Happy Social Work Month!  March is recognized as the month to celebrate Social Workers.

So if you are one of the almost 600,000 social workers or working toward being one, make sure to celebrate a little!

If you are thinking about becoming a social worker or really if you are thinking about furthering your education in any area – What is stopping you?

  • Finances! – I bet money is one of the top reasons you may have for not pursuing your goals. I know cost stopped me from following through with my graduate degree for a bit.  I have never regretted getting my MSW.  It has opened up so many opportunities for me including being able to obtain my clinical license, hang my shingle and have my own private practice.  You may have to work at figuring out your finances but there is likely a way.  Spend time comparing schools, their costs and their return on investment.   Spend time applying for financial aid and scholarships.  There are often scholarships for special groups like Veterans or for other specific situations.  You might be amazed at the scholarship matches you may find. Take time to look at all the resources.   If you are employed, take advantage of any tuition reimbursement that may be offered. Look at payment plans and ways to eke out just a bit for saving. Check to see if having the degree you want will improve your marketability or salary in the future.
  • I need my work full time! I hear this all the time.  I know!  I definitely didn’t have the option of not working full time while I went back to school.  Consider asking your job if there is any flexibility with your hours.  I’ve seen the most rigid of jobs make some concessions to schedules.   One of the perks of working in social work is often the flexibility of the job.  If this is the case for you – take full advantage! School isn’t just a few classes during the day anymore.  Many schools offer cohorts just for professionals.  Some have classes that only meet one night a week or during the weekend.  Some degrees are partly or completely online.  You have a lot of options from which to choose.
  • I’m too old! –  Do you ever think this?  Do you think to yourself “if I start school now, I will be this old when I graduate?”  True story.  The thing is – we age and we can’t stop it.  I have passed 40 and although I have my moments of “I’m so old,”  I hope I remember that I am the only one limiting myself by my age.  There isn’t too old for going back to school.  Maybe it will take 4 years to get your degree but you will be 4 years older with or without the degree, so if you want it – go get it.
  • I won’t fit it! – I think we always worry about fitting in.  You may worry about being the youngest or the oldest in a class.  You may wonder if you will understand the material and projects like everyone else.  You will likely find that most of the students are just like you.  Whether you are in traditional college classes with traditional students or in a program for older, working professionals, the chances are that you will find that you fit in.  In fact, especially if you enter a professional program, you may find that you make new friends
  • Where would I find the time? – You have a life, a family, responsibilities and a full-time job. You may ask, “When exactly will I find the time for school?” If you are going into social work you will also have to complete a practicum or internship.  It will be busy.  Look for schools that offer flexibility.  Maybe online courses would be more helpful.  Many schools offer part-time programs – you don’t necessarily have to jump into a full school load. Moms can sometimes schedule time around their children’s school and activities.  You might find you have to schedule time with the kids, spouse and friends more than you usually do.  You might have to prioritize and let some things go a bit.  Use your support system – that is one reason why they are there!  You will figure out when to take short breaks from school and studying.  You also remind yourself that it will pass.  You will finish school and you will not always be so busy!  Often, when you are in the midst of your busy life, juggling school and family, it goes so quickly you don’t realize how busy you have been until it is over.

It may seem insurmountable.  School is a big commitment and I’m not saying it isn’t going to be difficult, taking up a lot of time and money.  I’m saying if it is what you want, it can really be worth it.  For me the payoff was astronomical.   Many times we put up our own obstacles to succeeding.  Don’t rule out going for your goals before even trying.