Teachers and/or Social Workers (MSW)...looking for your advice! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 12 Old 04-08-2011, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am graduating in a couple of weeks with a BA in Spanish and Chinese. My initial plan was to get a Masters in teaching and become a high school language teacher. But starting about two years ago, I started thinking about studying public policy, which kind of evolved into thinking about social work. So what I did was apply to a variety of graduate programs in a variety of place in each of these fields.

 

The problem, it turns out, has become one of having too many choices! I have been accepted into a few schools and have the chance to pursue whichever of these careers I decide. I kind of thought in applying for a bit of this and that (and thinking that I'd honestly enjoy any of the careers that these fields of study will lead to) that I'd leave it to the fates. But the fates aren't having it; they've thrown all the options right back in my face, and now I have to choose!

 

So if you are a teacher or a social worker (or if you work in public policy!)...can you tell me ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING about your job? What you love, what you hate, myths to shatter, what kind of SALARY I can expect, benefits, how family-friendly the job is, what the job market is like, etc. etc. 

 

PS-I realize that social work and public policy are very broad fields; fwiw I would like to do something working with immigrants--labor issues or women's issues, specifically.


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#2 of 12 Old 04-09-2011, 04:09 PM
 
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I say social work! I got my social work degree 10+ years ago, my MSW. I love it. What I love about it is that there are so many directions you can go with a social work degree. You can do counseling, do advocacy, administration, work with a host of different programs and issues. I've never regretted it. I was drawn to it for the social justice and the chance to make a difference. Maybe you should take a class and try it out?  At my college you can take a dual degree program (I don't know all the details) in social work and public policy somehow. I think it adds another year or something but that might be a good way to go. As for $, I started out low, low, low like $24,000 but I make over $20k more than I did 10 years ago. If you're creative and motivated you can make $$ and still be a social worker. I know lots who do.  I highly recommend it!!

 

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#3 of 12 Old 04-10-2011, 12:51 PM
 
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I am a teacher.  I can't imagine doing anything else.  You can read more about why I love my job in the thread " Those who 'Love my job!' what do you do?" or something like that. 

 

IB schools need teachers for sociology, peace and conflict studies, human rights, etc.

 

 


Rebekah - mom to Ben 03/05 and Emily 01/10, a peace educator, and a veg*n and wife to Jamie.
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#4 of 12 Old 04-13-2011, 07:21 AM
 
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I'm a MSW, I just graduated in December.  The salary isn't great, the benefits aren't either (I make about $27,000 a year when overtime and extra side projects are included).  That being said, I LOVE my job.  I currently work at a housing program for folks with mostly mental health disabilities who were previously homeless through a mid-sized local nonprofit.  Some days are tough, but I find it very rewarding and I work with some really passionate people.  Honestly, the money isn't great, but when I compare it to the $205-$674 a month (variance depending on whether it is DPA or SSI) that most of my folks get, I can't bring myself to worry about it too much.  It's enough to get by and with income-based student loan repayment, it really isn't that bad. 

 

It is not a job that I can leave at the office.  There are many nights that you lay awake thinking, second guessing, trying to sort through things.  It is a job that ethically suits me, but is continuously making me evalutate my personal habits, values, etc.

 

Because my job requires mandatory coverage of the office, it isn't always flexible for health issues, weather issues, etc.  I work with great people, though so we try to make it work.  However, I know lots of people who have very flexible positions.

 

There really is so much that you can do as a social worker.  If the job you want doesn't exist, you can start a nonprofit and work from the ground up.  You can do private practice.  You can do politics.  You can teach other social work students.  You can do community educations.  It really is full of options!


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#5 of 12 Old 04-13-2011, 09:10 AM
 
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I might be able to offer a look from both sides since I am a teacher who has also worked in sort of the social work field...My undergrad degree was partially in psychology and I worked in group homes and psych facilities.  I was so underpaid and the hours were endless :(  I know some people love it, but it wasn't for me...it just felt so dead-end.  There was endless paperwork to complete and I often felt like people were just being shuffled through the system.  The pay in PA for social work starts around $25,000 and after 5 years of university, I just didn't like that number.

