Social work is perhaps one of the most misunderstood careers in the healthcare field. For starters, many people don't even know that social workers are, in fact, regulated healthcare workers. Others dislike them, thinking their only job is to "meddle in people's lives." However, nothing could be further from the truth, and in this article, we invite you to discover the rewarding nature of social worker jobs.
The Canadian Association of Social Workers points out that these healthcare professionals help people attain physical, mental, and spiritual well-being by addressing broad social issues like oppression, discrimination, domestic violence, unemployment and poverty. According to the organization, social workers do this mostly through therapy or counselling, health promotion, and community capacity building, as well as social policy analysis, research and collaboration with other healthcare professionals.
The Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), on the other hand, says social workers' job is to "help people get the most out of their relationships, work, and community life" by identifying the source of their stress or problems, strengthening their coping skills, and finding effective solutions. "Social workers are unique among helping professionals because they look at people's problems within the context of their families, workplace, and communities and consider the connection between personal problems and larger social issues," the organization adds.
As previously stated, social workers are registered healthcare professionals. But what does this mean? It means that in Canada, to perform a registered social worker job, a person must comply with a series of requirements dictated by their provincial regulatory body, such as the Ontario Colleges of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW). Now, why is registration important? According to the OCSWSSW, it's because it "provides professional credibility and added value for members, while protecting the public from unqualified, incompetent or unfit practitioners." Another big reason is simply that it is the law and only registered professionals can use the title “social worker” or “registered social worker”.
These are some of the duties of social workers in Canada:
To become a social worker in Canada, candidates must obtain a university degree in social work from an approved university. Some of the most recommended academic programs in this field are Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master's in Social Work (MSW), and Doctorate in Social Work (Ph.D./DSW). These programs often involve a mix of theoretical and practical coursework.
After meeting the academic requirements, social workers must get registered by the regulatory body for the profession in their province of residence. In Ontario, for instance, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers is the organization designated for this. In this province, in particular, registration is an essential step because, according to the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 (overseen by the Ministry of Community and Social Services of Ontario) no one can use the title "social worker" unless they are properly registered, let alone practice in this field.
A great social worker's resume has certain elements that help candidates stand out from the rest:
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The Canadian Association of Social workers has identified certain core values and principles for social worker jobs that are part of their code of ethics. According to the organization, the code of ethics "provides a consistent set of values, principles and standards of conduct for all social workers across Canada. It gives social workers the guidance and confidence to handle the uncertainties and challenges that come up while providing services."
The core values in the current code of ethics of Canadian social workers are:
Meanwhile, the principles in the social worker code of ethics include respecting the diversity among individuals in Canadian society and people's right to make choices based on voluntary consent. Also, advocating for fair and equitable access to public services and benefits, promoting social development and environmental management in the interest of all people, and upholding the right of people to have access to resources to meet their basic human needs, among others.
These are the most well-known types of social worker jobs in Canada:
Social workers who lead their own private practices work at helping people cope with mental, behavioural, and emotional challenges. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child, substance abuse, or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Family social workers help families get through difficult times by providing them with and guiding and informing them of special services available to them. These social workers usually work for nonprofit organizations or for-profit social service agencies to restore stability in the lives of vulnerable families.
These social workers help people and communities who are struggling with substance abuse, such as alcohol, drug, or tobacco. They can also help people overcome other addictive behaviours like gambling or overeating. Substance abuse social workers usually provide treatment through interviews, counselling, and referrals.
Senior social workers provide assistance to seniors and older adults to somewhat overcome some of the personal, social, and environmental challenges that come with aging. They focus on maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of seniors by addressing their physical limitations, mental health, and cultural barriers.
International social workers work at resolving problems that affect individuals and communities in different locations of the world. Sometimes, their work can be done locally by working for an international organization that serves populations around the world, but other times they work directly with people communities all around the world.
Travelling social workers provide social services, including counselling and mental health assistance, to people who live in different communities. They often travel back and forth from one location to the next, as they work with multiple families or communities at the same time.
