April 9, 2011

"I Didn't Go Into This For The Money"

Whenever I hear this phrase from a social worker (or a nurse, or psychologist, or a counsellor), a little alarm goes off in my head. I buy into it a bit because it's what we've been told in our culture and schooling. Social Workers are underpaid and scrape by, but do the work for the love of it. That's what we're told. I totally bought into it and even catch myself repeating it on occasion. However, it doesn't totally ring true for me.

Yes, I imagine that if I wanted to make more money, there are other professions I COULD have gone into. But it's really not that simple. I wouldn't have survived in business. I'm not the type of person that could. I have no mind for numbers. I have no interest in some of the hard sciences. I'm far too fragile to be in most trades. I can barely cook for myself! Ok, so where am I going to make this money? What could I have done and succeeded in enough so that I'm making more than I am now. Also, what would I have to spend so that I could survive the tediousness of that existence? How much would be left? What would I have to spend to keep myself healthy?

No, I didn't specifically go into social work for the money. If I were a different person, I could have made a hell of a lot more money in different professions. On the whole, however, I don't think there is another profession where I could be satisfied enough so that I wouldn't have to spend a lot of money to cope with that profession. My skill set will let me grow in this profession so that I will make money. I am not a poor social worker and I have no reason to think that I ever will be.

Yes, maybe this is some pie in the sky thinking, but it's what I'm holding to. I may not make 6 figures (yet) but I'm much more successful in so many ways than I ever would be as an accountant...that's for sure! No, I didn't go into this (completely) for the money. I went into it because it fit.

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

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28 comments:

Btrflygl said...

Awwwww, great post!!!! And I totally agree. Do what you love and the money will follow. Or something like that.......

spldbch said...

After I finished my MSW I was disappointed to find that all of the jobs I was qualified for didn't pay enough for me to get by. Sure, we were warned in college that social workers don't make a lot of money; still, I was angry because I didn't feel like it had been made clear to me just how little money we could expect to make right out of college. I'd always thought I'd make enough to afford to have my own place without roommates and to pay for at least the basic expenses.

I'm six years into my career now and am in a much better place, both financially and emotionally. No, I didn't go into the profession for the money. I did, however, have a very hard time being happy with my work when I was barely scraping out a living. I felt resentful.

I guess I'm trying to say that part of a fulfilling career is making enough money to take care of yourself.

Carolyn said...

When I first started to work as a social worker (at a fee-for-service agency working within the Child Protection Services), I actually took three cuts in pay from that as a administrative assistance in a not-for-profit agency. First, I went from Y number of dollars per hour to X number of dollars per hour (approximately $1.50 less each hour). Then, the powers that be decided that one type of work (driving kids in the foster care system to appointments, supervised visits, etc.) would be paid less that other types of work (supervising visits, youth work). So, as I was doing both types of work, I then took a second cut in pay. Then for approximately 18 months, I was only doing job A (the lower paid one). On top of that, I was not working eight hours a day, five days a week. Eventually, however, I took a second job here at the Children's Hospital where the pay scale was significantly different. Eventually, I was able to up my hours here and then finally leave the fee for service agency.

Generally, social workers that work for the provincial government, the municipal government or the health care service (provincially funded) make decent wages as far as social workers go. However, if you look at the education (most of us have MSW's) compared to the nurses, phamacists and psychologists, we are making significantly less. (Typically nurses/pharmacists have an undergraduate degree, psychologists have a masters or a PHD.)

It's always nice to be able to be broke AFTER you have paid all the bills, not before some of the bills have been paid.

I am a social worker not miracle worker! said...

Super text! I like your blog, colleague!Following!

Regards from Serbia!
Jovana Jelenic

antiSWer said...

I wonder what the stats show that compare people with degrees in social work to, say, degrees in accounting. I bet at the beginning, there are also a lot of accountants struggling, too. After time, they gain experience and skill to move up. Same with us. Sure, they might move higher than us, but if you look at the research about how much money is enough to be happy, it's inconsequential. I think the thing with some of the social work stats is that it can include those with a 2 year diploma or sometimes even a 1 year. That skews things. I know others with advanced degrees that are making a hell of a lot less than social workers I know.

I think it's really easy to look around and say we're underpaid and underappreciated without taking everything into consideration. We also have to stop complaining about it and DO something about it, if there really is a discrepancy.

TRTony said...

good post enjoyed it

Jared said...

