Many aspiring Master of Social Work (MSW) students wonder if they really have what it takes to enter the social work profession. The job is not without its rewards, but it can also be stressful, emotionally taxing, and physically demanding. Working conditions and pay can be just as daunting at times.

The fact is, becoming a helping professional is not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to become a social worker. Are you cut out for this path? Here are ten reasons why you should choose a career in social work:

  1. You want to help others. Social work gives you a professional platform with which to engage your inner helper. An MSW degree will allow you to help people from all walks of life with all kinds of problems.

  2. You have deep insights about people and about what makes them tick. You’re interested in feelings and behavior. You’re perceptive about what motivates people. You often empower others to be their best selves, and you find that work rewarding.

  3. You had a rough childhood, or went through a challenging period of time yourself. Many social workers enter the profession after personally experiencing some adversity. Some survived difficult circumstances and now want to help people in similar positions. Others want to continue their journeys of overcoming as part of their day-to-day jobs. As long as your career doesn’t become a never-ending odyssey of self-help, you’ll find yourself in the company of other professionals whose personal paths are similarly intertwined with social work.

  4. You need to live a purpose-driven life. Sure, some of your friends are off to glamorous careers or riches. But those things won’t satisfy you. You need a sense of meaning and a job that makes an impact in order to to feel fulfilled. Even if that job is less financially rewarding than some others.

  5. The principles and values of social work line up with your own. You may have been raised to believe in the good of others, or in doing good work yourself. Perhaps you want to live an ethics-driven life of integrity. As licensed professionals, social workers are not just do-gooders; they adhere to a high level of standards and ethics.

  6. You’re excited by all the career possibilities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is projected to grow by 16 percent over the next decade. That figure leaves a lot of other professions in the dust, and positions you for numerous employment opportunities. You could start off in the medical social work field, for example, and switch to doing counseling, and then go into administration or return to case management. As a social worker, you have the option to reinvent yourself while staying true to your profession — whether you’re helping someone with housing, victim rights, or hospice care.

  7. You are committed to social justice. Becoming a mover and shaker is in your blood. You possess a sensitivity to those who are marginalized and victimized. You won’t stop until the inequities in the world are righted.

  8. Social Work has broad applications for other fields. Licensed social workers are positioned to work in many fields and organizations, not just in healthcare. Some non-traditional areas of social work include tech, human resources, fundraising, philanthropic giving, diversity leadership, and college consulting. This degree gives BIG career options.

  9. You need to be engaged and feel alive in the work you do. A mundane desk job just won’t cut it for someone with your energy.

  10. You’re not just compassionate, you’re resilient and resourceful. Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done is your signature style. In the face of adversity, you are steely and strong. And you know how to stand up to injustice.

Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.