Going into college, I was set on becoming a psychologist. I double majored in psychology and political science, volunteered in a clinical psychology lab, and completed an independent research study. My experiences helped to establish my path to becoming a clinical psychologist. But by the middle of my junior year, I realized I wasn’t 100% convinced that clinical psychology was the path for me. I knew my end goal was to become a clinician and to work with children, but spending at least five more years in school and doing research didn’t seem appealing when I wanted to do practical work. That’s when I looked into social work.
Initially, studying social work seemed advantageous because I could achieve the same end goal in less time. I even considered other programs such as school counseling or mental health counseling. But eventually, I decided upon pursuing a degree in social work. There were several reasons for this decision.
1. A degree in social work provided me flexibility within the field. With an MSW, I have the option to work in a number of settings—from hospitals to non-profits to schools to private practice. I can do anything from program development to outpatient therapy to advocacy work to case management. There are a number of options and paths within the field, and the degree allows me the opportunity to move as my passions and interests grow.
2. Social work takes a more holistic and ecological approach to viewing individuals. Within psychology, I felt like my focus was more individual centered without as much focus on the effects and context of environment. A strength of the social work field is understanding the interactions of various systems and policies at the individual, community, and societal levels. Having an ecological perspective is a crucial understanding in work with clients.
3. A commitment to addressing social issues and empowering people are two crucial components of social work practice. I’ve always been a proponent of combating social injustice, and those within social work are working towards that goal too. A degree in social work allows me the ability to work in agencies and work alongside other social workers and individuals striving for change.