The British Association of Social Workers defines social work as “a profession that is centred around people”. Indeed, social workers help people of all ages and from a range of different backgrounds. Their role is to support individuals and families through difficult times and to ensure that vulnerable people are safeguarded from harm.
If you want to make a positive difference to people’s lives and society, a career in social work is ideal. It is challenging and diverse, however it is also one of the most rewarding professions you can pursue. Social workers enable vulnerable individuals to manage a range of social factors and support those in recovery. They empower people to lead fulfilling and independent lives, transforming their wellbeing. In addition, social work provides opportunities to stand up for human rights and social justice, consequently improving our society as a whole.
One of the most appealing aspects of social work must be its diversity. It is a far cry from your average desk job, with each day presenting entirely new challenges. You can be required to help people with mental ill-health, physical health, accommodation, finances, employment and relationships, to name just a few examples. Each case is unique, ensuring that you are never bored. You will also be able to work alongside a range of professionals, including government officials, legal experts and psychiatrists.
As a profession, social work undoubtedly has a lot of negative stigma attached to it. This sadly derives from a lack of understanding. Television shows and the media perpetuate a myth that social workers are nothing but troublesome busybodies plotting to take children away from their families. Such scaremongering is both harmful and untrue; the main aim of social workers is simply to offer support to those who need it.
Moreover, the public sector itself is often less appealing to high-achieving students from universities like Durham. The chance to make a difference to society is often disregarded, alongside the public sector’s flexibility, extensive provision of training, and stability. In particular, there is a misconception that social workers earn low salaries and that there is limited opportunity for career progression. However, with responsibilities and experience, social workers can earn up to and above £40,000. In addition, there are many different specialist roles available within social work, as well as supervising and management positions. It is difficult to imagine why the perks of working in the public’s best interest are so often ignored.
Furthermore, the government is currently putting more measures in place to support and develop social workers, hence the impressive graduate opportunities currently being offered by charities such as Think Ahead and Frontline. These competitive schemes provide students with master’s degrees, unbeatable experience, and countless opportunities for career progression – all while transforming society.
Think Ahead is a paid two-year fast-track scheme, enabling students to make a real difference to adults with mental health problems. You receive a fully funded master’s degree, learn on the job, and take on a challenging, varied and rewarding role. The mental health challenge affects our entire society: 1 in 4 adults in England have a mental illness; nearly 40% of all ill-health is caused by mental illness; 1 in 3 families include someone with a mental health problem. Therefore, mental health social workers are in more demand than ever before. By applying for charity schemes like Think Ahead, you can challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and be a part of the solution to this national crisis.
Similarly, Frontline again offers students the chance to earn a master’s degree whilst learning on the job. They aim to counter the worrying statistic that at least half a million children in England don’t have a safe or stable home. Participants work directly with children, families, schools, courts and the police to empower families to achieve positive change.
Both of these schemes are on The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list. They enable participants to develop their leadership skills, communication and emotional intelligence, meaning that you will be able to transfer your expertise to a range of professions. However, I hope that this article has given a glimpse into the benefits of pursuing a career in social work.
You can find out more about Think Ahead and its application process here.
You can find out more about Frontline and its application process here.