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Profiling Social Work: Underpaid But Personally Rewarding

Nurse and seniorPersonal support workers (PSW), also known as social workers, are the unsung heroes of society. They provide valuable care and assistance to people who are least able to take care of themselves – the ill, disadvantaged, physically and mentally handicapped, children, and elderly. The field of social work is expected to grow from 2010 to 2020 by a very respectable 25 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is higher than average for other occupations.

Salary Expectations

In an ideal world, social workers would be fairly compensated for their invaluable work; they’d be paid as much as millionaire CEOs. However, like teachers, who are also undervalued public servants, PSWs can make a fairly decent salary, but most likely won’t become mega-rich. The average yearly salary in May of 2010 for social workers was just over $42,000, informs the BLS. Yet, also like teachers, social workers usually see their work as personally rewarding. Social work becomes a passion, rather than a job, for helping individuals who cannot help themselves.

Social Work Insight

There are two types of PSWs — the first type works directly with people in need of social services. Services include helping an elderly person get to a doctor or assisting an adult with autism to learn how to cope with everyday living, for example. The second type of PSWs, who are also known as clinical social workers, participate in the diagnosis and treatment of various issues that affect their patients. A PSW could work in different settings, including hospitals, private homes, governmental environments, and schools.

Turnover rates in the industry are evident. But these rates depend on the field that an individual chooses to enter. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the turnover rate for social workers in child welfare agencies can be as high as 90 percent a year in some jurisdictions. In other areas, it may be much lower.

The problem for many social workers who work in emotionally demanding fields is personally handling disturbing problems experienced daily and dealing with distress. Over time, social workers who don’t find a healthy outlet for dealing with these feelings may burn out from this line of work.

Education & Other Requirements

Most direct-service social workers do need a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind some personal health care assistant positions may only require on-the-job training, mentions the Education Portal. In fields that work with people who are mentally or physically handicapped or seniors, a PSW may need to be strong enough to lift a person in need of assistance. Physical strength and endurance even plays a role in the life of a social worker. A social worker may also need CPR and First Aid certificates to perform certain duties. For more details about this profession, check the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Community and Social Service and the Education Portal on Medical and Health Professions.

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