I have been teaching at the high school level for 6 years now and I love my job!  If I had to give you negatives, I would say it is a bureaucratic system where initiatives are handed down from the top, sometimes the kids can be a pain in the butt- but honestly those are the ones I tend to love the most!, and parents can expect a lot more of you than they expect of themselves.  The "plus"es are endless....what other job can you expect a decent salary but have every evening, holiday, weekend, and summer off to spend time with your family and friends (and by yourself, for that matter)?  If I'm being totally honest, I really do love lot of things about my job, but the hours are awesome!!!! I live in PA and the starting salary is around $45,000, but the ability to move up on the pay scale is easy and you really just have to take more classes to get a masters degree.  You are kind of like your own boss because although we do collaborate a lot, you are still in charge of your own space, kids, and classes for the majority of the time you are at work.  It is nice to be able to really be yourself and develop relationships with the kids and their families.  You really feel a sense of accomplishment when they graduate and even when they complete a challenging project they are proud of. 

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#6 of 12 Old 04-13-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much for replying and for sharing your insights with me! I suppose if I take anything away from this thread, it's that hopefully I can't go wrong whichever path I choose! orngbiggrin.gif


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#7 of 12 Old 04-13-2011, 10:20 PM
 
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Different numbers here in Canada: I started around $40k with a BSW, which will jump up quite a bit with an MSW. Not sure if that's relevant, but I work in a specialized area rather than for the MCFD (Canadian CPS) which is where many BSW graduates end up. I wonder if this is because in the US there are practicing social workers with Associate's degrees, and this isn't really the case in Canada?

FWIW, I love my work.

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#8 of 12 Old 04-14-2011, 01:07 PM
 
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I'm not a teacher but my dh is. Starting salary really depends on district and state. In one state he started and $27,000 as a second year teacher. He now has been teaching 6 years and is currently at $37,000 (another state). Having your Masters also really varies by state, some states make it worth it and others not so much. Dh came to teaching later and he can take hours for pay increases but we've decided it's just not worth it for him to pay for a Masters, the compensation just won't justify it even over time. Just something to think about when you consider where you'd be working.

 

Otherwise he loves the kids (elementary), having his own classroom, the training, summers off (although he really works a p/t job most summers. Again $$). Honsestly his sleepless nights and stress usually come from his dealings with parents.

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#9 of 12 Old 04-16-2011, 05:04 PM
 
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I am a teacher and I like it. Pay is pretty poor compared to other fields, but benefits are good and time off is great.

Pros:
Never boring, good team atmosphere from staff, very minimal supervision so you have a lot of autonomy in lesson design, grading, daily work, etc., great time off, decent hours for working parent, fun working with kids, personally and emotionally rewarding, job security, job flexibility, opportunities to travel for free or low cost as chaperone to student trips, discounts at some shops, tax break for stuff you buy out of pocket for your job, opportunity to work internationally, oppurtunity to actually impact a student's life in a positive way, student loan forgiveness, HUD home ownership deals.

Cons:
Low pay (22K starting in my district, 28K with a Masters) poor resources due to lack of funds, union dues are high ($70/ month), long hours during school year (6:30 am to 4 pm is normal for me), early start times can make childcare difficult to find, crazy parents, troubled kids, high responsibility (YOU must make sure no child is left behind), high work volume (ever graded 120 essays?), low societal status, field requires continuing education while you are working in order to renew liscence, (so expense to maintain), difficult to miss work on short notice, job performance always assessed on snapshot data like a one hour observation or a three hour test.

I do enjoy my job most of the time, and am much happier working as a teacher than I was at my cubicle job in the private sector. You could consider registering as a substitute teacher and trying that for a few months as a method of helping you decide. Good luck!


CD'ing, homebirthing, milk making school teacher. Supporting my family on my income and trying to get out of debt in 2013!
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#10 of 12 Old 04-17-2011, 08:38 AM
 
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I think social work and teaching take very different personalities...I hated teaching (being 'on' for hours at a time, managing huge groups of kids and planning lessons) and love being a social worker (work more holistically, smaller groups--families or individuals, more of a team effort--I team up with coworkers a lot, lots more variety as far as how the day goes--I am out in the field, at court, in the office, at schools etc...).

If you are a public sector employee as either a teacher or a social worker, I think benefits & pay are pretty similar--usually mid 30's with good benefits and all the state holidays, plus summers as a teacher. Don't know about being a private school teacher. Being a private sector (nonprofit usually) employee as a social worker is much different--20s or low 30s unless you are a master's level therapist.

