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.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A 15-Minute Rant

A MENTOR OF MINE used to give me 15 minutes to rant and then I had to switch to gratitude. Ironically I rarely filled the entire 15 minutes with complaints, and she made this a great lesson to pass on.

I am so tired of people saying that social work is a low-paying career! I know many LCSWs who make six figures and I know others who don't. I watch homeless people crawl under the bridges to sleep in my hometown, and many of my social worker friends have warm beds and blankets, high-tech phones, big-screen TVs, nice cars and great clothing. While some people must eat out of the garbage cans in the squares where I walk my dog, the social workers I know sometimes dine in fine restaurants, and are able to stock their refrigerators and cupboards and lunchboxes with healthy (mostly) foods. When I hear about people who can't afford health care, I count my blessings that I will be enjoying state benefits in a few days.

When I was a "glamorous" magazine editor at a for-profit company
, I made less money after 10 years than I will start out with at my social work job. As an editor I sat in a cubicle, and I will begin my career in a brand-new office. Whenever I asked to better my skills at the corporation, my requests were denied. The state paid for my entire Master's degree, books, and travel because it wants to produce a better standard of child welfare workers. In exchange for that gift, I will give back while collecting a salary, and all the while learning how to be a competent social worker. I have to add the grant dollars I was given to my starting salary to look at the real picture, and I am grateful for this. I say this not to bash the publishing world, which I uphold as an honorable profession, but rather to make a comparison.

Some of our professors shared with us their salaries--during various times in their lives and while in different positions-- and there was a wide range from $50,000--$200,000. I can live with that, knowing I can accept more or less based on where my heart needs to be. And that's why I chose this field, anyway!

So the next time I am confronted by, or (God forbid) jump on the band wagon with, people who lament the "poor" pay that social workers receive, I will try to look at the big picture.

~Ms. T.J., MSW (aka "The 15-Minute Ranter")


  1. That's awesome TJ, I may use that idea too!

  2. Some of us think that social workers are over paid.

  3. socialwrkr_247@live.comMay 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    I love the idea of a 15 minute rant! I think we need to get things off our chests sometimes - but then we need to move forward and be grateful and productive in working through barriers!

    However, I disagree about the salary of a social worker. I have been in the field for about 7 years and still make WELL below $50k. Infact, I still make below $40k. And I live in a very big city where the cost of living is pretty high. Most of my friends who are TEACHERS made up to 10k more in their FIRST year of teaching than I make now, MSW +5yrs. This is compounded by the fact that I (and a number of my MSW friends) are still single.

    Now, I will admit that there are higher paying positions, but they are more administrative and farther away from the direct work with clients - which is the reason I wanted to be a social worker! I will also conceed that I obviously am very wealthy compared to many, many, MANY people in this country and in the world at large. For that I am grateful!

    But overall, salary is a big reason that some people I know have HAD to leave social work as a profession. And I admit that I too am in a place where I may have to choose between my passion as a job and being able to have a secure life outside of work.  It has crossed my mind more than once that I can not continue to live alone on this kind of salary. And THAT is a very sad thought to me. I wish my profession understood that as much as my heart is in this work - I can't work simply out of the goodness of my heart!

    Ok, now my rant is over! ;)

  4. Yes, it is quite annoying I am graduating as a BSW on Friday, and through my career I heard so many people say its a low paying job. I am going for my masters, too.

  5. I am so grateful for all the comments! It really helps me to put things in perspective.  All that I know on this day is that I am letting my heart lead me and I am counting on my head to guide me in the best direction.

    Whether one believes I am under- or over-paid does not matter; it matters what I think, as only I can take care of me in this personal way.

    Respectfully yours,
    Ms. T.J.

  6. socialworkshannonMay 20, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    I have been a social worker for over 8 years and made good money working in SNF till NOW. Unemployed (due to my husband relocating to find jobs due to the economy) I do not feel the Social Work field is respected and I'm tired of that. We need to have standardized credentials accross the US IMO anyway. Not that my opinion matters, the one post I saw I think it is someone who is Retiring from Social Work, I will go into Occupational Therapy if I can and make more money with a masters than a MSW.
    I have never met anyone at the MSW level that didn't work in Hospice and I made more then they did with a BSW. If you need a job and you have your MSW go to California they only have MSW jobs here, another reasons for my unemployement. I can not wait to go back to school.
    I wish I had known more prior to getting my BSW I would be better off if I had my OT than this degree. More work in every state I have lived in that field than in Social Work.
    Good Luck to all :)

