The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) states that, “The social work profession in Australia is broad and diverse but consistent to all practice is a commitment to human rights and social justice.”¹
This is a perfectly succinct way of summing up the complex job of a Social Worker, and how important that work is.
What is the role of a Social Worker?
A career in social work can be incredibly varied, and there are many different career paths for you to choose from.
However, the main role of a Social Worker is to work with individuals and families to find ways to improve their lives by dealing with the issues that affect them. As a Social Worker, you will need to work closely with your clients to identify the issues they are struggling with. Based on your assessment, you will work with your clients to develop appropriate treatment and care plans. This will involve educating your clients and teaching them skills that will help them manage these issues. Through your work, you will empower people to live better lives.
Your job may also involve:
- acting as a contact between your clients and other services/institutions
- investigating certain issues (such as child abuse)
- organising support groups
- advocating for social justice
- developing policies
What skills do Social Workers need?
Many people who are attracted to social work care strongly about social justice and human rights. They have a strong work ethic, and a powerful desire to uplift disadvantaged people and enact positive change.
To have a real impact on the lives of your clients, Social Workers will need the following skills and traits:
1. Organisational skills
Social Workers typically have busy schedules, and you could be dealing with many different clients across the day. You may also need to prioritise these appointments depending on the level of urgency. You will also be interacting with service providers and managing casework services for your clients, which may mean chasing up requests and making sure things get done on time. If you don’t manage your time properly, you’ll find that your days become overloaded and stressful, which means you won’t be giving your clients your best.
2. Emotional intelligence
Having a high level of emotional intelligence, or EQ, means that you are empathetic, self-aware, and sensitive to others’ needs. Having a high EQ is a good trait to have as a Social Worker, as your clients may not always verbally communicate their problems with you – you may have to use your intuition.
3. Cultural competence
As a Social Worker, you will be interacting with people from all different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. This means that you will need to approach different people from different backgrounds with respect towards their beliefs and culture – no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or age.
4. Communication skills
It is paramount that, as a Social Worker, you have good communication skills. This is because you will be dealing directly with clients as well as health professionals and other service providers, and you need to be able to communicate openly and effectively with them. In addition, you will need good written communication skills as you document your interactions with your clients and write reports.
5. Active listening skills
This really goes hand in hand with having good communication skills as well as a high EQ. Active listening is the process of really listening to what your clients are telling you: reading between the lines and being able to ask the right kind of questions to find out the answers you need.
6. Commitment and patience
The job of a Social Worker can have its fair share of challenges. This means that even on a bad day, you need to stay committed to bettering your clients’ lives and putting them at the centre of your focus. You’ll need to maintain your strong work ethic even on the toughest days, and you will need to be patient and work hard if you want to see improvements in your clients’ lives.
What are the different career options for Social Workers?
Social Workers can find themselves employed in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, community health centres, employment services, schools, child protection programs, family support services, mental health services or aged care and disability services.
Some jobs for Social Workers are:
- Child Welfare Social Worker
- Healthcare Social Worker
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Mental Health Social Worker
- Substance Abuse Counsellor
- Court Liaison
- Outreach Social Worker
- Youth Worker
How can I become a Social Worker?
You will require a qualification to become a Social Worker. There are two different types of qualifications you can obtain to begin a career in social work: a Bachelor of Social Work or a Master of Social Work.
A great starting point for many people is with a VET course. Open Colleges offers a number of online VET courses that can help you on your way to becoming a Social Worker. Our health courses cover a range of different subjects, including mental health, counselling, youth work and community services.
You can see the full range of our online health courses here.
If you’re ready to begin a fulfilling career that helps people to make real, positive changes in their lives, then make today the day you take that first step.
Source: *1. AASW. ‘What is social work?’ https://www.aasw.asn.au/information-for-the-community/what-is-social-work