So, you’ve decided to study social work and want to build a solid career in this niche? How to succeed as a student majoring in social work?
With poverty, obesity, COVID-19, and other public health concerns threatening people’s well-being, a demand for more social workers has emerged worldwide. In 2019, there were 70,000+ jobs for social workers in the United States. Interestingly, social work-related occupations are expected to rise by 9% this decade, with an average annual salary of $50,000. It means that studying social work can help you join this booming career and contribute to the betterment of humanity. Let’s review how you can finish your social work studies and start your career advancement efforts.
Tips for social work students
Studies from 2022 suggest that social work careers are in demand in this COVID-afflicted age. Research indicates that, though fewer students enrolled in higher education programs in 2019-2020 in America, social work saw a small growth (1%) in bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In light of all these facts, many students decide to become social workers. But do you have what it takes to be one? Read the tips mentioned here to know how to be a better learner and benefit from a college education.
1. Choose your specialization
While pursuing your master’s in social work (MSW) degree, you should specialize in something and make the degree more valuable. Students often choose specializations in pediatrics, geriatrics, and criminal justice, among other subjects. Becoming a geriatric social worker means working with older adults and focusing on their well-being. Geriatric social workers serve adults suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It’s a fulfilling career with many chances for professional development.
2. Get a mentor
Look for mentors among your faculty so they can give you some relevant insights about this field. They can give you personalized suggestions about improving yourself professionally. Take advantage of their expertise and hone your soft skills under their guidance.
3. Develop yourself professionally
Academic institutes can offer you different professional development opportunities, e.g., attending social work seminars and conferences. You can listen to guest speakers discussing emergent problems with social relevance. Find organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers, where you can find many other professional development options. That’s how you can build your network.
4. Find research opportunities
Improve your resume with research projects in which you’ve participated. These opportunities keep social work students well-informed about all the new scientific research relevant to their work. You should find some information on possible research options from your professors. Communicate with them and try to have your name associated with a research publication.
5. Network with people
Make powerful connections with your peers and teachers. These connections will help you land a decent job in the future. So, you may ask: Which state pays social workers the most? Your connections will inform you that New Jersey and Connecticut and the highest-paying states in the field of social work after California. This information and many others can help you plan your future in social work.
6. Manage your time
As a social work student, you must manage your time carefully for optimal academic results. Your time management skills will come in handy when entering the practical world and when you have to handle many clients. Managing your time isn’t difficult when you decide to follow a particular method to make daily to-do lists, such as the ABC method.
7. Try to calendarize
Students have many responsibilities that include preparing for upcoming tests and completing assignments, among others. Don’t forget to use apps, e.g., iCloud Calendar or Google Calendar, to schedule your chores and monitor all future academic events. Turn notifications on so you won’t miss a deadline. This can keep you updated with your lesson plans.
8. Enhance your experience
Gaining some experience in your learning days will make you more eligible for social work jobs in the future. Many students undertake volunteer work as social work students, to interact with people and become familiar with the future work environment. These experiences will help you determine your niche. So, you can decide if you’re more suitable to work with children or adults, people with mental health conditions, or trauma victims.
9. Focus on self-care
Social workers are vulnerable to burnout and depression because this job requires strong emotional fortitude. Studies suggest that 41% of social workers in 2022 were emotionally exhausted in the last 12 months. However, you can prevent burnout by focusing on self-care from the very beginning. While a career is extremely rewarding, neglecting your well-being won’t let you focus on your work.
10. Raise your voice
Social work isn’t just about learning a few strategies and implementing them in the real world. Learn how successful social worker advocates on their client’s behalf and courageously express their ideas in front of the public. Don’t be afraid to share your opinions with others. It’s okay to have a unique perspective on things. So, raise your voice without any fear of ridicule or judgment.
Social work students should find a mentor to learn all the skills necessary for a career in this field. Learn to organize your studies and develop professional qualities and soft skills. Find research options so you may kickstart your career while familiar with trade secrets. But – most importantly – choose your specialization and find your niche. That’s how you can make the most of your time as a social work student.