My Path to Becoming a Social Worker

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Why I became a social worker

I always knew that I wanted to have a job in the helping professions, but at 18 years old when I was choosing a college and a major, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of job I wanted to have. In the end I decided to major in psychology since I was fascinated by the mind and how it worked. Upon graduation I had already begun to realize that there wasn’t much I could do with an undergraduate degree in psych.

I researched positions finding that often there wasn’t much difference in job opportunities between high school graduates and bachelor’s degree holders who were interested in being in the psychology field and working directly with patients. So after graduation I put my career in the helping professions on hold, mostly because I just didn’t know what to do. I worked in restaurants, saved money, traveled the world, and then repeated the cycle, until I finally started to think about what would come next.

I had always thought I might like to become a therapist, but for some reason I knew I wasn’t interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I looked into Marriage and Family Therapy and counseling programs. Both looked interesting, but there was something missing. Finally I was drawn to Widener University in Pennsylvania because of their graduate program in human sexuality and the fact that you could do a graduate degree in social work or psychology at the same time. It was then that I began to learn about all the different possible jobs someone with a master’s degree in social work (MSW) could potentially pursue. I was drawn to the variety of the work and the fact that social workers generally work with underserved populations. I had always wanted to go into the helping professions because of a desire to help those who most needed help. An MSW might potentially work as a clinical therapist, in community social work, in a hospital, with children, older adults, and in a wide range of other settings. I was convinced. I had finally found my calling.

I knew I had made the right decision each time I started a new course in my MSW program. I loved how inclusive social work was. We weren’t just looking at diagnosis, but also considering environmental factors and socioeconomic issues when it came to clients. It really resonated with me. As I listened to my fellow students talk about their field placements and experiences, I also learned about what I would want in a future job and supervisor.

When I started my clinical MSW program I was sure that I wanted to work as a clinical therapist, specializing in sexuality issues. However something interesting happened to me along the way. My interest in social work grew even more and it also expanded in a lot of ways. As I took classes and learned more about the profession my interest in other kinds of social work developed and changed. By the time I graduated I was sure I didn’t want to work as a therapist for a long time. I was more interested in community work and working with a large group of people instead of just one-to-one all the time. My advice would be to keep an open mind throughout your studies. While you might start and end your program with the same goals and dreams in mind, your plan could also change in a direction you didn’t expect.

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Top States for Employment for Social Workers, All Other
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York7,940$64,170
South Carolina2,500$41,830

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Social Workers, All Other
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$89,1500
Springfield, MA-CT$88,01060
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX$84,900230
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$82,9001,190
Worcester, MA-CT$81,80040

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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About the Author: Meghan Stone is a practicing MSW, and graduate of the Widener University School of Social Work.

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