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Your Life Calling

Turning Heartache Into Hope Live Chat

If you missed the chat with Jane and her guests Sylvia Abrego-Araiza and Tracy Whitaker, you can catch the conversation here.

Comment from Louise: Sylvia, I was very inspired by your story this morning. You are a generous and courageous person to do what you do. You are doing a great thing for these children.

Comment from Brenda: Liz, I only started on my MSW when I was 50 (I'm 54 now). It's NEVER too late!

Comment from Bill: What is the job market looking like right now in this economy for social work? Better or worse than average? Thanks.

Whitaker: Bill, traditionally the outlook for social work improves in a down economy. More people are in need and state and local governments, as well as private agencies, are charged with meeting those needs. This dynamic creates opportunities for social workers. However, there are also more challenges with funding positions, as one would expect. Still, social work is consistently identified as a growing field and a great profession in this economy.

Comment from Liz: Hi Bill! In my opinion, if you are interested in social work, you should go for it! Most agencies are always looking for male social workers since there are usually so few.

Comment from Tina: Do you need a Master's degree to become a social worker?

Abrego-Araiza: No, you do not need a Master’s degree to become a social worker. You can earn a Bachelor’s degree and qualify to be a social worker, as there are different levels.

Comment from Tom: Sylvia, do you work only with youth who already have addiction problems, or do you counsel other young people as well?

Abrego-Araiza: Tom, the outpatient program that I work with is designed for youth and requires them to meet criteria for substance abuse or dependency.

Comment from Patrick: Where are the biggest needs in social work these days? Age groups, demographics, and geographically? Are these needs currently being met?

Whitaker: Hi Patrick. People re-entering communities from prison are a growing target population that will have many needs. Also, soldiers returning from overseas will also need more services. The social work profession itself is also in need of more professionals because so many are retiring.

Comment from Ed: Are there people who volunteer with social work? I’m interested in helping out in my retirement years but I don’t want to work a full-time job or go back to school. Thanks.

Whitaker: Hi Ed. There are many social service organizations that actively seek volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to help agencies and to learn more about the profession.

Abrego-Araiza: There are so many volunteer opportunities in the social work field. I volunteered for 5 years at the juvenile probation department. Just yesterday I was speaking with a colleague who requested volunteers for MADD. I encourage you to explore the many options in your community.

Comment from Julie: If you are interested in social work as a career, how might one determine if this career path is the right one to pursue?

Whitaker: Hi Julie. Social workers need to be thoughtful, critical thinkers who are able to not only empathize, but also problem-solve. You might enjoy taking an online quiz that will help you determine if social work is right for you. It's at

Comment from Tom: What is a broad definition of social work? I'm kind of confused about all the areas it encompasses.

Abrego-Araiza: Social work involves working in a variety of settings and with diverse populations that can be in schools, hospitals,criminal justice settings,and basically many other "helping" professions working with children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

Comment from Tom: Is social work a field that pays well? Is it worth the investment to go back to school?

Whitaker: Hi Tom. Our research has found that 93% of social workers are satisfied with their careers. The median salary for social workers is about $55,000/year. Salaries are usually higher for those in private practice and administration. I definitely think it's worth the investment. It's a career that has endless possibilities.

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