Most of the community organizing/community building jobs are very rewarding but pay JACK and have really awful benefits until you end up as an ED or luck out with a very generous organization. I was in love with comm org work and studied it in my MSW program and did a bunch of internships in it, especially with immigrants....but got out of it as soon as I had to support a family because it just did not fit with our schedule and I wouldn't have been able to support us with the kind of salary some of my single & childless friends are living on. I can't live with 5 roommates and not have health insurance and be expected to work 80 hours a week. I have a friend working in immigration policy in DC, maybe I could connect you to her?

I opted to go for a state job as a social worker doing case management with families. Love love love it.

Know that most MSW-requiring jobs are in case management/counseling aka micro-level practice. It sounds like you might be more interested in macro-level practice (comm org or policy)--those don't necessarily require a MSW and you might be better off either not getting an advanced degree and just working your way into the field OR getting a policy degree, especially if you get a PhD. That would depend on how heavy into the policy/legislation side you want to get and how much you just want to work with immigrants one on one...

I don't check MDC much because I am so busy with my job now so feel free to PM me if you have more Qs, that goes to my email so I will get it for sure.

My numbers are for the midwest too, so very big cities or other states might have different salary ranges.

raising my two sunshine children.

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#11 of 12 Old 04-17-2011, 03:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by la mamita View Post

I think social work and teaching take very different personalities...I hated teaching (being 'on' for hours at a time, managing huge groups of kids and planning lessons) and love being a social worker (work more holistically, smaller groups--families or individuals, more of a team effort--I team up with coworkers a lot, lots more variety as far as how the day goes--I am out in the field, at court, in the office, at schools etc...).

If you are a public sector employee as either a teacher or a social worker, I think benefits & pay are pretty similar--usually mid 30's with good benefits and all the state holidays, plus summers as a teacher. Don't know about being a private school teacher. Being a private sector (nonprofit usually) employee as a social worker is much different--20s or low 30s unless you are a master's level therapist.

Most of the community organizing/community building jobs are very rewarding but pay JACK and have really awful benefits until you end up as an ED or luck out with a very generous organization. I was in love with comm org work and studied it in my MSW program and did a bunch of internships in it, especially with immigrants....but got out of it as soon as I had to support a family because it just did not fit with our schedule and I wouldn't have been able to support us with the kind of salary some of my single & childless friends are living on. I can't live with 5 roommates and not have health insurance and be expected to work 80 hours a week. I have a friend working in immigration policy in DC, maybe I could connect you to her?

I opted to go for a state job as a social worker doing case management with families. Love love love it.

Know that most MSW-requiring jobs are in case management/counseling aka micro-level practice. It sounds like you might be more interested in macro-level practice (comm org or policy)--those don't necessarily require a MSW and you might be better off either not getting an advanced degree and just working your way into the field OR getting a policy degree, especially if you get a PhD. That would depend on how heavy into the policy/legislation side you want to get and how much you just want to work with immigrants one on one...

I don't check MDC much because I am so busy with my job now so feel free to PM me if you have more Qs, that goes to my email so I will get it for sure.

My numbers are for the midwest too, so very big cities or other states might have different salary ranges.


I just wanted to say that even being the ED if its at a smaller agency does not not always pay well, I know because I have been the ED of a small community center going on 3 years and my salary is paltry. The only perk I have is a flexible schedule. Also being the ED at smaller agencies where you don't have an assistant director or someone else makes it very hard to manage while raising a family. In almost 3 years I have had very little time off, because when I am out there is no one to handle the admin stuff, etc. This is my 2nd ED position at a small agency and I would say if work-life balance is important look at larger agencies.

 


Mothering since 1992...its one of the many hats I wear.
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#12 of 12 Old 04-17-2011, 09:26 PM
 
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You might like being a early childhood special education teacher...you are teaching but in a very different way because you work with the entire family and work one on one with the child usually in the child's home. You would work with children birth-3yrs in the in home but, your credential also would qualify you to teach a special education preschool classroom if you were interested in that. When you work with the 0-3 age group it is in some ways like social work as you help the family get resources and help the parents learn to help their child develop. The pay can vary, some school districts have an ECSE program so those teacher get paid better but, then sometimes you would work at a center vs. going in home. Regional Centers tends to pay less but, you would still have good benefits since its a state thing.  I started out getting a teaching credential in this field and found that I liked being more in a classroom environment so I switch my credential to elementary special education. I am not working now but, have worked in a k/1 classroom for students with severe disabilities and absolutly love it! I plan to go back to that someday when I go back to working.

 

good luck to you with finding your path!!

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