A social worker goes over some paperwork

Pros and Cons of Being a Social Worker

Social workers wear many hats, but ultimately they provide assistance to families in their community. Being a social worker has both good days and bad, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you commit to it. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of being a social worker.

Pro: You have an opportunity to do a lot of good.

Being a social worker gives you the opportunity to do good for your community. You can work with at risk youth, provide parenting classes, or help parentless children find a forever home. However, before becoming a social worker, you also have to realize that you have to make decisions that aren’t always benefit everyone involved. These situations often lead to social workers being viewed as villains, but at its best, social work can be a life changer.

Con: You’ll see some really heart wrenching situations.

Throughout their careers, social workers can see or hear some really scary, overwhelming situations. Working as a counselor means you listen to some of the worst experiences, and lowest points, of people's lives. Depending on what you’re doing, you may have to separate children and parents or recommend psychiatric help. Things like this can be devastating for all the parties involved. You have to remember that you can’t fix everything.

Pro: You can start work with just a bachelor’s degree.

Another positive about social work is that you can start your career with a bachelor’s degree. The other great thing about getting a college education for social work is that sociology, psychology, and social work are often all interrelated. If you know you want to work with people in this field, but aren’t sure exactly which road to take, many different positions will accept employees with a degree in any of these fields.

Con: You may need closer to eight years of education and training.

While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry level positions, the jobs that allow more responsibilities, higher pay, and greater independence generally require a master’s degree—which can take another two years of classes plus a semester or two of internships. In some cases, you may even have to have a few more years of training, depending on what you want to do. While some places will provide monetary support for further education, it’s important to know what your ultimate goal is so can decide how much education you’re going to need.

Pro: You can work with many different populations in many different areas.

Social workers have many different responsibilities. They help children and families in bad situations, work with emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders within a clinical setting, lead group therapy, advocate for at risk groups, provide classes for parents and families lacking essential skills, and a whole host of other things.

Con: The pay may not be worth the responsibilities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for social workers is about $46,000 a year. The highest and lowest 10%s made more than $75,000 and less than $28,000. This can seem like a poor return for eight years of education and training. And depending on what you’re doing, it may seem like way less than what you’re worth. It’s important that social workers are there for the job, not for the money.

Last Updated: January 11, 2017