When college students choose sociology as their major, they’re looking beyond the next few years of schooling.
They may have roughly the same amount of study hours ahead of them as others. Including those who major in business or political science or chemical engineering.
But they know that after graduation their lives will be very different. They won’t be working in a high-rise building downtown or in a laboratory.
They realize they aren’t going to get rich in social work. And they understand they’ll get little recognition for their accomplishments.
But they also grasp something else. The contributions they make will help an untold number of individuals. Plus families and communities. They believe they can make a difference in the world.
‘Social Workers: Generations Strong’
March is National Social Work Month. It’s designated to acknowledge the contributions made to individuals, families and communities by social workers.
It’s also a chance for organizations to create special events or activities. To show their social workers they are valued. And are essential to the organization’s success.
What’s this year’s theme for National Social Work Month? It’s “Social Workers: Generations Strong.”
It’s sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). They’re celebrating their 65th anniversary in 2020.
NASW Has Workers’ Backs
The group wishes to spotlight the life-affirming work that social workers have done. And are doing. From the Greatest Generation to Generation Z.
NASW is the largest membership group of professional social workers in the world.
The group works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members.
NASW also helps to create and maintain professional standards for social workers. And to advance sound social policies.
Social Workers Wear Many Hats
Let’s take a quick look at what social workers do. For one, they help individuals access the services and resources they need most.
They act as advocates for safety among children, youth and families. Sometimes they become licensed counselors or legal assistants.
They often take on the duties of providing health care in clinical settings. They are temporary companions or guardians for at-risk individuals. They also do secretarial work during endless applications and appeals for services.
Because of the emotional component of the job, often it’s difficult to “leave it at the office.” And as their caseloads grow, it’s difficult for many social workers to balance work and home life.
On Duty and on Call
There are approximately 682,000 social workers in the U.S. They are found in just about every setting.
That includes medical, behavioral, outpatient, inpatient, community-based and schools.
Social workers often have irregular shifts. And they’re frequently called upon to work holidays. And sometimes they’re on call when not at work.
The average annual salary of social workers ranges from about $38,000 to $45,000. Unfortunately, some social workers leave the profession. That’s due to an inability to make ends meet.
Draining But Rewarding
Social workers describe their jobs as interesting and fulfilling. They say the work can be very rewarding.
There is little else in life as exhilarating as realizing you’ve made a significant difference in someone’s life.
But they also admit that it can be frustrating and emotionally draining. Especially during those times when it seems like little progress is being made.
Despite how hard they try, sometimes circumstances just don’t allow them to accomplish what they want to.
A Lasting Impact
Countless people have had their lives improved due to the social workers. Some of them say they dramatically changed their lives.
For some people, social workers are the first people in their lives who truly seemed to care about them.
Unlike others who gave up on them, social workers were persistent. They didn’t let roadblocks stand in the way of helping people who really needed it.
Most of all, social workers were there for them. Despite what time of day or night. When they required help the most, a social worker showed up and came through for them in a big way.
Deserving of Our Respect
Today, perhaps more so than at any other time in our country’s history, there is a huge emphasis on earning dough.
Probably because everything is so much these days. As an outcome, becoming a social worker is not as appealing to young people as it once was.
Those who choose to enter the field of social work deserve our respect. I’m glad we have a month dedicated to them.
If you know a social worker, take some time during March to show them how much you appreciate them.
If not, consider connecting with a social services agency in your hometown and ask what you can do to help a social worker. They deserve more than a month. They should be honored all year long.