Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I need your words

Calling all Master's level social workers: I need you.

Tell me somethin' good. Tell me it's worth it. Tell me what you love about the life. How glad you are that you got your Master's.

That it makes a difference. All the way around.

I met a woman in Starbucks today. She overheard me talking to a friend behind the counter about school. She shared that she dropped out six weeks prior to graduation from a MSW program in another state. Said she couldn't reconcile her own beliefs about addiction with the disease concept. Even though she, like me, lost her sister to addiction.

I lost a sister and a brother. My mother and my father struggled with addictions most of their lives. I believe alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases.

She thinks people need to get over it. I know it's not that simple.

She also said the MSW program is too much work for $30,000 dollars a year. Tell me I can make more than that! I know I can.

Here's the real deal: I am hungry, angry, lonely and tired. I have been on the road, in the office, on the job, at field practice, didn't get to have dinner with my husband, my dog doesn't remember me and ....

Tell me somethin' good.

--Ms. T. J.


  1. TJ, I have always felt that my MSW was worth it! The great thing about an MSW is that you can do SO many things with it. There are so many career directions you can take. I don't know what the salaries are like in your area, but I believe that you can make a decent living as a social worker. To me, it is a satisfying and rewarding career, and I have met some incredibly wonderful people in social work, too. You have been through a lot with the addictions and loss in your family, and with that, you bring valuable insight. You know it's not "that simple," as you said. Being a social worker or a social work student isn't always simple, either, but to me, it is worth it.

  2. Well, I just started the program and have not yet entered field, and have no background in the field either. However, listen to your heart. You are always going to have those moments where you doubt yourself, the methods and interventions, the theories. However, if you believe that you can make a difference in someone else's life, whether it be 1 person or a 1000, then you have fulfilled your mission as a Social Worker.

  3. I graduated with my MSW last May and once you are done with all the courses, papers, and field work you feel like you have accomplished something great that no one can take away from you. I have grown in so many ways and learned a lot about myself by completing the MSW program. Even though it is a lot of work, and it is not by any means over once you graduate with your MSW, since you are always learning, it is something that you can carry with you forever. Being a social worker is something to be proud of you will be able to help people in many different ways.

  4. Hey there. You're in the thick of it now and it's totally normal to be freaking out and feel overwhelmed. You'll get through this! I've always noticed that it's easy to get down about social work when you listen to people outside of the profession talk about it. It's a job that isn't right for everyone, but it is the perfect profession for many of us! As for the salary, I graduated with my MSW this past May and promptly doubled my previous salary. For me it was an excellent return on my investment. Good luck!

  5. Although I`m living in Germany and not in U.S.A. I sometimes hear similar meanings like you are referring to.In Germany social work jobs are not so well paid as for instance lawyers or judges.
    But since I`m working together with people of different professions I have learned that my colleagues and I are much happier and more satisfied in their jobs.
    While we have much deeper insight in peoples problems and have to be sensitive for clienst`feelings, the other professions have to cope with much more routine.
    There are so many different parts in our work that a social worker will never have that routine that can become dull and tiring.

    In my work I have to give help and attendance to people with addictions and/or psychological diseases.
    Some have become my clients because they cannot stand the tiring routine in their jobs.
    As far as I`m concerned I think social work is an exciting kind of work.
    I would not like to change with anyoneelse
    and there are still so many things I have to learn.
    So you see also in Germany social workers experience a very exciting time in their jobs.

    So I wish you all the best for your future time in the new job!
    D. B.

  6. T.J. Of course you're feeling overwhelmed with your schedule. I'm in my first year as an MSW student, and I don't nearly have your schedule, and I'm also feeling overwhelmed. Try to hang in there, this won't last forever, and you'll be so happy once you're done. It seems like you were made for this type of work. Betsy

  7. Hi there,

    I will start the MSW program in Sept. I love reading your posts! When feeling distressed, try and focus on the AHA moment you had when you knew that this profession felt right to you. This is your gut talking to you and when you take the time (as you did) to listen, all else will fall in place. Hang in there! Sharon

  8. I have been an LCSW for about 20 yrs. There is much satisfaction in working with clients and respect from those clients. Unfortunately, society does not give our profession much respect
    or good pay. I am a manager and make about $41,000. School social work pays better and you could make more in private practice or working for a managed care company. I would be open minded about where you can get a job.
    Surprisingly, I find the hardest thing about the profession is the lack of support that social workers sometimes get from their co-workers.
    Advice: rise as fast as you can and as far as you can in the profession to make the most money.