Residential social workers do the complete opposite of travelling social workers. They stay put, providing social services to vulnerable residents of care homes, children's homes, hostels, and other temporary living settings where people usually go to receive assistance.
Social workers help long-term care residents with their needs. They can also provide support to the work of other healthcare workers like personal support workers (PSW) since they are usually part of an interdisciplinary team designed especially for residents in nursing homes, retirement homes or similar residential settings.
Social workers are registered health professionals who can provide both counselling services and even psychotherapy. However, unlike psychotherapists, their focus is on connecting people to the community and helping them access support services available to them.
Psychiatric social workers provide support and therapy to people who are mentally ill and may require hospitalization or other types of psychiatric help. They work at managing these conditions and making sure patients don't become a source of danger to themselves or others.
Clinical social workers work in hospitals, community mental health, primary care, and agencies, focusing on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness for patients in situations of vulnerability.
Technically, voluntary work is not considered a job because there is no pay, but for students, new grads, or people considering changing careers, acquiring experience as volunteers make all the difference for their career prospects in the future.
You have questions and we have answers. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about social worker jobs:
According to the Canadian Association of Social Workers, "social workers are regulated health professionals who work with individuals, families, groups and communities to improve individual and collective well-being. They respond to social issues like racism, poverty and unemployment. As well, social workers advocate for social justice, human rights and fair access to health and social services."
Even though some people think the only qualification necessary to become a social worker is "having a kind heart", this is not true at all. Social workers are highly skilled professionals who must have a university degree in social work at the bachelor's, master's, or doctoral level to be considered as such. It is the combination of education, training and expertise that make them qualified to deliver counselling and other social services, not kindness.
Social workers need at least a four-year undergraduate program to obtain a bachelor's degree in Social Work (BSW). As previously stated, Master's in Social Work (MSW), and Doctorate in Social Work (PhD/DSW) are other well-known degrees in this field. It should be noted that students who have a BSW degree may obtain a master’s degree after one year of postgraduate studies, while those who have a degree in another discipline would require a two-year postgraduate program in social work to obtain the same master's.
People who work as social workers definitely know how to stay busy. They fill their workdays with meetings, counselling sessions, and other activities to help people cope with social, economic, emotional, and behavioural problems. Of course, what a social worker does on a daily basis varies depending on their specialty. Child and family social workers, for instance, don't have the same workload as clinical social workers or mental health workers.
Social workers can work enjoy a variety of employment opportunities. Some of them may focus on assisting individuals, families, and communities, while others may prefer working as supervisors or managers of other social workers. Others can choose to work in schools, police departments, government facilities, and many other settings, depending on their interests.
In Canada, registered social workers can practise in healthcare settings like hospitals, psychiatric clinics, addiction treatment facilities, nursing homes, long-term care, etc. These professionals can also work in schools, community centres, assistance programs, and more. Social work is a versatile and flexible career.
For people who have a diploma in social work, but don't really want to work in this field, there are also many options. They could work as admissions counsellors at schools, colleges, and universities; human resources or recruitment officials; teachers or researchers, and more. The key is to stay within social sciences and use soft skills to succeed in whatever they choose.
Not necessarily. Entry-level social worker jobs may be performed by people who only have volunteer or internship experience. As they work in the field, however, they will begin to gain direct experience in the social work profession and develop their careers.
Multiple sources reveal that the average salary of a social worker in Canada is $33.42 per hour. This means that the average yearly salary is just above $60,000 dollars. These numbers may vary by province and work setting.
Social work is emotional work, and as such, it is important for professionals to maintain healthy professional boundaries with their clients. Some of these include establishing professional relationships based on mutual respect, refraining from giving or receiving gifts from clients, being cautious about providing personal information to clients or socializing outside of professional settings, and, of course, being alert about potential, perceived, or actual boundary crossings or violations within the social worker and client relationship.
We've reached the end of this article, hoping you found answers to all of your questions about social work jobs. Caring Support would like to start a discussion on this topic, so leave us a comment below to join the conversation.
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