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Student Perspective: Society’s View of a Social Worker

By: Carlee

“So, what are you going to school for?”

Here we go again. When I hear this question, I find myself getting ready for all types of responses when I exclaim, “I’m going to school for social work, actually.”

I haven’t been working on my social work degree long, but I have already experienced the variety of statements and stereotypes that my fellow classmates have warned me about. From, “I have a friend who is a teacher, and the other day, she was telling me about another child who was removed from their home,” or, “Oh, we went through so many social workers for our son, they never seemed to stick around.”

Don’t get me wrong, so many people praise me when they hear about my major, but it seems that some people just truly don’t understand that role of a social worker. I find myself getting slightly annoyed when I hear these generic comments, as if a social worker plays the “big bad wolf,” or the one who storms into family households to take all their children away. So, I am here to provide a very brief overview on what Social Workers REALLY do.

To start off, social workers can be beneficial to many different career fields. Social workers are found in:

  • Hospitals

  • Schools (All ages, from Head Start, to college)

  • Nursing homes

  • Clinics

  • Police departments

  • Courts

  • Private practices

  • Women’s centers

  • Public and private agencies (ex. For our veterans, homeless, children, ect.)

  • Centers for mental health

  • Prisons

  • Thrift stores

  • Advocacy organizations

  • Community centers

  • All levels of government

  • Businesses and corporations

  • Treatment Centers

  • And many more!

You can find social workers providing services to most social settings in our communities. Many of these career options can be broken down even further, working with specific populations within area of work. You can find social workers helping those who are hearing impaired, veterans, less advantaged families, and much more. They benefit everyone!

Social workers can work on three different levels as well:

One of the best parts about a career in social work is all of the career options you have. It’s quite overwhelming, and even I haven’t decided yet where I want to take my degree.

Social work is an empowering profession. We help, individuals, families, and communities better their social functioning. Some purposes of social work include:

  1. Enhancing people’s capabilities

  2. Linking clients with resources

  3. Improving their social delivery network

  4. Promoting social justice

This does not mean that we sit down with our clients and tell them what to do. We value self-determination, which means that we try to guide our clients in coming up with their own solutions. We do not, in any way, manipulate our client’s choices. Social workers focus on the strengths of our clients, instead of fixating on past mistakes.

It takes a certain kind of person to pursue a degree in social work. Some characteristics of social workers are:

A proportion of social workers work within Child Protective Services, and they work very hard to make sure children are safe. It is very rare when a child is removed from a home. These social workers do everything they can to keep families healthy and together.

According to a survey taken in May 2015, there are about 1.9 million social workers in the U.S, and only 294,080 of those social workers are child, family, and school social workers. This means that there is another 85% of social work careers that work within separate populations. So, the stereotype around social workers completely excludes most of the work that social

workers do. It is unfair to assume a person is going to work in these agencies, especially after only asking “What are you going to school for?”

The media likes to portray social workers in one way, and unfortunately this has misled some of society. We see social workers in a negative light through news and entertainment. Usually these stories pertain to child welfare. I can understand how one might jump to these conclusions about social workers, but through educating others, I hope to bring a little more insight on the broad field of social work.


DuBois, B. L., & Miley, K. K. (2011). Social work: An empowering profession (7th ed.). Pearson.


DISCLAIMER: Dr. Miles is a psychologist and not a social worker. This post is intended to be informational, and at this time no social workers are associated with Miles Psychological Services, LLC.

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