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Do not see us as paragons of virtue doing our bit to salvage mankind but see us as a new breed of professionals just trying to make the best of the opportunities knocking on our door. This is what the new breed of social workers believes, for it makes them take their full-time career seriously and not just as a call to serve the underprivileged.
Social work no longer means indefinite fasts, rallies or people trying to make society a better place to live in. Social work is rapidly becoming a full-fledged profession. This is indeed great news for students with the will and vision to make a difference in society. They can now get job satisfaction and even decent pay cheques.
“Social work is an emerging profession today as there happens to be a demand for social workers. This is perhaps due to the fact that social work has become multidimensional, opening up employment possibilities — right from a school counsellor to an activist,” says Prof. Lina Kashyap, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai.
True, social work is no longer considered to be the prerogative of a few visionaries who want to make a difference to society but don’t have the resources to do so.
It’s still true that to pursue a career in social work, one needs to have genuine compassion for the underprivileged, an urge to help make life better for others and the capacity to work hard in far-from-perfect working conditions.
But with the emergence of a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the sector has become more organised than before.“This increased interest is perhaps due to the fact that a lot of NGOs are coming up in the city as more funding agencies are willing to invest in our country,” says Piu Sur, communication manager, Child Relief and You, Calcutta. About 200 institutes all over India offer masters in sociology or social work, including reputed ones like TISS and the Delhi School of Social Work. The two-year masters course in social work is open to graduates from any field.
The driving force that is making social work a hot career option is the availability of huge funds that may be invested in projects being undertaken by NGOs. “Almost 90 per cent of the students passing the masters course in social work find suitable employment,” says Prof. Kashyap. This is perhaps because of the increasing demand for social workers in government welfare departments, women’s welfare, youth and community development and rural development programmes. These days, social workers are also employed in hospitals, children’s homes, institutions for the disabled, homes for the aged, community centres, prisons and rehabilitation centres, schools and other organisations.
A student taking up social work as a subject has several options. He or she can specialise in criminology and correctional work and find jobs in prisons and government departments. He or she could also opt for community development, and get involved in field work with community groups, government and voluntary agencies. Employment can also be found in charitable organisations, social reform organisations and with non-governmental organisations involved in AIDS prevention and ecological awareness. Large international organisations like the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organisation offer high-profile jobs with salaries to match.
“With job opportunities opening up, you can acquire specific skills to deal with problems at the grassroots level. A specialised course increases the chances of getting a good job and hence, every year, most students are taking up sociology or social work as a subject,” observes Deba Prashad Chatterjee, lecturer, Maulana Azad College, Calcutta. Also, there are opportunities in the development sector.
Freshers with an undergraduate degree can earn anywhere from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 a month. Someone with a relevant masters degree can even start at Rs 25,000. As in the corporate sector, your work experience and performance determine your climb up the ladder. It is harder to get jobs with larger organisations that offer bigger pay packets. The jobs are mostly contractual and mainly involve liaising and policy planning. They demand a high level of experience, expertise and hard work.
So if you are looking for a satisfying career, social work is tailor-made for you.