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Careers of the Future: Social Work

social work

Globalisation, automation and rapidly changing needs mean the future of employment will probably look very different to now. In fact, many current careers won’t exist in the next 10 to 20 years. So, it’s critical that students ask the important question: ‘Will my chosen study path lead to strong job opportunities after graduation and beyond?’

In this series, we’re exploring a range of occupations forecast to have strong employment prospects in the future. Some of these careers, especially in the tech industry, are newer and are rapidly emerging, some of these careers already exist now and will be more familiar. 

In a complicated world and with a rapidly growing population, health services are going to be even more important in the future. Today, we’re looking at the many opportunities in social work and community services.

Why social work?

Do you have a genuine desire to make a positive impact, as well as a passion for working with people and communities? A career in social work and community services might be for you. Social workers are individuals who want to promote and support individual and community wellbeing.

Social workers support a variety of communities and/or people in need. Clients might include children and families who are experiencing difficult times, migrants and refugees, people with addictions, people with mental or general health issues, people in the legal system, people with disabilities, or people in palliative care.

Social workers have limitless opportunities

Social work is one of the fastest growing professions and is highly in-demand both in Australia and globally. There are employment opportunities in local and international government and NGO sectors, as well as the commercial sector. Locally, social work can be a great way to gain valuable local experience. If you want to travel, you can work with communities and causes all around the world.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Social workers create real change

Social work is a career that will see you out on the front-line of social change. It’s a challenging but extremely rewarding profession where you will make a positive impact on the lives of people, communities, and maybe even the world.

Each day will bring new experiences

As a social worker, you’ll have many different tasks each day. Sometimes you’ll be at your desk, but other times you’ll be working face-to-face with people in the community. You might be involved in advocacy for your clients, working with government organisations or the medical and justice systems, or even engaging in community development, social research and government policy.

International students can make excellent social workers

Leaving your home to study abroad is a massive life change and often brings big challenges. Most international students have first-hand experience overcoming many of the same issues that social work clients may face.

You have to deal with unfamiliar government, education and agent requirements and processes to be allowed to study in Australia. Then, you must deal with different providers to set up your new life: health insurance and medical services, accommodation, phone and banking, and much more.

On top of everything else, with a very different lifestyle and new education system to deal with, many students experience homesickness, isolation and difficulties adjusting to their new home. These challenges can be even harder if English is not your first language.  

All of these experiences can help you understand and empathise with the people, communities, and issues that social workers engage with. Plus, the ability to speak another language is always an advantage in community services.

Social workers are individuals who want to see change happen, says Anna Scheyett, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, in her Ted Talk ‘Social workers as super-heroes’.

Education pathways to social work and community services

To qualify for a Master of Social Work degree, you may need to complete a Bachelor qualification first. Relevant education pathways may include:

  • Bachelor of Community and Human Services
  • Bachelor of Arts (Majors in Global and International Studies, Psychology or Sociology)
  • Bachelor of Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Education
  • Bachelor of International Studies
  • Bachelor of Psychological Science
  • Bachelor of Nursing

Meet Prem, Kwin and Nihar, all Master of Social Work students studying at Federation University

Attending a university that offers practical support and small, close-knit classes is a major priority, says Prem. “The best part of my class is that people work together because, as social workers, it’s very important to work in unity.

Prem enjoys the level of hands-on experience this degree offers. “I’m a volunteer with YMCA in their community engagement and youth development department,” he says. “I get opportunities to work with some of the wonderful staff there, who give me ample amount of guidance on how to work in communities.”

Opportunities for clinical placements and industry experience are fantastic opportunities to learn and are also a great way to engage directly with the local community.

“I can’t wait for my field education placement to start so that I can apply the theories I have learned in class and improve my skills as a social worker,” says Kwin.

Nihar appreciates the value in gaining his qualifications to be job-ready for the Australian workforce. “With this course, I want to develop communities and explore everything that this awesome Kangaroo nation has to offer!”