Adoption and welfare agencies, youth and victim services, crisis centers and correction facilities all hire counselors and therapists – or as they are more widely know, social workers – to help others successfully function in a society.
Because it’s a field focused on the needs of people, social work is one of the most rapidly growing fields nationwide.
Social workers help others take care of their needs by assisting them in finding strategies to overcome hardships. They work in many fields, such as education, mental health, public welfare, agency administration, and public policy and planning.
In areas such as criminal justice and corrections, for instance, social workers might work in a rape crisis center or a corrections facility. In child welfare, social workers are hired by adoption agencies, foster care organizations and daycare centers to help children by ensuring their safety and communicating with their families.
At USF, the bachelor’s degree in social work has been available since 1976, the master’s degree received accreditation in 1984, and the doctoral program became available in spring 2005.
The school is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, according to Marsha Marley, associate director of the School of Social Work.
According to the School of Social Work Web site, “Where there is human need, you are likely to find a social worker.” Graduates work with children, teenagers and senior citizens in settings such as hospitals, schools, hospices and other agencies.
The undergraduate program consists of two semesters of concentrated courses such as Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Multi-Cultural America, and Research and Statistics for Social Work. A third and final semester is spent participating in field placement in the local community, consisting of 32 hours per week that students spend working for different social work agencies.
“We work with an array of agencies to accommodate students for this final semester – in their field of interest,” said Iraida Carrion, interim chair of the undergraduate program in social work.
“Students almost work full time for these agencies, along with attending regular community meetings and functions within the field. It often happens that the agencies the students are interning for hire them as soon as they graduate.”
To most social work graduates, the rewarding experiences of helping others through tough times are worthwhile.
“I have been a professional social worker since I received my MSW (Masters in Social Work) in 1975. It is an extremely satisfying career, as one truly makes a difference in the world by empowering others to be their best or by alleviating physical, emotional or psychological distress,” said Michael Rank, an associate professor of social work and editor of The Advocate, a student newsletter for the School of Social Work.
But while social work can be fulfilling, sometimes the stressful situations of the job can be overpowering.
“In this field you see things that people are going through that others don’t see,” Carrion said. “When someone is in poor condition and you go home with that image in your mind, it can be overwhelming. It can be taxing, but it can also be rewarding. I have been a social worker for 24 years, and the best part of my job is how rewarding it is to know that when a person is in need or experiencing crises I can be there to help.”
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of social workers is on the rise. As of 2004, social workers held 562,000 jobs. Nine out of 10 of those jobs were health care-related positions. Due to a rapidly growing elderly population and the aging baby boomers, demand for social services in health care and gerontology is expected to increase rapidly. One reason for this is that hospitals are releasing patients from their stays more quickly.
Substance abuse social workers are also expected to be in high demand. Because of the overpopulation in prisons, more substance abusers are being sent to treatment programs. This trend requires more social workers to be available to help treat and counsel abusers.
Jennifer Allen, a senior majoring in social work, may use her degree in a less conventional manner.
“I would like to keep my options within the field of social work open until I know where my skills would be useful and appreciated,” Allen said. “I want to continue and get my MSW; after that, the world is open. I might work with the disabled or gay and lesbian population.”
Yarei Cabrera, a graduate student of social work, finds that working in the field allows for equality.
“What really drew me to the field is the ability to work with such a diverse group of people,” Cabrera said. “As I began studying social work, I grew passionate about the field because of the values we stand for as a whole. We strive to respect and serve all people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, culture, orientation, creed, etc.”
The School of Social Work is located in building MGY. It can be reached at (813) 974-2063 or online at www.cas.usf.edu/social-work.