Should you get an MSW? Direct practice? Macro practice? Dual degree JD or MPH? Maybe switch to psychology or law instead? All of these questions, and more, ran through my mind while deciding whether to get my MSW. I have genuinely struggled at times with whether social work is the “right degree” for me. Before applying to MSW programs I seriously considered going to graduate school for law or business. I love to learn about new ideas or topics. I envy Mike Rowe with Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs,” not for the work he does, but because he gets to learn and experience different types of jobs every day.
Despite my struggle regarding whether social work was the right choice for me, over the years one thing keeps convincing me to stay with social work; flexibility. When my classmates and professors talk about organizing groups for social justice, lobbying for legislation change, or conducting research to impact macro systems, I think, “I could do that.” When other classmates discuss a new mental health treatment, child protection, family stability projects, community health partnerships, I think, “I could do that too.”
The beauty of social work is that I could do any of those things, or something completely different. Since we view people, families, communities, government, health, and education as interconnected it means our career choices are interrelated. From listening to professors who are farther along in their careers it seems their paths often meander from one area of social work to another, picking up valuable skills and insights along the way. So although I still couldn’t define my ideal social work job, I am confident that an MSW is a vital piece of the puzzle. And while the Discovery channel will likely never make a TV show based on the myriad of social work career choices available, I know social work will keep me just as interested (and much cleaner) than Mike Rowe.