Inspired by a career where you’re empowered to support people in crisis? Keen to put your strong sense of social justice and passion for human rights to work improving personal and social wellbeing? Want to work in a team where no two days are ever the same?
A degree in social work enables you to pursue a wide range of meaningful career paths and opens up a world of opportunity – for you and the communities you’ll serve.
‘As social workers we aim to advocate for and work alongside people, empowering them to achieve social change and social justice for themselves and their families,’ says Dr Rojan Afrouz, a lecturer in social work at Deakin University.
Improving personal and social wellbeing
Social workers support people to make change in their lives to improve their personal and social wellbeing. They’re usually called on to provide support in times of crisis, helping people affected by issues like family violence, homelessness, trauma, and mental health issues.
Social workers provide counselling and help people access information and links to other support services. They help arrange emergency accommodation, access to financial support and health and legal services. Above all, social workers advocate for their clients and for social justice, human rights and social change.
Deakin graduate Cory Wolverton, who completed a Bachelor of Social Work and now works as a child and family practitioner at The Orange Door, says contributing to positive outcomes for families is the most rewarding aspect of his job.
‘Whether it’s providing ongoing family support, connecting a young person with a youth worker or assisting in a small amount of brokerage, like food vouchers or hooking someone up with a food bank, having a positive outcome is super nice,’ he says.
Exploring careers in social work
Social workers are making a difference in a wide range of public and private settings, including community health centres, hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, mental health services, correctional institutions, refugee facilities, and alcohol and drug services. They also work behind the scenes in policy, education and research to eliminate discrimination and social injustice.
‘Two main areas for social work practice in Australia are domestic violence and child protection,’ Dr Afrouz says.
‘Another major area that social workers can actively be involved in is within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and there are also social workers advocating for people with disabilities, Indigenous Australian communities, refugees, and asylum seekers. It really depends on your area of interest and motivation.’
She says anyone can become a social worker. ‘Whatever your gender, community, background, age or ability, we need everyone in social work to reflect the broad range of communities we work with. You just need to be passionate, you need to like working with people and to be dedicated to the people and communities you're working with.’
How to become a social worker
Deakin’s Bachelor of Social Work or Master of Social Work can kickstart your career as a social worker. Dr Afrouz says Deakin’s critical approach to social work practice is well regarded and, as a result, graduates are highly sought after in industry.
‘In any unit we’re teaching, we highlight the critical approach to the practice,’ she says. ‘Our students have two placements and so many organisations say they really like our social work students because of their critical approach to social injustice, discrimination and structural inequalities.’
Plus, she says, Deakin’s diverse team of academic staff prepares students for work in diverse professional settings. ‘We have social work academics of different ages, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and so on,’ Dr Afrouz says. ‘Because we are ourselves diverse, we can reflect on our diversity when engaging with our students.’
Indeed, Cory says, ‘the best part of the course is the lecturers’.
‘They inspire you to think critically, to think about the structures and systems that operate, and how to make meaningful change once you enter the workforce.’
For students like Cory who prefer to study mostly online, Deakin offers solid systems for online teaching and collaboration that have been in place since long before the pandemic.
‘The flexibility of online learning allowed me to continue to work while I studied,’ Cory says. ‘It's relatively interactive if you take part in the exercises, and there's 20 days when you come into the university and can make connections with the rest of the students. It's a really great way to study a social work degree.’