A 2017 article from The Sydney Morning Herald on the future of work revealed that most people will change careers 7 to 11 times during their lifetime (Walsh, 2017). For the human services industry and social work, though you might change the direction of your career 7 to 11 or more times, you’ll always work as a social worker. This is one unique selling point which Professor Peter Camilleri believes makes social work such an interesting profession to be involved in as a graduate. Camilleri was formerly the Head Professor of Social Work at Australian Catholic University and is excited to join the Excelsia College community this year and showcase the brand new Master of Social Work (Qualifying).
Covering a range of material and skill development, the Master of Social Work (Qualifying) course strongly focuses on engaging with people, including learning how to work interpersonally, and developing skills in intervention. Students will also build up knowledge about how community services and healthcare systems operate, as well as working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, and cultural and linguistically diverse groups, through to sexuality and disability. As part of their studies, students are also required to undertake 1000 hours of practical exposure in diverse areas such as the community service sector, with faith-based agencies like Anglicare and Salvation Army, as well as in healthcare and hospitals.
‘Social work allows you to use the experience you’ve had in another practice area and that’s seen as a positive when you’re entering a new role,’ Camilleri explains. For example, someone could work in mental health and then move to community development, then back to aged care and develop transferable skills and knowledge between each area. Social workers can also be involved in a range of critical areas in society like disaster welfare, assessing resources for health, welfare, recreation, housing, employment, and other community services (Job Outlook, 2020), and can help to improve the quality of life for at-risk groups and communities. As the job has the potential to expose a social worker to all walks of life, highly relational skills are desirable. Camilleri believes a strong asset of social workers is their ‘very high level of soft skills, which are attractive for employers who are looking for people who can be empathetic, managing others and work effectively in teams.’
This year, the intake of Master of Social Work (Qualifying) students has been largely international, including students from the Philippines, Nepal, and India. Camilleri believes this melting pot of different cultures and religions can affect individuals’ understanding of working with others. Unlike many larger tertiary institutions, being a small and independent higher education provider allows Excelsia to have a more intimate cohort and class sizes. This, in turn, can foster an environment that is supportive and positive for students to have deeper discussions, including discussions about personal faith. ‘Compared to a more mainstream university, you get to know the students incredibly well,’ says Camilleri. ‘And because social work is very much hands-on and involved with people, it’s important as a student that you don’t get lost. If you’re in a class of 100, then it’s easy to just skate through and no one really notices you. That’s not true at Excelsia; you can’t be an anonymous student number here,’ says Camilleri.
As an industry, social work is continuing to grow significantly. The ABS Labour Force Survey data revealed there were 30,000 social workers in 2020 (Job Outlook, 2020) and National Skills Commission Employment data projects this figure will increase to 34,600 social workers by 2025 (Labour Market Information Portal, 2021). Once a social work student graduates, their career can change quite dramatically over the following five years. They could be working in the non-government community services sector, a private practice, or other faith-based agencies such as Catholic Care, Baptist Care, Wesley Mission. They could work in State government in family and children services, or in the hard edge of social work in child protection. A social worker’s healthcare area could include hospitals or community healthcare centres, the Department of Social Services or policy development roles. According to Camilleri, a career in social work can take you ‘anywhere and everywhere’.
Camilleri predicts that the consequences of COVID-19 on society will continue over the next four to five years and this will drive a greater need for social workers. ‘For many people, it will be an identifying aspect of their lives. One of the things that’s come out of COVID-19 is how important the local community is and how to build that. Social workers will be engaged at the local level, working with individuals and with small communities and groups supporting those self-help initiatives.’
If you’ve got a heart for social justice, helping marginalised groups, or want to help make a difference to society, why not consider a Master of Social Work (Qualifying)? The master course complements undergraduate qualifications in counselling or psychology. A minimum of a year of social science units such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, behavioral studies is required. If you don’t have the relevant study background, you may be able to take the Graduate Certificate in Counselling (Bridging Course) before taking the Master of Social Work (Qualifying).
Job Outlook. (2020). Social workers job outlook. National Skills Commission. https://joboutlook.gov.au/occupations/social-workers?occupationCode=2725
Labour Market Information Portal. (2021). 2020 employment projections – for the five years to November 2025. Department of Education, Skills, and Employment Business. https://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/GainInsights/EmploymentProjections
Walsh, L. (2017, July 28). The future of work: 17 jobs and five different careers. Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/the-future-of-work-17-jobs-and-five-different-careers-20170728-gxko39.html