Social Worker Career Information
What a Social Worker does
So now that you have decided to be one, let's find out what it's all about. As a social worker you'll work to prevent and alleviate social problems and address various social issues such as poverty, unemployment, public hygiene, malnutrition, physical, mental, and emotional handicaps, anti-social behaviour, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, old age, environmental pollution, deforestation, etc. Phew, now that's quite a heap of problems to deal with. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As a social worker you won't be confined to a cubicle for an office. The whole world will be your office. Often you'll be on the field, working without a fixed schedule. Talking to people, learning about their problems, organising programmes to train and educate them, lobbying with the statutory authorities to get things done, sensitising public about social issues by organising seminars, symposiums, educational programmes, etc will be part and parcel of your daily life.
You'll also be involved in the most important part of fund raising. To be able to do all this you'll either have to setup your own NGO or actually become what they term as a 'Social Entrepreneur'.
And now for some specialised areas for the budding social worker:
Psychiatric Social Worker: It's for those who have a solution for every problem. The agony aunt kinds! Your area of work will be hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, counselling centers treating people with psychological problems like family maladjustment, depression as the fallout of a broken home, antisocial behavior, addiction, abnormal sexuality, etc. You'll also work with mentally retarded people, handicapped persons, depressed college students, drug addicts and others.
Family & Child Welfare Worker: You'll specialise in solving family related problems, offer child guidance (yes birth control!), etc.
Urban & Rural Community Development Worker: Here's your chance to work with national/international NGOs to crusade for development issues such as illiteracy, poverty, lack of drinking water, healthcare, land fertility, communication infrastructure, etc. That's not all. You'll also counsel male members about drinking, wife beating, environmental pollution, so on and so forth. Do we see another Shabana Azmi in the making?
Criminology & Correctional Administration Worker: This is not for the chicken-hearted. You'll work in institutions like prisons, reformatories, remand homes; crime and delinquency prevention programmes, counselling and reforming adult and juvenile offenders and criminals.
Labour Welfare and Industrial Relations Worker: After all, there is still some hope left for the ones craving for an office set up. Thank the law that says it's mandatory under the purview of labour laws to employ social workers in industries and offices with a large work force.
Your job would be to interact with these workers and counsel them on family and work related problems such as absenteeism, alcoholism, etc. This is critical in improving the productivity of the staff and maintaining cordial relations between the management and the labour force.
Gerontologists: This one's for someone with a softer side. Lend your strong shoulders to old and retired people who have nobody to look after them. You can drive their blues away by simply talking to them or better still running day care centers.
Environmental Social Workers: If you like watching National Geographic more than Baywatch or MTV, prefer animals to kids, this one's for you. The career will help you get in touch with the real world around you. You will address various environmental issues like air pollution, deforestation, noise pollution, global warming, rehabilitation and so on.
Rural Managers: You'll work in cooperatives, agro industry, NGO and also management streams like marketing, human resource development, finance, information systems, production, rural development, etc., depending on your area of specialisation.
Job opportunities for a Social Worker exists in:
• Social welfare departments of State/ Central Government which address social problems and issues at a governmental level
• Correctional schools, reformatories for children who have committed crime
• Rehabilitation clinics for the handicaps
• Organisations working in the fields of woman and child welfare, family planning, etc.
• Hospitals, clinics and drug rehabilitation centers
• Special schools like the schools for the blind and family welfare centers
• Rural and community development center in governmental and non governmental sector
• Cooperatives and public welfare trusts which work for social and charitable causes
Social problems are increasing in direct proportion to the advancement in civilisation. So what we get is problems like absenteeism, drug addiction, rehabilitation, health, education, etc. And of course the ever-increasing problems of environmental pollution, only makes matters worse.
But the sunny side to this is that more and more corporates are contributing funds for social causes as a part of their “ Corporate Social Responsibility” and even the government is waking up to its responsibilities. So what does all this translate to? A goldmine of opportunities for the aspiring social worker in you.
There are specialised donor agencies that collect and distribute large funds. For instance, on an average, US $ 7 billion is given to various third world NGOs by US Donor agencies.
No more begging bowls for social workers, who can now form their own NGO and approach these donor agencies for funds.
The “Give Foundation” for instance, has a professionally managed hi-tech portal that is linked to various NGO’s across India. This works as a channel through which people can donate money to an organization of their choice. All this, in turn, has resulted in a sudden spurt of job avenues for today’s youth.
Abilities & Traits Required
Now let's talk of what it takes to be a social worker: ASPIRATION to work for the development of the society heads the list • Helping nature
• You must enjoy interacting with people from various streams of society
• Good communication skills - talk, talk and more
• Leadership ability
• Ability to adapt to difficult conditions in life
• Extrovert nature
• Dynamic, suave, tactful and diplomatic
• Ability to persuade, and convince people
• Ability to sympathise and empathise with people
Remember social work is more of an involvement than a job. Anyone can be a social worker... a musician, poet, physicist, doctor, teacher... anyone. But of course, companies prefer people with specialised knowledge.
You can specialise in two areas: Social work itself, or fields like psychology, education, medical science, management, environmental science, rural management and development, cooperative management, home Science, nutrition, etc.
But who's stopping you from doing your Master degree/diploma in social work? Prospects in this field have more to do with avenues than money. However, you'll earn enough to eat at the nearest Udipi restaurant but not The Oberoi, if you know what I mean.
