Choosing the Right Social Work Path: Tips for Future Professionals

Social Work Path

So, you’ve decided you want to be a social worker. But have you chosen the area of social work you want to specialize in? Your area of specialization can take you down a varied, challenging, and inspiring career path. The best part? The choice is yours to make. 

In truth, there are so many different areas of specialization within the realm of social work that you can choose to focus on. It’s important to be aware, though – once you’re qualified as a social worker, you’ll need to complete further studies to hone in on your selected specialization.

Keen to learn more about choosing the right social work career path for you? Let us take you through it.

Tip # 1: Select Your Area of Specialization

As a licensed social worker, there are many areas of specialization you can choose from. Some of these include:

  • Mental healthcare social work.
  • Child, youth, and family counseling social work.
  • Healthcare, palliative care, and hospice social work.
  • Correctional, disciplinary, and criminal justice social work.
  • Community-based social work.
  • School guidance counseling social work.
  • International and foreign aid social work.

Regardless of the area of social work specialization you choose to focus on, however, you can be sure that your career path as a social worker will be exceptionally rewarding. 

the Right Social Work Path

For social worker Vince Peart, his work has enabled him to become, for others, “the person I needed when I was a child”. As healers, the role of social workers is inherently linked to the well-being of others. Helping others heal and watching them flourish into their best selves can be considered one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

This is especially true for empaths, whose happiness is in many ways dependent on seeing others thrive. In some aspects, Vince asserts that many social workers are wounded healers. As such, their ability to pass on the wisdom gained from their own lived experiences to others facing similar traumas makes their role – and their contributions to the lives of others – invaluable to our society. 

Tip # 2: Obtain the Relevant Qualifications and Licenses 

A critical step to becoming a successful social worker is obtaining the requisite state-based license to enable you to practice in different settings. A New York social work licensure can be obtained online, and similarly, social work licenses for other states in the US can also be granted via remote study methods. 

Your social work licensure will only take you so far, however. If you want to excel in your career, you’ll need to specialize. This will require you to pursue further studies within your selected area of specialization. If you want to become a correctional social worker, for instance, you’ll need to combine your existing qualifications with a master’s degree that incorporates study units in criminal justice. 

Similarly, a student aspiring to become a mental health social worker would be well advised to focus their studies on units covering elements of psychology, sociology, and human behavior. In the same way, a budding healthcare social worker will need to build their knowledge of the healthcare sector with a degree that specializes in that area. 

Right Social Work Path

Tip # 3: Never Stop Learning

Finally, if you want to excel as a social worker, remember – you will always be learning something new. Staying inquisitive and passionate about your work will enable you to succeed in building a career that is as rewarding as it is challenging.

Yes, at times, your role will be demanding: it’s common for social workers to experience emotional fatigue, or even, vicarious trauma. Indeed, a recent study found that over 70% of social workers experience emotional exhaustion at some point in their careers. 

For this reason, social workers must keep their passion for their work alive. In addition to this, social workers need to implement self-care strategies to look after themselves, too.

As wounded healers, social workers have access to the same tools and techniques they recommend to their clients: mindfulness, relaxation activities, and learning to maximize their downtime by staying social, exercising, and looking after their mental and physical well-being. 

Most important? In the pursuit of a successful career, social workers need to take some of their own medicine, by caring for themselves as well.