  9. Social Work can be like the army: the hardest job you will ever love! It helps to look at your motivation to do this work. If you have unresolved issues get therapy. Some of the best practitioners I know did this and went on to be outstanding in the area they thought they could never deal with. My own experiences with therapy has helped me appreciate the struggle we all experience being human and as a result, flawed. I respect the process and the power of the therapeutic relationship as the ultimate instrument for change. I have been in this field for over 20 years. Despite all the negatives I have experienced over the years for a variety of reasons, one thing that never changed was my love of the actual work with clients. I will never miss administration, sociopathic supervisors, community mental health or the constant funding issues. I went through hell in the past 5 years personally and professionally and out of these experiences I now do what is important to me which is counseling. I don't miss my big office with windows nor do I miss my high powered title. I no longer complain about going to work. I am excited by the changes that people make when we work together. My reinforcement is the healing that takes place through their motivation and my skills. I have found what I love to do. I make less money as a contract therapist but compared to the enjoyment I get from it I hope to never be an administrator again. However, I still love supervising and teaching students. To help someone to learn how to be a healer reinforces what I do every day. One of my mentors taught me that effective use of self was the cornerstone of effective interventions. I get to do this in my little corner of heaven every day. Because I love what I do and it reflects to my clients I have the highest show rate and billing in my office. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  10. TJ, I was a non-traditional student getting my BSW at the ripe old (tongue in cheek) age of 55 and my MSW at 57. I got into the field through a life experience and had no goal of going on past my MSW. My academic advisor still reminds me of that to this day. I did go on for many reasons---the "kids" I went through undergrad w/begged me to (seriously); the increased passion for social work and desire to learn even more; employers seem to want that MSW versus BSW and in my area, some want LCSW; the increase in income. But mostly, I wanted to be able to give back just an iota of what I had received through my life experience. After four years in the medical field, I still feel rewarded when I see the skills I developed reach someone and make a positive change in their life. I love what I do and hope that it reflects in the lives of the people that I meet and that I work with. As someone else mentioned, each day that I go to work, I never know what I am going to find because there are so many facets to social work. I may be $12,000 in debt for grad school and probably going remain close friends w/MOHELA when I go to the nursing home, but it was money well spent. Hang in there!

  11. You can do this! You can make more than $30,000 a year, but set your sights on doing a job that is fulfilling intrinsically...Social Workers do not get into this field to stack their bank accounts. We do it for the greater good of our society; because we feel that we have something to offer for those in need; because we know that with a little support people have the ability to make life changing decisions, just as you did when you began your MSW schooling. When you feel like it is too much to manage, all that you are taking on, think about the families with which social workers generally work. They are feeling the same way. Use your ability to get through this to relate to those families in need and be thankful that you have the opportunity to do so. Keep pushing, and look and the small steps and changes that people make as you work with them. Remember, you are only one piece of a large puzzle and you cannot do everything. Do the best that you can and you have nothing to worry about.

  12. TJ, I received my MSW in 1999 and do not regret it one bit. It takes a select few of us to enter into this field of social work as it is challenging work that, yes does take us away from our families, questions our priorities at times and can stress you out (if you let it). Experience, a good support system and keeping yourself healthy will help you to be the best for the people you serve. After serving in the field of Public Child Welfare for 13 years (4 in private before that)I chose to take this past year off as a "hiatus" for myself and my family. I think sometimes refueling is necessary to be able to continue to assist others in positive and helpful ways. I have also taken this time to study for my LSCW which I plan to take in March. You will do great TJ. There is nothing like being a social worker...I can't wait to get back out in the field!!

  13. I agree with everyone above... it is challenging at times, and gut wrenching, but totally worth every second. I finished my BSW in 02, and my MSW this past May. For 2 years, my son agonized as I worked full time thru the entire program (yes, plus the internships, full time classes-papers, thesis, etc...). oh, and I make more than 30k. (Almost twice that actually...) and I really feel like I make a difference in some way EVERY DAY. It does make those two years beyond worth it. I too nearly quit my last semester... it just all seemed too much, but I had a great, supportive boyfriend who pushed me to "get it over with" and boy and I glad I did!! Honestly, hang in there.... there are so very few of us who can really do this job (and hey, if you get bored, do something else... its the beauty of a social work degree!!) There is nothing in the world more rewarding than this field.... take heart in that.