  7. If one is in social work for the money and not to help people then one should remove themselves from this career field.
    I love the rant! I agree it should be followed with gratitude :0)

  8. Totatally awesome post. Thanks so much. I've been in Social Work for 4 years now and I So love it! I'm a researcher and policy analysis.  I work with the state government doing program evaluations for the states TANF program.  I also get to conduct focus groups with staff and clients so I still get the hands on direct interaction while being able to help behind the scenes with policy.  I love being a Social Worker.  I know we do not get a lot of respect but neither do teachers or anyone else who's heart is to help.  I respect my profession by doing the best I can, always speaking highly of it, I capitalize Social Work whenever I use it in writing, I continue learning and growing and encouraging others that Life is Great and Social Workers aim to help you make it better. I was told in grad school that we are not here to save people we are here to help people save themselves.  That was an awesome revelation for me and has saved me a lot of heartache and pain.  Social Work is Great and I loooooooooove Loooooooooooove Loooooooooooove being a Social Worker.  !!! 8-)

  9. Don't get me wrong, I do love my job (even when I am totally frustrated with the bureacracy), but there is a difference between being "in it for the money" and wanting to make a decent wage. There is also being paid commensurate with education and it can be frustrating when people that have two years college programs are being paid more than you and you have an MSW. There is wanting enough money to be able to own your own modest home and pay the bills. That being said, there is no reward like getting a child to smile at you when you tickle their toes or touch their nose before, after or during talking to their parents about how the drugs are going to be paid for!

  10. T.J., thank you for sharing the 15 minute rant concept... it is something I can utilize as I journey towards becoming a social worker!

    Maybe I can try it out now?

    My rant:
    My previous profession was in cosmetology... a career I loved because of my clients (especially those dubbed "senior citizen"), the creativity, and the professional commaraderie.  Allergies forced me out of the profession.  But as they say... when one door closes another one opens.

    The perception of the superficial elements of a "glamorous" job in the beauty industry is usually what others zoom in on when I tell them what my former career was.

    Many people do not realize the social work element to such a career: helping cancer patients feel better about themselves with hairpieces, wigs, etc.  Organizing fundraisers, cut-a-thons, etc. that raise money for groups in need.  The "by the way" counseling that takes place between the stylist and their clients on such topics as spousal abuse, domestic issues, empowerment, etc.  Using the "strengths perspective" without even knowing what that was!!  You would be surprised what people reveal to their stylist.

    Yes... I probably have made more $$ as a cosmetologist than I ever will as a social worker.  I know I won't get tips! LOL!  My population is Older Adults, and I get asked frequently (even by other social work students!)... "Why do you want to work with THEM? Isn't it depressing"?!?  (Answer: Because they are where my heart is, and one day, if I'm lucky, I will arrive there myself.  To me, it is not depressing, but inspirational, to work with my elders).

    My gratitude: In my opinion, the "real" work we do, no matter what we label it (social worker, hairdresser, waitress, etc.), is when our intentions to serve others can happen, no matter where we are and whether or not we get paid for it.  In a tangible world, however, we have mortgages, student loans, other bills, etc. which requires $$$.  This is where the subjective part comes in... is there enough $$$ for you to still do your "real" work?  Of course it's different for each of us.  I feel blessed that I have a career path that will allow me to do both, serve others and get paid, which indeed is a wonderful thing!

    Wow T.J. - I feel great now!  I think you're onto something with this rant thing!  Thanks... 

  11. I for one would like for us to be paid a lot more~PERIOD. The work we do is far beyond many others in the helping field. We pay the same "high" cost of attending college as everyone else. Why do we settle to be paid less because "some policy" states "social workers" don't need to be paid more?! That's like saying to a client who's a Christian, "its okay to be poor, Jesus was poor."  

    Those SW'ers who are studying to be policy makers MAKE A CHANGE IN HOW WE ARE PERCIEVED. Help us not be to be viewed as tyrants and home wreckers, but HELPERS with deep knowledge on how to get things done. 

    In the Health care field Nurses are doing many of our jobs. We need to take our positions back by showing what we know and stop accepting "less then...money/jobs/attitudes.....we are important and do make many differences in people's lives and we do not have to be poor to do that!

    My Rant - the end.

  12. Hey TJ, have we lost you completely? How is the new job going? Come tell us a story! :*

  13. Wow, Carolyn!

    You must be psychic. I just posted my final blog. I hope you find yourself in my words because you are there.

    Ms. T. J.