How can social workers choose to specialize?
So, you’re thinking about a career in social work. It’s an exciting field that offers all sorts of opportunities and really gives you a chance to make the world better. With lots of possibilities to choose from, the sooner you can get an idea of the area in which you would like to specialize, the better. There will always be opportunities to transfer later in your career but building up a solid specialty will enable you to make the most of your talents and establish yourself in a role where you can immediately start making a difference.
Working with children
One of the most popular specializations amongst social workers is working to support vulnerable and disadvantaged children. It requires a certain toughness because you will see some distressing things, and you will sometimes have to take actions that cause distress in the immediate term, but your work will help vulnerable young people to cope in difficult situations, provide relief for families under pressure, and resolve problems in schools or the wider community.
Seeing them emerge from stressful situations, forsake problem behaviors, and begin to thrive is one of the most rewarding experiences that the profession has to offer. As such, if you love to work with children and hope to change their future paths through effective management, then undertaking a Spalding University MSW program can provide you with the knowledge required to make a difference. With the tools gained from this program, you will be able to be there for kids facing everything from abuse and exclusion to learning disorders which make it hard for them to fit in, and you will help them all to realize their true potential.
Working with elderly and disabled people
The aging population and the mass disabling effect of the COVID pandemic mean that social workers specializing in helping elderly or disabled people are in higher demand than ever. In these roles, you could help people with accessing healthcare, arranging for caregivers to support them, or ensuring that they have suitable accommodation, all measures which improve their ability to live independent lives. You will advocate for people who have difficulty dealing with the system to make sure that all their basic needs are met and will help them to identify additional means whereby they might improve their quality of life. You will also help people who are living in isolation to broaden their social opportunities and advocate for changes necessary to help others find or retain employment.
Working with mentally ill people and addicts
The public at large still has a poor understanding of the issues faced by mentally ill people and those struggling with addiction, which is one of the reasons why they need the help of specialist social workers. By getting to grips with the barriers they face, you will be able to help them overcome them, and you will act on their behalf when they are unable to engage successfully with important aspects of daily life. You will support them in their efforts to change problem behaviors and help them to build social connections in their communities, as well as intervene in situations where education is needed to help fractured families improve relationships. You will also be there to advocate for them if they get into trouble or find themselves struggling to cope.
Working in the criminal justice system
Unfortunately, the social work profession is not yet at the point where it can reach everybody in need before something goes wrong. Sometimes it only becomes apparent that people are in need after they end up on the wrong side of the criminal justice system. This is when they need specialist help to help them understand where they went wrong and make the changes in their behavior necessary for their successful reintegration into society. Social workers assist the probation service in supporting people who want to turn their lives around but don’t know how, and they have an important role in identifying underlying problems which may contribute to antisocial behavior, such as low literacy levels, undiagnosed illnesses, or poor access to healthy and nutritious food.
Not all social workers focus on individuals. Some engage with wider communities, helping to identify and resolve endemic social problems or joining with local activists and helping them to advocate for change. In this role, you will use your understanding of how systems work to build up the skills of those you engage with, and you will provide a voice for groups that struggle to articulate their needs directly, such as those living with dementia. You will also work on building bridges within communities, solving neighborhood disputes, breaking down prejudice which may lead to some community members facing exclusion, and encouraging people to reach out to those in need of help. You will act as a liaison between the community and local officials or service providers whose help may be needed to overcome long-term problems.
Holding it all together
None of these things would be possible without those graduates in social work who choose to stay behind desks and provide oversight and organization. Good administrators and managers are essential to the system and provide all kinds of practical support day to day. It’s their job to prioritize cases, manage caseloads, find the right people to solve different types of problems on the ground, and make sure that notes are properly filed so that they can be accessed quickly if needed. They organize training, interface with lawyers where necessary, and oversee policy development. Alongside this are those social workers who remain in academia and specialize in research aimed at enabling the profession to keep on developing and getting better and better at what it does – to which end, they often need to engage with other types of social workers in order to collect data or set up studies in the field.
This diversity of roles means that there’s really something for everyone in social work, and your initial qualifications will put you in a position to explore whichever avenues you find most appealing. Regardless of your choice, you’ll find this a demanding but inspiring profession that is constantly opening your eyes to new things, presenting you not only with problems to solve, but also with a world of possibilities.