Are you a mid-career professional planning a career change?

Perhaps you want a career that allows you to make a difference in people’s lives. If so, social work may be the ideal profession for you.       

Social work suits people who desire to help others to solve problems in their lives.

A key part of the job is case management, in which social workers assess their clients’ needs, deliver interventions and link clients with agencies and support systems to meet their needs.

Together, these different groups work together to help individuals or families overcome their problems and, ultimately, build better lives for themselves.

Special skills

Contrary to popular perception, social work is not the same as volunteer work.

Unlike volunteers, social workers need a specialised set of skills, which include communication, interpersonal, networking, counselling and advocacy skills.

They also need to be able to manage professional boundaries. With these skills, they can help clients understand and resolve their issues better. 

Do you have what it takes?

If you are considering a career in social work, you will need a minimum educational qualification of a bachelor’s degree in social work.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline (for example, arts or social sciences), you can work towards a graduate diploma or a master’s in social work from a tertiary institution accredited by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, the professional association that represents social workers in Singapore.

Besides educational qualifications, aspiring social workers should have a genuine interest in helping or working with people.

No time like the present

As Singapore develops rapidly, the demand for higher quality social services is increasing too. It is estimated that an additional 60 social workers will be needed every year for the next five years.

In April 2010, in recognition of the invaluable contributions of social workers, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) increased the salaries of social workers employed by voluntary welfare organisations in funded programmes.

Their remuneration is now comparable to that of their counterparts working in other organisations.

Social workers can expect starting salaries of $2,400 to $2,700, depending on their qualifications and work experience.

They can also look forward to excellent career opportunities through various education courses, seminars and training schemes.

Training and development

Social workers can apply for scholarships to support their postgraduate training in social work.

Other capability-building opportunities include the Professional and Leadership Development Scheme and Sabbatical Leave Scheme, which were jointly introduced by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) and MCYS in 2008. 

To meet the industry’s demands for social workers, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency has partnered with UniSIM and NCSS to offer a Place-and-Train Professional Conversion Programme for Social Workers.

The programme aims to train interested individuals, in particular, mid-career entrants, to become qualified social workers.

The course fees are subsidised for successful applicants. In addition, applicants receive a monthly allowance during the training period.

Mr Gerard Mathews, 39, who graduated from the course, says: “It is often said that social workers need the right attitude more than the right skills. I had the drive, aptitude and the strong character needed to succeed in this challenging field.

“The Graduate Diploma in Social Work (UniSIM), with its practice-based programme, pre-requisite courses and supervised practicum, equipped me with the necessary skills and facilitated my career switch to social work.

“The on-the-job training, together with the guidance of the agency and its staff, enabled me to manage and master the steep learning curve.”

He adds: “If we do the job well, they (our clients) will move up in the world, achieve their goals and live better lives.

“This will remind us why we really became social workers in the first place: to help, to heal and to save.

“We won’t be able to save everyone but we will definitely make a difference in the lives of some, and that is what really matters.”