I'm in the middle of getting my psychology degree. It's nice to see there are people who understand the importance of enjoying what you do is of more value than money...I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy a large sum of money. Only that if achieving it means being bored and miserable I'll take poor and fun any day!! I'm also a comedian so check out my blog some time. I have funny stuff about all kinds of things! I'll make you laugh!

http://whatwouldjareddo.blogspot.com

spencer said...

My sister-in-law is also a social worker. What she always tells me is that there is a lot of things need to be done in our society. Money can really help to the betterment of social living but people who cares are more important than what money can give.

I would describe her as selfless.

mark silver said...

I am planning to present a seminar on how any social worker can make a six-figure salary given the skills, education, and knowledge that they already have. Would people be interested? How would I know?

Mark Silver MA LCSW PsyD JD
917 608 1346
marksilver1@cs.com

Cheap Social Worker said...

Great post! I too frequently heard the phrase "social workers don't go into it for the money" when I was in grad school. However, I refused to buy into it. While I didn't go into social work for the money, I went into it so I could have a stable, decently paying job in a field I enjoy. There's no way I would put myself through the extra school if I wasn't going to have a decent return on my educational investment. Fortunately, I managed to increase my post-undergraduate income when I finished my MSW.

I think part of the reason social workers are so underpaid is because they seem resigned to it. However, we continue to rant about how people like nurses get paid better despite not having a masters degree. This is where social work as a profession needs to do a better job in advocating for itself through title protection, unionizing, etc.

I am lucky to live in a state and work in a sector that pays social workers reasonably well. Currently, I am an entry level social worker that makes as much as some entry level software engineers and nurses. This is because the practical part of me chose a field that allows me to balance a social work career with the type of lifestyle I want to have. I may choose to go into another sector, or another career down the line as I gain life experience, but I'm reasonably content with where I am right now.

If people really want to make money as a social worker, there are definitely ways to do it. Private practice practitioners, administrators, senior VA social workers (check out VA job listings in California), and California CPS workers (after overtime) can make over six figures a year. I know a number of social workers who live decently on their salaries. Just because someone is a social worker doesn't mean he/she has to resort to marrying someone rich, as I've unfortunately been told one too many times.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I love your blog and blog name because I'm rather introverted myself. Contrary to what some of my professors liked to say during my MSW program, anti-social social workers do exist! Keep up the great work!

Keith Pounds said...

Just stumbled across your blog and, considering the content, I'd like to hear your take on some of the issues I've addressed in mine. http://keithpounds.com

Anonymous said...

Well psychologist MA and PhD level have to put in several YEARS of study, plus several hundred and sometimes thousands of hours of free services call interships, and then register with the College of Psychologists. So yes, we do deserve to be paid well for that investment and time.

And here in Ontario, most social worker get paid very well starting at $60,000+ [MA level](however you must be a member of the College). Most people can live pretty well on that.

Keegan said...

Good Post! I honestly think it depends where you live. Out east social workers get paid really well. In the midwest not so much...

Tim. said...

I really appreciate the blog post and reading some of the comments had me feeling a little down. It's hard to know I'm accumulating all this student debt and may not be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle. I know things are "tough all over" but it'd be nice to know a big salary would be waiting for me.

Then I remember that no number of $5 lattes or extra spending room in my credit debt limit doesn't really matter. There are social work jobs out there and I'm going to have the best job (for me) in the whole world.

The only way this could be better is if we could have fast cars like cruisers.. I mean really, how hard would it rock if we had sirens and were allowed to rush out to clients like a first responder?

Social Work Helps said...

My internal response when people make the comment "I didn't go into _______ for the money," is typically "does that mean you would do it for free?" Social work may not have a fat paycheck, but that doesn't mean that I don't do it because I need money to live.

That said, perhaps it is naive of me to say this, but I think that very few people go into any field only for the money. I like to think that most people pursue their chosen fields because they feel compelled to be there by some sort of greater force. Because that field just "fits." Personally, I think it would be terrific if business, law, or medicine, had been the right fit for me. But they are not. Social work is. I definitely have accepted the fact that I will not become rich, and those pesky student loans are always there in the back of my mind, but I can't imagine doing anything else.

Anonymous said...

Interesting name for a blog but I'm beginning to feel this way. I have an MSW and I've been out of work for over a year. For the pass couple of months, I've been frustrated and thinking about going into nursing. However, I have all the Social Work degree debt hanging over my head which preventing me from changing careers and not helping
in the field itself. I get so tired of nurses bragging about their great salaries and lower education to me.

