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In Defense of Social Work

Listening to: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) — Eurythmics


A couple of days ago, I had one of those conversations. You know, the kind you walk away from feeling like you’ve been talking to a brick wall. It went something like this - Me: I’m going to be a therapist.

Responder: Everyone knows that therapists are psychologists, not social workers!

It was just another in a series of “discussions” I’ve had lately about my chosen career path. People want to know, why social work? Why would I want to be, to quote one of my friends, overworked and underpaid? Don’t I know that I’m never going to make any money in this field? Why would I want to take away other people’s children?

The view of the general public on the profession of social work leaves a lot to be desired. The notion that social workers ONLY take away people’s children is absurd. The idea that one can never be satisfied as a social worker is even crazier. Here are just a few of the reasons why I chose to go into Social Work.

1. I want to be a therapist. The majority of practicing counselors these days have a social work degree. In fact, my therapist has a social work degree, and it is because of her that I became interested in counseling as a career. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I will be able to go into private practice. Just like a psychologist.

2. If I get a Bachelor’s of Social Work, I can complete the Master’s program in only a year. With the total cost of college at about $10,000 a year, I’m all about reducing the amount of time I have to be in school. Don’t get me wrong — I love academia, and would be a perpetual student if I had my choice — but who can afford that in this economy? Additionally, should anything derail me from my Master’s degree plans, I can work in my field with a BSW.

3. There is more to helping people than understanding mental illness. I will be the first to admit that my fascinations lie mainly in psychology; that’s why I’m now pursuing a double degree. But what I want to do is to help people live more productive lives. Since no one lives in a bubble, approaching problems ONLY from the “how does that make you feel” angle just doesn’t make sense to me. The Social Work program has a strong base in advocacy and social justice. It also covers ethics and policy. I may not like those bits so much, but knowing how to navigate the system will be an advantage to me and for my clients.

It is also worth mentioning that most of what people believe about social work is wrong. True — some social workers function within Child Protective Services. Some social workers take away children. But that is not an arbitrary decision, nor is it the function of the majority of social workers. True — I probably won’t get rich in this career. But if being rich was my ultimate goal, I would be a business student. And that’s not to say that there is no money in social work. It’s just that one becomes a social worker for the satisfaction FIRST, and for the other benefits second.

I am proud to be a Social Work student. Some day, I will be proud to be a Social Worker. Overworked, underpaid and striking fear in the hearts of unfit parents everywhere — this is my path.

Until Next Time,


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January 31, 2010 | | Comments are closed for this post

5 Comments to In Defense of Social Work


I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m a Social Work major as well, I just got into the school last semester. I didn’t come to UT with the idea of majoring in Social Work; however, I have always have a passion for serving others and after taking the intro class I decided to pursue it as a dual degree.

It is interesting to read your perspective on Social Workers and the misconceptions that people have about the career. Though I’m not directly seeking to be a Social Worker after I graduate, I feel that the Social Work degree will allow me to continue to better serve others out there in the real world.

Hence, I’ll tell you this… Follow your passion, things may change as far as career paths of what not but your passion for serving others and making others’ lives better won’t.

Best regards,

Berenice Medellin

February 10, 2010
— Berenice Medellin

Hi Bobbi,

While I believe that the social work as a profession is a noble one, in reality that is a different story. My husband and I are foster parents and have met lots of social workers. Most of them were surprisingly unpleasant. NONE, and i repeat NONE of the children’s social workers had children of their own. Naturally, they don’t know the first thing about kids’ needs and daily routines. Some of them (senior SW) have turned into harsh power monsters and are not able to see it. Being in the system as a committed foster parent, I would change one thing if I could, and that is the following:

In order to get a SW license, and become children/family social worker (if that is going to be one’s area of expertise) every SW would have to foster for several months one infant and one teenager.

I believe that if that could be implemented, we would see more of a human side in the system and children would turn from just case numbers to little beings who indeed have sensitivity.

Just my two cents and best of luck to you.


March 9, 2010
— ana

Hi Bobbi. I’ve just discovered your blog. This topic struck me as I am a social worker. I got my master’s degree at UT Austin and have been in pediatric medical social work for almost 22 years. I wonder if the day will ever come when someone doesn’t associate social worker with child remover? “What do you do” is a question I still answer frequently. But that’s ok. It’s a teaching moment. Best wishes to you at UT and the School of Social Work. I loved both. Valerie

April 23, 2010
— Valerie Bowman

I am a proud social worker. Satisfaction for me comes in identifying with thousands of other like-minded people who work to promote the best interests of humankind and have educated themselves in the skills of the profession of social work. It is an honor to be a social worker. Social workers do great things every day! Social work is not a second-rate profession; for me it is a calling. I always was a social worker.

Please always identify yourself as a social worker first; and what you do second. How will people know who social workers are and what they do unless we self-identify?

June 30, 2010
— Robin Lennon-Dearing, PhD, MSW, BSW

Hi Bobbi-

I am a senior in high school and feel like social work is what I was born for. Reading your blog and viewing your perspective on the career path is eye-opening and inspiring to me. I agree with the comments prior to mine that the field needs more people who are compassionate about their job and the idea that they’re potentially changing someone’s life for the better. That’s why I’m glad to see someone like you interested in the career.

You’ll be in my prayers. I hope you find your place that fits you the best!


October 31, 2010
— Kaitlyn Schutza
photo of Bobbi