Friday, August 10, 2012

Strengths and Weaknesses of Social Work

Last year, I earned my Master of Social Work (MSW) at the University of Michigan. Immediately following graduation, I became a Limited License Master Social Worker (LLMSW) in the state of Michigan. I have six years to complete two requirements in order to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (Macro Specialty): 1) pass the Advanced Generalist ASWB exam, and 2) receive a minimum of 4000 hours of supervision by a LMSW. After I finish my second master's degree in higher education, I hope to become fully licensed by 2015.

In this post, I will reflect on what I have learned as the strengths and weaknesses of social work in the past year.


  1. The altruistic nature of the social work profession is both powerful and life-changing.
  2. Social work is a profession focused on empathy and empowerment of the individual.
  3. Social workers are committed to a social justice and social change framework.
  4. Social workers serve in a variety of roles: educator, enabler, advocate and activist.
  5. Social work utilizes various social science disciplines to improve human well-being and achieve social reform: sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, economics, and education.
  6. Social workers have the ability to plan and implement interventions with and/or on behalf of a range of individuals, groups, and communities based on evidence-based practices.
  7. The history of social work is full of significant accomplishments, such as historical figures (Janes Addams and Francis Perkins), civil rights-era figures (Dorothy Height and Whitney Young), and contemporary figures (Barbara Lee and Barbara Mikulski).


  1. Social work services are voluntary and poorly advertised to the general public.
  2. The media depicts the social work profession in a misleading way (e.g., “social workers only work in the interests of the child welfare agencies”; “anyone can be a social worker”; “social workers only work with the poor”).
  3. Social workers don’t receive the same level of respect as journalists and social scientists in addressing issues of poverty and discrimination in the news media.
  4. The extent of bureaucratization in the social work profession is problematic; social workers may end up harming rather than helping clients due to changes in government funding and rules.
  5. Since social work agencies are, on average, inadequately funded, many social workers are also poorly paid.
  6. People are unaware of macro social work practice (working with organizations to promote socially-just policies and services at the community, national and international levels).
  7. People assume social workers only work in mental health settings; social workers can also be found in community development, crisis intervention, criminal justice, health care, higher education, international human rights, human services organizations, and public policy.

Do you agree or disagree? What would you like to add to this list?

UPDATE (August 2013): Don't forget to visit my more detailed posts on the problems affecting the social work profession:

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