The University of St. Thomas

What is Social Work

What is Social Work?

Before going any further, let's begin with what social work is all about. Social work is involvement with and for people on many levels. Social workers help individuals, families and groups in dealing with relationships, solving problems, and coping with the many social and environmental concerns which affect and control daily life. Social work is concerned with ensuring the responsiveness and effectiveness of the social institutions to which we look for needed resources in life. Social workers are concerned with the interaction between people and their social environment and institutions. Social workers are concerned with societal conditions in their efforts to improve the quality of life.

"Social work is helping people cope more effectively with their world and helping the community meet the needs of its citizens" - Senior

"A generalist social worker is one who uses basic knowledge, skills, values, and ethics to assist people in becoming self-actualized and to assist the environment to function to its potential for the benefit of people." - Senior

"I think social work is for me because it involves a compassionate concern and respect for others from all kinds of ethnic, cultural, and lifestyle walks of life."
- Junior

Social Work: Is it for you?

In the final analysis, only you can really make the decision about whether you have what it takes to be a social worker and whether it is something you want to do. The following questions can hopefully assist you in making a determination about social work as a major and personal profession. For further help in making a decision about whether you are the ?social work type?, seek out professional social workers in the community, students who are majoring in social work, and the social work faculty to discuss your interests and aptitudes.

1. Are you genuinely interested in people of all kinds? Social workers are committed to helping people regardless of racial, economic, cultural, and other differences. Prejudice does not fit with the values of the profession.

2. Do you believe in human potential for growth and change? It is important to have faith that everybody has some inner strength and that people can change, given the chance.

"Social work to me is experiencing the glow of satisfaction in witnessing human growth and realizing I had some part in facilitating that growth!" - Senior

3. Do you have patience, perseverance, and the ability to follow through? The social worker should be hard to discourage, always resourceful in seeking new ways to help clients.

"Social work is involvement and commitment in working together with people and society in order to accomplish a goal. This means ?stick-to-it-ness." - Senior

4. Do you work well with people? Social workers need to get along with clients, colleagues and other professional workers. The ability to resolve conflicts constructively is essential for effective social work practice.

5. Are you interested in your own personal growth and well-being? Social workers must be aware of themselves and their own struggles so they do not get ?mixed up? with the clients troubles. Social workers must be willing to know themselves and take care of themselves.

"Social work is helping me to learn more about my own beliefs and values and how they affect my work with clients." - Junior

"Majoring in social work has shown me the importance of not only helping others to know themselves better, but the importance of learning to know myself better as well." - Senior

6. Are you interested in developing your problem-solving abilities? An interest in what makes people tick, in keeping posted on what's happening in the world each day, picking out key facts in a stack of data, and taking responsibility and making important decisions are important criteria for social workers.

7. Are you interested in the larger picture? A social worker cares about the state of the nation and of the world, sees each human problem in its relationship to the whole community, and works for better housing, better health services, better schools, and better wages.

"Social work is a combination of career competency and a sense of moral and social responsibility." - Senior

"I have a heightened awareness of social justice issues and have become socially alive through social work courses." - Senior

8. Are you interested in using scientific methods to work with people? A social worker bases his/her practice on established social work methods and uses scientific studies when possible.