Community Service Worker: Is It A Good Choice As A Career?

by : Amy Nutt

I've been a social worker for more than ten years. During that time, I've worked in the emergency room of a major trauma center, a skilled nursing facility specializing in the care of people with Alzheimer's and most recently a hospice. I love my job and even if I get frustrated at times, no amount of money could persuade me to quit social work.

Just because I love my community service job, however, does not mean that community service is the right career choice for everyone. If you are considering a career in community service, ask yourself the following questions:

#1. What kind of training and background do I have?

Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people's lives. Many community service workers have degrees in social work, counseling, psychology, nursing, or another related field.

But don't despair if you have only a high school diploma or a GED. You may be able to enter the field as an assistant or a "designee." Many nursing facilities, for instance, can not afford to hire social workers so they train a person with savvy and people skills to act as the "social service designee." Although not a trained social worker, this person takes on most of the work social workers do in a facility such as admissions, applications for financial assistance, and discharge planning.

#2. What do I want from a job?

If your answers included themes like money, power, and prestige, you would be wise to give community service work a second thought. Although you can make a solid salary as a community service worker, you will not get rich, nor will you find yourself being interviewed by Oprah or Dave Letterman.

If, on the other hand, your answers included themes of wanting to help people, or at least a specific group of people, or wanting to make your corner of the world a better place, you are probably on the right track with a community service job.

#3. What are the working hours I'm available for?

Full-time social workers most often work a 40 hour week, however, there may be a need to work evenings or weekends to meet with clients or handle emergencies. In voluntary nonprofit environments, part-time work is most standard. While most time is spent in a facility or office, they may be required to travel locally to visit clients, meet with service providers or attend meetings.

#4. Can I handle taboo subjects?

If you are a community service worker, you will have to deal with issues that make the majority of citizens uncomfortable. For instance, nurses and social workers were holding the hands of dying AIDS patients years before the president of the United States could bring himself to say the word AIDS.

As a community service worker, you will routinely be encountering issues such as death, mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse. You will also have to work with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and lifestyles. Would you be comfortable with a client of a different race? Religion? Sexual orientation?

If you have or are willing to seek out the proper training, want a job that will allow you to make a real difference in the world, and are able to handle difficult subjects and differences, you would probably make an ideal community services worker. Best of luck with your career!