The wish to become a social worker cannot be explained through the oversimplified desire “to help people”; there is a myriad of reasons that partake in one’s consideration of choosing a professional career. The common understanding of social work is to reach social justice and prevent social injustice. However, it is essential to understand how these concepts coincide not only with one’s personal experience, beliefs, and interests but also with the reality of the current state of the world.
Putting aside the moral obligations that an agent holds to society, which they want to fulfill through social work, there are less altruistic yet valid reasons to be interested in this career. The help is at its most useful when there is a need for it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), “overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations” (para. 1). Not only is it logical to expect that a larger pool will attract more employees to the field, but the higher demand for the workers also suggests higher pay.
What one might consider a drawback, another will see as an advantage. Social work proposes significant challenges that vary by specialization, from physical and mental healthcare to the family and school field. Nevertheless, what social work offers that other jobs might not is the creative application of one’s skills. Not a single field values empathy as a skill more than the social work field. People, who find themselves dissatisfied with the current state of the world where having compassion is disregarded in favor of a profit-seeking mindset, will reach their full potential doing social work.
Alongside a big vacancy pool and an enjoyable working process, social work fulfills one’s psychological needs. A shared understanding of these psychological needs comes from self-determination theory (SDT), introduced by Deci and Ryan. As Deci et al. (2017) themselves put it, SDT explains human motivation (especially relevant to the workplace) through three key concepts that are required for psychological wellbeing: competence, autonomy, and relatedness (p. 19). The concept of competence is about having an optimal level of challenge in one’s work. It is known that social work does not lack challenge; therefore, an individual will successfully satisfy this psychological need.
The need for autonomy is the need for liberty in having choices and taking responsibility. The fundamental concept of social work is to change the world for the better, and many social workers have set this as their goal. Knowing that one’s work has a significant impact on the people around ensures the fulfillment of autonomy. Finally, relatedness reflects one’s need to be connected to others, and no other work provides a better closure to people than social work. Not only does it promotes strong communication with others from different social layers with various backgrounds, but it also offers excellent engagement in helping society. By caring about the minority groups who struggle with disabilities, discrimination, or substance abuse, social workers also find themselves seen and heard.
In conclusion, there is more than one answer to “why does one want to be a social worker?” Combining job prospects, financial advantages, and enhanced psychological wellbeing, social work proposes excellent employee benefits. Perhaps, one can argue that this outlook on social work is rather selfish and does not discuss social workers’ genuine wish to help others for the sake of helping. However, the financial and psychological fulfillment that comes with social work explains why its popularity rate is increasing.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2021). Occupational outlook handbook, social workers. Web.
Deci, E. L., Olafsen, A. H., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-determination theory in work organizations: The state of a science. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4, pp. 19-43. Web.