What Made Me Choose Social Work as a Profession
I can hardly believe I have been a practicing social worker for over 10 years now! Oftentimes when meeting new people the question comes up about what made me choose social work as a profession. In many ways I see this profession as a calling, not just a career choice. A series of events in my life led me to social work. I love my profession as it mostly reflects my belief system and who I am as a person. There are some flaws, no profession is perfect, but not many are as idealistic as social work either!
I chose social work after losing someone in my early college career. I initially planned to become a pharmacist when I first entered college. Nothing like having your whole world rocked going into your second semester of your first year in college. This loss became a pivotal moment in my life and caused me to start evaluating life, love, relationships, and my purpose in life. I recognized my ability to listen and care were some of my strongest assets. I also recognized that I did not have all of the tools to effectively create change with someone in a therapeutic manner. I made a decision to start looking at different programs that would prepare for me to become a mental health therapist. After doing some research, the masters program in social work stood out to me.
Social work is a profession that has a set standard of educational goals that have to be fulfilled in order for you to be considered a "social worker." The Council of Social Work Education (www.cswe.org) oversees the accreditation of over 800 bachelor and master programs to make sure that each student who goes through an accredited program receives a standard of skills and knowledge that a social worker should possess. I appreciated this in comparison to other programs, because as long as I went to a CSWE program, I knew I would have a standard of knowledge and skills to take with me for my career.
Social workers are EVERYWHERE! I mean it. My profession is one that shows up in a variety of community and facility settings. We are in schools (K-12 and higher education), social welfare/human service agencies, to prisons and hospitals! Did you know there are even some social workers in congress? With the benefit of generalizable skills, I could easily decide to transition where ever I so had an interest. Aside from the field of nursing, I'm not sure what other professions offer that level of career flexibility and stability. This was something I really treasured, as I knew I could grow in which ever area I wanted to go in.
Another aspect that drew me to social work is the fulfilling nature of the work. I see the value of social work as being able to contribute to society in a bigger way. It is bigger than me. Being able to hold the title "social worker" also means that I am an advocate, teacher, change agent, and therapist. Some days are hard in this field. I will not lie about that. However, the payoff in this field goes beyond monetary value. When people's lives are changed for the good, there's no way to measure the impact that has on the world overall. Seeing hope and spreading hope is something that can be hard to find these days. So being a part of a profession that centers on hope and change is incredibly fulfilling for me.
I'm ten years into my career as a social worker. I've learned a lot in my career and I have learned a lot about my profession. I've seen how people's lives have changed in the system that is built off of social work frameworks. I have also seen how these systems are not just and perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, and many other privileged mindsets that ultimately perpetuate oppression. Social work is still dynamic and changing. It is a field that still needs more research to help inform the systems where social workers are working. While my passion continues to be on focusing for change and justice, I also really want to look to mentor the following generations of change agents. I guess you can say that I love my profession so much, it pushed me to go back to school...again. So with that said, Ph.D. here I come!