  14. T.J.,
    I just recieved my MSW in January 09,while working full-time and taking care of a household. I will not say that it was not overwhelming but I wanted it so bad so I stayed focus. However, one thing you must to do while pursuing your MSW is to solicit family members for support. If you dont have famly members to support you; reach out to colleagues and professors. In addition, you must take time out for yourself. Laugh a little, enjoy the roses, and most of all live for you, but never lose sight of your goal. OOOOOOOOOOOOh what a beautiful feeling to walk across the stage to accept my MSW at 51 y.o. Keep your chin high and keep pushing soon it will be over and you will come to the conclusion there is no greater feeling to succeed.

  15. You guys are so fake. There is no way I will get a masters in social worker if I had to do it over again. Come on you guys, don't mislead these young people. This feel good talk is all well and fine, but I would never advise my children to go to school for six years and earn the what I make.

  16. Anonymous, social work is not the right career for everyone. I would not encourage anyone to become a social worker who did not think it was a good fit for him/herself.

  17. I really believe for me it is a calling. I hushed it for many years and I don't regret the work that I did in other fields. Fake? I doubt that is the right word for what I am doing with my life these days. It would be a lot easier to ignore this call to service. I am passionate about this. I hope you, too, will find something that you can get excited about. There is no greater feeling, in my opinion. All my best wishes to you, Anon!

  18. i'm looking into sw. i HAVE a ba and want a msw degree. i already help troubled teens full time and unfortionately have my fair share of friends who were and are abused.
    my question would be a. can i support a large family as a social worker (my wife makes 40k)
    and b. if i can get the msw online, should i do it so i can keep up my social schedual for those that "need me"...or the online degree is a BAD idea?

  19. What are you going to do?  i've often thought about leaving the profession, but I've earned a license and feel stuck in this profession.  I like helping people, but it's hard to make a living and I would like to earn more.  37,500 in NYC is beans!

  20. I made upward of 55,000 with my BSW.  Getting my MSW now and hoping to double that.  (I had interviews for ED jobs that paid 80,000 but didn't get them because no MSW).  Administration is the key for livable wage.  Go for MSW or MPA and manage if you need more than 30,000.

  21. I am 31 years old by the way and worked with homeless men and women in Dallas Texas with my BSW.

  22. I am a BSW currently pursuing the MSW.  I have to admit I am bored out of my mind with these classes and feel as though this is nothing but a repeat of info from undergrad.  My plan is to become an therapist and these classes are not geared clinically at all. I am actually thinking of switching to counseling because they are in my opinion geared better toward the clinical end of work thus making me a better clinician for my clients. 

  23. Any advice for someone who is applying to the MSW program? I'm also receiving negative feedback and am currently enrolled in a non-degree seeking for credit course that will potentially transfer over if I am admitted.

  24. Don't listen to all the nonsense of making no money. I am getting my MSW and my internship people get hired at 80,000 so u just gotta look... Leave those 30 to the people that want it... My director in non profit makes 6 figures!!

  25. I'm in my first year of an MSW program and it's kind of insane. 20 hours of field work on top of 5 courses...I have thoughts of quitting every week.

  26. I'm currently in a MSW program and it's terrible (i.e., the content of what we're being taught). Families don't need fathers; everyone in poverty is a victim of the white man (they call it "society" or "the structures of society"); conservatives, white people and policemen keep oppressing minorities and continue the cycle of racism; homosexuals are victims of heterosexuals; on and on and on. The "education" is really leftist indoctrination. Mind you, I'm hispanic and very well acquainted with inner-city life.

    I'm considering dropping out, not because I don't want to help people but because of the terrible "education" so far and thinking of being thousands of dollars in debt for a profession that typically doesn't pay very well. A person with only a high school diploma and a certificate or associate's degree in many fields will be getting paid more or about the same as MSW workers! That's truly haunting to me.

  27. T.J. - I am very curious to know how things worked out for you? This blog was posted in 2009 and it is now 2015. If you are still around, will you give us an update?
    I am currently an MSW student, working in the field of addiction and I must say, I find it to be very rewarding working with this population. At the same time, it can be daunting to be in school and be in field 20 hours a week. The worst part of it is, negative feedback from people who say that you will never make any money as a social worker and you will be in debt forever and will never pay it back . Part of me thinks maybe I should just quit and go back in to banking but my other part says keep going, it will be worth it to help people and you will make a decent living. So, how are things going for you now or anyone else who has completed their MSW degree?