Social work and money - what a concept.
If you're a social worker, talking about what you make (or what you should make) in a positive way may be unfamiliar territory. Here's a question though - have you ever told someone that you don’t do the work you do for the money? It's possible that this message has been repeated so often that people - including social workers themselves - may have come to expect it. Even among helping professionals, research suggests that social workers earn the least on average.
But social workers love what they do!
It’s not a job- it’s a calling. Some researchers suggest that while there are external factors that impact low social work pay, the fact that social workers continue to work in the field in spite of the inadequate wages may allow them to be financially exploited.
Does the high value social workers place on the work they do (along with messages like “it’s not about the money”) serve to rationalize financial exploitation?
Think about this:
Why it matters
This question, and others like it, developed out of a graduate research project conducted by Allison Peeler (that's me) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) School of Social Work (SSW). While earning an MSW degree, I regularly heard my fellow grad school peers talking about how they expected (and were ready to accept) low pay in the field. It made me angry. Why were some of the most passionate advocates I knew resigning themselves to a state of helplessness when it came to money?
Here's an example:
“When you first enter the social work field, the first thing everybody says is, ‘oh, you’re not gonna make any money’ — so …you’re just started off with that in your mind! It’s easier for you to accept it when you make no money. It’s…discouraging.”
-MSW student, UTA
Were social workers actually playing a role (big or small) in their own professional devaluation by repeating such harsh messages to each other?
Think about that:
What is socialworthit?
The socialworthit concept symbolizes the collective role that social workers get to play in becoming their own advocates for professional and financial worth. The goal of its message and research is to serve as a reminder to social workers everywhere to be the creators of their own professional story. WE are worth the conversation – we are SOCIALWORTHIT!