I’m sorry, I was so caught up in explaining the field I didn’t really answer many of your questions lol!
The day in the life of a social worker is extremely varied and dependent upon your job. In regard to work life/hours, most of my jobs have been 8-4 or 9-5, however when you work with children or if you do family therapy or work in a typical counseling agency (aka you are a therapist for people who work 9-5) you will most likely have to put in a certain number of hours after 5 and maybe even on weekends to accomodate your clients’ schedules. Obviously if you work in private practice you can make your own hours. On average though, most social work jobs the hours are quite flexible. My goal is to eventually work in a school, I’m an early bird so 7-3 would be heaven, especially with summers off!! 🙂
In regard to what you actually do, it also depends on your job. Typically social work jobs consist of working with people, assessing/diagnosing (if necessary), creating treatment plans, conducting therapeutic services, making referrals to other agencies or services, writing reports, and participating in clinical meetings. If you work in another capacity such as research or politics or the law, obviously your “one on one” time with people will probably be significantly less, and you’ll spend more time writing reports, in meetings, doing research, testifying, etc.
As I stated before, the best type of person for the job is someone who is caring, driven, and who has a thick skin. You’ll be working with lots of depressing issues and you have to have the resources within yourself to cope with what you’re doing. Keep in mind nobody wants to hear about your 7 year old suicidal client whose father sexually and physically abused her for years in the most horrific way. Or the 83 year old client diagnosed with schizophrenia who recently lost all her family so she stopped taking her medication, and now she’s actively hallucinating and/or delusional. Or the family who lost their 8 week old infant on the morning they were supposed to finally take her home from the hospital because she was born premature. …You see my point lol. (All true stories from my past jobs/internships..)
The “good” is that if you like helping people, you’ll be doing lots of helping for lots of people lol. There are plenty of jobs out there in social work and they tend to be pretty flexible. The salaries are NOT that bad!! lol Everyone thinks social workers make minimum wage but thats seriously not true. Get your masters though, if you decide to do it (you make more money and have more opportunities). It’s a rewarding career that definitely helps you keep life in perspective.
The “bad” is that often your work is based on getting paid from some kind of funding, be it insurance company reimbursement, grants, fund raising, or whatever. If the money runs out or your services are deemed “unnecessary” your job is gone. I know a girl who worked at an agency for African refugees who only spoke French and she helped them gain refugee/asylum status in the US. Their grant ran out and they couldn’t obtain other funding so the agency had to close up shop. Obviously that’s a super specific agency and example, but it can happen (though its rare).
The “ugly” I guess is that it is often thankless work and most people have an extreme misunderstanding of what social workers do. Someone in my family still doesn’t believe that I function as a therapist at my job because she insists that social workers “don’t do therapy”. Umm.. you’re wrong. Also, be prepared for the eye roll and sympathetic “Oh you’re such a nice person, I could never do that!” when you tell people what you do. Keep in mind you will probably hate anyone with a corporate job because you will most likely never have a job that has free gym access, free catered lunch every day, super huge bonuses, etc. (I live just outside NYC so many of my friends have these jobs with these perks… it hurts lol).
Ok… I’m going to stop writing now lol. As I said before, if you want to continue to read my extremely long personal experiences with the field, feel free to PM me 🙂