More are more people today are choosing to work with NGO’s, this perhaps is one of the few commercial opportunities where you can earn good money as well as do good to society.
The salary of a Social Worker depends on your qualifications and the kind of organisation you get to work with. Postgraduates in Rural Management are the enviable lot with the highest salaries in the business.
As a social worker you can look forward to a starting salary of Rs 15000-25000 or even more per month.
Most jobs of a Social Worker are contractual in the NGO sector. Your salary will increase after 4-5 years of experience. Add to that another 3-5 years and you can take a cool Rs 35000-45000 per month.
Starting salary of a Social Worker in the government sector is in the range of Rs 30000-40000. Hospitals and other industries offer Rs 20000-35000 per month.
And now for the bad news - if you are employed with a NGO you get no additional perks like House Rent Allowance, Leave Travel Allowance, Medical Expense reimbursement, etc. But if you are employed in a government sector you can expect to get various additional perks.
Interview with a Social Worker
Social Worker Interview Dhirajlal Mehta, Social Worker
A Chartered Account by profession and social worker by choice Dhirajlal participated in the J P Movement during the Emergency. Currently, he is the Chairman of Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Indore, which works for the welfare of rural women and children. He is also an executive council member of Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Can you tell us a bit about your early years? I was born and did my initial schooling in a small village in Gujarat. At 12 I moved to Mumbai where I completed my schooling. I graduated with Commerce from Sydenham College, Mumbai and cleared the chartered accountancy course as well.
I worked in a few companies as an accountant before joining the Bajaj Group. There I handled taxation, corporate law, investment and financial management amongst others. I eventually grew on to become the director of Bajaj Auto and a few of its associate companies.
So when did you feel the desire to go out and help others? I had always been influenced by Gandhian philosophy. Even when I studied economics in class, I felt that the Gandhian idea of promoting rural industry would help solve our socio-economic problems. In college, I was very much a part of the Sarvodaya movement. It was during this time that I started wearing khadi as it symbolised self-reliance. However, later on, I was not able to contribute as much as I wanted to as most of my time was taken up by my job.
It was during the 70s that the activist in me rose to the call of Jayaprakash Narayan. Corruption and government mismanagement was at its peak and it culminated in the emergency period. I was actively involved in the movement to restore democracy and even campaigned during the post emergency elections in 1977.
It was during this period that activism came of age. People of all walks of life, from different religions, castes, creed and economic status came together to uphold democracy. It was after this that I became actively involved in social work.
Tell us a little about the Sarvodaya movement that you are a part of. The Sarvodaya movement propagates Gandhian philosophy. It works to strengthen local self-governance, decentralise economic policies and promote village industry. We are also working towards equality for all and women empowerment. I am also involved with the Sarva Seva Sangh an organisation that conducts and coordinates the activities of the sarvodaya movement all across India.
Why is it that social work doesn't interest the youth? Today's youngsters face a grim battle of survival. The level of competition is such that you have to put in eight, ten and sometimes even twelve hours a day in your studies or work. In such circumstances taking some time out for social work becomes difficult.
Having said that I must mention that never before have so many boys and girls been actively involved in social work as today. In the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust of which I am the chairman I have over 1000 sevikas working in 450 villages in India. If you look beyond the cities into the villages, you will find numerous such youngsters working out of love and concern.
Can you tell us about the work taken by the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust? There are numerous projects that we are involved with. We run the Kasturba Health Society at Sevagram a village 80 kms from Nagpur. It is a 700 hundred-bed hospital equipped with modern amenities. We also have training and research facilities there.
Then there are around 450 centres in 23 states all over India. Here we work towards women empowerment through various programmes. We have short stay homes where women who have been ostracized by their families can live, learn various trades and skills and become independent. My volunteers are engaged in a variety of actives from stopping child marriages in Rajasthan to ending the insurgency in Assam.
What are the other associations and projects that you are involved in? I am actively involved with the Gandhi Peace foundation. This is an organisation involved in the process of training the youth and bringing about understanding in matters such as international peace, care for the environment, etc. As the joint director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, I look after the coordination and financial management of its activities.
Does your work involve a lot of traveling? Yes, typically I spend around 12 days a month visiting the various facilities in the country, interacting with the volunteers, understanding and solving their problems and planning out new projects with them. I also have to meet government officials to secure funds and other means of support for the projects.
But what do you get out of this? A sense of satisfaction like no other! If I set up chemotherapy equipment for cancer patients in a rural area or organise an eye camp I'm doing more then just helping people. I feel I'm giving them a better life, I'm bringing a smile to their faces. I have never been happier in my life.
What are the misconceptions that people have about social workers? People think that social work is either for old people who have nothing better to do or for those who just want a little bit of publicity. Any social movement is driven and sustained by the youth and in India there are numerous youngsters who have come forward to accept this social challenge. In fact today you can seriously consider social work as a career as most organisations take good care of you in that respect. Of course there will be certain sacrifices that you will have to make but believe me it is all worth the effort.
What is your advice to youngsters? You have to evolve your own approach to life. Most of us restrict our life to serving our own needs and the needs of those around us. You must also think about those who are less privileged than us. It doesn't take much to go to a village on a weekend and teach people to read and write. Just give it a try. You will not be disappointed.
What are your other hobbies and interests? I read a lot. I am big fan of Gujarati literature and read as many books as I can. I love traveling and meeting all sorts of people. I have met the tribal of Assam as well as those of Alaska. I also like taking long walks and sometimes I even go on hikes and treks.