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4 Career Growth Strategies for Social Service Professionals

Social Service Professionals

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July 4 2023 - Social service is an unconventional career choice, considering it doesn't require hard skills and a roadmap set in stone. Yet it can be a rewarding one for professionals who are passionate about making a difference. At the same time, it opens the opportunity to grow and earn well, provided you take the right approach to your career roadmap and invest in strategic planning.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work as a career is projected to grow by 9% between 2021 and 2031. There will be around 75,000 job openings in the industry each year, while the median annual pay for these professionals was $50,390 as of 2021. The numbers spell great opportunities for aspiring professionals.

Considering these prospects, students have a good reason to opt for social work degrees. Over the last decade, the total enrollment in social work baccalaureate programs has witnessed an increase of 7.5% which is not surprising at all.

Social workers can explore work opportunities in diverse settings, such as healthcare organizations, schools, child welfare, and human service agencies right after college. But you cannot expect to reach the next level with only a bachelor's degree. You need to identify your long-term goals and create a logical trajectory to unlock growth.

Here are a few tips to help you take your social service career in the right direction:

Pursue Higher Education

Like all fields, social service requires ongoing education. A bachelor's degree gives a good start, but you must consider a master's program to move to the next level. According to 2020 statistics, enrollment in master's programs has increased by 1.7% over the last year and 13.4% over the previous five years.

The good thing is that you can pursue a master's in social work degree online while being in the workforce, even without taking a career break. Consider specialization in a discipline such as mental health to add an extra edge to your resume.

Keuka College recommends getting licensure as a clinical social worker to make the most of the growing demand for mental health workers. Besides getting a work opportunity as a mental health professional, your education enables you to improve the lives of community members.

Develop Transferable Skills

A survey showed the significance of transferable skills amid the pandemic, and they continue to be valuable for professionals, regardless of the industry. Developing these skills can help you get ahead in the competitive landscape, carve a niche, and maximize growth opportunities as a budding social worker.

Transferable skills for social work professionals include communication skills, supervision, leadership, and social media marketing. You can start early and gain them through volunteer positions, professional organizations, and non-social work jobs. While you may be inherently good in these areas, ramping up your capabilities is a wise move.

Network Like a Pro

Another career growth tip for social workers is to network like a pro, just as a software engineer or a marketing manager would do in their fields. According to LinkedIn, 79% of professionals agree that networking is crucial for career progression, so ensure having it on your strategic checklist.

Fortunately, there are several groups and organizations in all areas of social work. You can join the National Association of Social Workers to get a head start with networking. Attend niche events and join online groups on LinkedIn to connect with peers and industry leaders. You may even find a mentor to get valuable guidance and tons of inspiration for career growth.

Share your Knowledge

Besides seeking inspiration from others, you should make an effort to share your knowledge. It challenges you to do an extra bit and step out of your comfort zone as a social worker. You can write abstracts, publish articles, and speak at conferences and workshops. As you grow in your career, be willing to show direction to others.

Consider it a service to the profession as you utilize your expertise to contribute to the industry and your peers. Remember that learning never ends, even after you complete formal degrees and certifications. Let your experience guide you, and use it to carve a path for yourself and others in the field.

The Bottom Line

Social work is an evolving field, where professionals get a chance to follow their passion and earn money. But you cannot take a set-and-forget approach to your career as a social worker.

Be ready to evolve and enhance your skills by upgrading your education, learning from experience, and adapting to the trends in the industry. With this approach, you can build a thriving career that yields money, happiness, and personal satisfaction.

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