Anonymous said...

I too am struggling with 1. my growing antisocialism (haha) and 2. my growing resentment towards my nurse friends with an associates who make 3 times what I make as an MSW. You should be paid more for higher education, period. were both helping fields.

antiSWer said...

Supply and demand is a bitch.

South African Student Social Worker said...

I'm currently doing my 2nd year degree in Social Work and here we study for 4 years. I'm really resentful as it is because as much as I love this profession and its outcomes, I feel like I won't be getting my investment back. The salary is nothing to write home about. Infact I was in fashion before this and my starting salary was R5000 more than what I will be paid when I graduate. It;s said it's not about the money, but it is about the money otherwise why study? why professionalise something one practises everyday " love thy neighbour". I agree that there seems to be a lack of going against the " its not about the money" mantra. but I say why not fight for better wages. We deserve it for the type of work we do. It takes a brave soul to delve into some elses life and attempt to help. In my country, with ten years of experience you can still find yourself earning R13 000 OR $1421.81. Why don't social workers advocate salary improvements? In my country, nurses, doctors and teachers marched for their salaries to improve and guess what??? THEY IMPROVED...DRASTICALLY! yet hear we sit complaining day in day out about the amount of work we do and how unfair our salaries are yet we shrug our shoulders and say " its not about the money". Do you not have bills to pay? do you not want to improve your lot in life? Do you not want to move out of your parents home?
I love this career , really I do. but I can't study this long, and work this hard only to still at home and make no strides in my own life. We deserve more. Much much more. So pay us more. We are so worth it.

antiSWer said...

So let's make it about the money! This is a wholistic profession that can do so much more than it currently does, but lacks the ability to get the system to support it. We have to be able to demand better respect and wages and all else, right? Talk to a union, write a letter to your govt representative. Display your worth and ask for a freaking raise! If we want better outcomes, we have to attract better people and that's only going to happen with more money! We already have the caring ones (some of which are highly skilled) but maybe with more money we get more of the highly skilled that forwent this profession for better pay.

This is a change that can happen.

Anonymous said...

i am looking into giving up my job in a private sector that pays very well and become a social worker in a couple of years time.am not doing it for the money but the love of it.I am just that person who loves to see all people happy and in a better living conditions.I believe I will be fullfilled and happy once a see a change in those who are less privilage that me*

Anonymous said...

we need to stop saying "we're not in it for the money"... because we are enabling others to devalue us.

antiSWer said...

And devaluing ourselves!

Anonymous said...

i am a third year student currently and as much as i love this course, the salary is not worth all the sleepless nights i have had studying it. i honestly understand why other starting social workers sit in the sun for the whole day and do nothing in South Africa because the salary is very low. Cost of living is high for a basic salary that can start at 4500 pm when working for and ngo and 15000+37 percent government.

this service is not with the amount provided im sorry yes what was said before about teachers and nurses paying more is true they providing a service that heals and uplifts and get a salary that is way better than what a starting social worker would get.

if you not doing it for money i am happy for you but some people are also studying it to help their own families and you will find that most of them come from poverty stricken communities. it would be really worthwhile i guess to start with a better salary and this because how does one empower others when she or he can not even do much for themselves with the money they have.

im not saying one can start with 30 thousand rand per month but i can say for the amount of work that needs to be done to uplift and help people, groups and communities Seriously we need a salary in which we can feel valuable and really wanted.


TalkTherapy said...

We all need to pay our bills, and survive. There is no reason for anyone to suffer underpaid with a graduate degree and maintaining state licenses in this field. Social Workers UNITE! Our time is NOW!

Samar Misra said...

Would you all say that ones with a MSW can make a decent living these days even though not lot of money is paid? Also, isn't it true that MSW holders can work in public health, colleges, corporate EAPs, insurance companies, etc besides rehab centers or counseling centers?

Anonymous said...

I am awake right now studying for an exam, im suffering here at the University of Cape Town. This is my last year, i am definitely not staying in this profession, next year I am going to do my postgraduate in something else. They lied to us when they said it is a calling, there is no such thing.

Anonymous said...

:( I am going to school working full time and raising four children. Being an LCSW is my dream but I dont even have my bachelors yet. I am praying I find what I should truly be doing. No interest in nursing whatsoever. A lot of BSWs and some MSWs make less than me it seems. I make 43k and can barely pay my bills (daycare, rent is almost 1400, etc, etc)...

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