As an average person, this is our lived reality, though we may not want to admit it to ourselves. The people who can’t turn a blind eye to these issues, and see helping people desperately in need as a calling of sorts, often end up choosing careers in social work. For them, no other career would offer the level of job satisfaction such as dedicating their life to bettering the welfare of others.
What is Social Work?
Social work is both an academic discipline and an action-oriented, practice-based profession. The job scope for social workers vary depending on their area of specialisation, but the end goal of all types of social work is about helping improve a society’s overall well-being, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised communities. Social workers help couples, families, groups, communities, organisations and the society as a whole, to cope, manage and overcome both basic and complex needs.
Social workers are required to analyse both the internal and external factors affecting their clients lives, meaning they don’t only look at the client’s internal struggles, but also consider their family, relationships, community systems and policies that have the power to influence their lives. They then help their clients identify ways to address their problems and overcome their challenges to improve their quality of life, ultimately working towards a more equal and just society where human rights are respected and protected.
The most common problems social workers deal with and help people overcome are linked with social/emotional disadvantages such as unemployment or mental health issues, poverty, trauma, abuse and addiction. Social workers analyze the lived realities and experiences of their clients and the problems they are facing, and help them make changes that solve their problems by directing them towards resources such as therapy, medical treatment, physical relocation, assisting with employment, etc.
Social workers also deal with people of differing socio-economic statuses, educational backgrounds, cultures, religions and even disabilities. They are required to offer compassionate services, approach their clients and their issues mindfully and in a culturally-respectful manner, fostering dignity for all individuals. Some areas social workers have helped improve, and advance the social impacts of include civil rights, prevention of child abuse and neglection, reducing the stigma aroung mental health, securing unemployment benefits for those in need, and helping people with disabilities get access to allowances.
Some Areas of Social Work
Child & Family Social Workers
Social workers specialising in child and family have responsibilities such as placing children into foster care or adoption, providing support to children with disabilities, directing struggling parents towards resources which could help them take better care of their children. They also deal with juvenile offenders, children who have experienced abuse and trauma or are at the risk of it, and children with health and mental health concerns and their families.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Social Workers
Social workers in this field support people with mental health and substance abuse issues, by helping them get access to resources such as therapy, helping them find rehabilitation centers which are financially accessible to them, or even placing clients with long-term mental health needs in long-term care facilities. Social workers working in this field may also initiate preventive and outreach programs to help address mental health and substance abuse issues before they get aggravated.
Community Social Worker
Community social workers advocate for social justice, equal opportunities and cultural respect by providing support and resources for vulnerable groups and oppressed communities. Community social workers work towards changing and challenging harmful mentalities that are put in place by social institutions against demographics such as race, religion, gender, cultures, sexualities and so on, whilst also promoting public sensitivity to these issues.
Medical & Public Health Social Workers
Medical & public health social workers assist patients with chronic health problems, find proper care and have access to medical resources, help place them in care facilities or nursing homes, and so on.
Skills Needed to Excel at a Career in Social Work
Exercising empathy allows social workers to show understanding and acceptance towards their clients and the clients problems, and allows them to not only look at the issue from the client’s perspective, but also try to understand it better.
Communication & Interpersonal Skills
Social work in its nature, is a highly sensitive field, so it is absolutely essential that those who choose to work in social work are clear, concise and transparent when communicating with their clients, to ensure that there are no communication breakdowns or misunderstandings. Social workers also need to prioritise human relationships above all, as it is the medium for change, advocacy and equity.
Social workers are simultaneously responsible to their clients, the law and the organisation they work for, so they have a need to resolve conflicts respectfully and responsibly. Social workers also need to value the worth and dignity of each individual person, treat them with respect and compassion in a way that is mindful to different clients individual differences, cultural norms, ethnic differences.
Organisation & Time Management Skills
Social work comes with a mountain of paperwork and caseloads, which will be backed up with calls, billings, networkings. Add that to the amount of daily responsibilities, which requires social workers to have outstanding organisation and time management skills.
Social work often revolves around the need to maintain favorable relationships with individuals who may be hostile or unreliable, and of people with different racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. No two clients will be the same, which makes maintaining patience and understanding towards clients that much more important.
Problem Solving Abilities
Because no two clients or no two cases will be the same, there is no one-solution-fits-all shortcut. Social workers need to have excellent problem solving abilities to ensure that their clients receive the best support and best solutions for their difficult problems.
What is is Like to be a Social Worker?
A career in social work allows for you to advocate for underprivileged communities, and gives you the power to help dramatically change someone or a group of peoples lives for the better. This ranges from keeping a kid from dropping out of school, or facilitating food and shelter for the homeless, or providing rehabilitative support to drug and alcohol users, just to name a few.
These processes can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, individually and collectively. However, social work can be emotionally exhausting at the same time. It is important to understand exactly what the profession entails before deciding to go forward with your career. Of course, students go into social work with good intentions and a good heart. Naturally, they will hope to help all their clients overcome all of their problems.
Not everyone with a kind heart can, or should be a social worker. The work can be difficult and stressful, and you need to have certain skills to be able to deal with it.
Not all clients want to change, or are able to change due to different circumstances. You may not be able to help all of your clients, or at least help in the way you would have hoped for. You will touch every client’s life in different ways, and not everyone will be grateful for it.
Moreover, you will also be dealing with clients whose stories are devastatingly sad, which will trigger thoughts and feelings in you and can take a toll on your own mental health. It’s important to set definitive boundaries between work and home life (though it is easier said than done most times.) Seeking professional help such as personal therapy is recommended.
Apart from dealing with clients, the job also comes with having to navigate and influence legislative policies that are built to work against certain minorities (eg: systemic injustices towards people of certain races, genders, or sexualities for example), having to work around different cultural values, overcoming ethical challenges and so on.
Misunderstandings About Social Work
Movies often villainize social workers- depict them as baby snatchers or ones who break families apart. But that is the exact opposite of what people want to do when they choose a career in social work. Social workers don’t wander around looking to meddle, they show up because someone requested for their presence and/or help.
These people clearly do not know the work social workers do, or the amount of power they have. Social workers do everything they can to keep families together, and if the situation is proven to be too dangerous or risky, it is a court that decides whether a child is removed from their families.
Career Opportunities in the Filed of Social Work
Study Social Work at MCKL
Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) is the first private institution in Malaysia to offer a diploma in Social Work in English.
Students can enter this program with minimum 3 credits in SPM/ IGCSE O Levels, including a credit in Bahasa Melayu.
The program was developed to cater for students who
(i) are working adults already involved in social work who need to prove their education or training qualifications on paper
(ii) are school leavers interested in pursuing a career in social work
With this Diploma, graduates will be recognised as trained social workers and granted full membership with the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW).
Diploma in Social Work
Total Credit Hours
Full Time: 2.5 Years
Part Time: 3 Years 3 Months
Indicative Tuition Fees (2021)
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