are heading, the more certainty you will have that you’ve made the right choice. Learning all you can about what is involved in a social work career will help you make an informed match between what is true of you and what you know fits with what social workers do.
The recommendations listed below are intended to help you develop a better understanding of yourself and the social work profession. If you act on at least some of these, expect to make a more informed and secure match between you and the career path you choose.
Visit the YSU Office of Career and Counseling Services. The services of this office are free to YSU students and provide professional career counseling, career assessment, and a wealth of information and resources for anyone actively contemplating a career in social work. They are located in Jones Hall, Room #1034 and can be contacted at 330.941.3515. They also have a link on the YSU web site.
Enroll in the Introduction to Social Work Course (SCWK 1510). The assignments and learning opportunities of this course are designed to convey information about the social work profession that can assist students in making the decision to pursue a career in social work.
Do informational interviews with professional social workers. A good way to learn about what a career in social work might be like is to talk directly to a professional social worker. The YSU Office of Career and Counseling Services can provide you with guidance on how to request and secure an interview and subsequently prepare questions for informational interviews.
Shadow a social worker. With permission and their cooperation, spend some time following a social worker through their workday. Doing so will enable you to witness first-hand the activities associated with the job.
Volunteer at a community agency that provides social work services. Being of service to others in the places that social workers do their jobs is another good way to learn about the places social workers work and the actual work they do. Additionally, the volunteer work you do can serve as a test of your ongoing interest and suitability in doing service-oriented volunteer work on behalf of others. The Hands On Volunteer Network of the Valley works closely with YSU students in arranging community volunteer opportunities. They can be contacted at: www.hovn.org or 330.782.5877.
Read. Learning what you can by visiting websites and reading books on career development and social work careers will provide you with the information that will contribute to the certainty that a career in social work is right for you.
National Association of Social Workers. Explore this website to learn the range of areas social workers engage with. Also visit the “About Social Workers” link to learn about the experiences social workers have during an average working day. (www.naswdc.org)
Occupational Outlook Handbook. A leading repository of information pertaining to many occupations including social work. Explains the nature of the work, training requirements, job outlook, and salary information. This resource provides an excellent opportunity to conveniently compare occupations that you might be considering. (www.bls.gov/oco/)
General Career Development
- Bolles, Richard, 2010. What Color is Your Parachute? New York: Random House.
- Leider, Richard, and David Shapiro, 2001. Whistle While You Work: Heeding Your Life’s Calling. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publisher.
Social Work Career Development
- Ginsberg, Leon. 2000. Careers in Social Work (2nd edition).
- Grobman. Linda May. 2004. Days in the Lives of Social Workers: 54 Professionals Tell ‘Real-life’ Stories from Social Work Practice. Harrisburg: The New Social Worker.
- Nesslein Doelling, Carol. 2005. Social Work Career Development: A Handbook for Job Hunting and Career Planning. Washington D.C.: The NASW Press.
- Nguyen, Tuyen. 2006. Many Paths, One Purpose: Career Choices for Social Work and Human Services Majors. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
- Ritter, Jessica, Halaevalu Vakalahi, and Mary Kiernan-Stern. 2008. 101 Careers in Social Work. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
- Wittenberg, Renee. 2002. Opportunities in Social Work Careers. New York: McGraw-Hill.