Social Work as an excellent alternative

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CoolBreeze
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Joined: Tue Aug 13, 2019 7:37 am

Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by CoolBreeze » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:14 am

Guys,

I left the University of Stirling with a first-class honours in psychology, but so far have not managed to convince anyone in charge of the clinical doctorate application process that I am a worthy candidate.

To be fair, my experience has been limited to support work for adults with LD, Autism and mental health. I did also do a couple of months at a residential school with children and young people, and have also written a few reports for a psychologist as a ‘helper’ if you like.

However, I now accept that at the age of 30 it’s best to start looking at other career options. I have accepted that I don’t have any ‘clinical’ experience, have never worked in a hospital setting, have never observed or even participated in a therapy session, and will likely never obtain an assistant psychologist post.

From this acceptance came the opportunity to apply for an MSc in Social Work. I realised that the careers are very much intertwined and that the job market for social work is ever growing due to social workers being overworked, stressed and on regular long-term sick leave.

There is always a need for social workers.

Importantly, the MSc in Social Work leads to a job. This is the reason I have selected it. I will be employable following it, and will be able to walk into a job overnight with a local authority anywhere in Scotland.

What is also very interesting is that after you have gained at least 1 year experience working in a local authority, agency work can be a lucrative option, paying £30/hour or more!

A career in social work will not only open doors to earn decent money, but can be achieved a lot easier and quicker. It is less competitive to gain a place. The requirements for places are less intense. You don’t have to produce research proposals or ideas, or sit a situational judgement test. You also don’t have to worry that each time you apply, another 600 people have already applied with the same or better qualifications.

Social work is a two-year conversion. In Scotland, the SSSC can fund a large proportion of your course. If you are successful in gaining a place, you are then asked - at my university anyway (Stirling) - to complete a short scenario based essay which is submitted within a deadline. If you score highly enough on this test, your score will be compared with other students. Those who score highest are nominated by the university to have 75% of their course fees paid, which is absolutely brilliant given the MSc fees are £5,500 per year at my university. Further, if you are successful, the SSSC also allocate a bursary to students for living costs, which currently equates to around £340 per month.

Overall, a career in social work can be as equally rewarding with a much wider access gate. It is much easier to gain a place, and the earning potential after graduation is excellent to say the least.

For anyone needing careers advice, please feel free to send me a message. I know what the clinical psychology application process is like, as I’ve already been through it once and don’t intend on doing it again 😂 I’ve decided at age 30 not to waste anymore time in limbo, and am now instead looking forward to becoming a qualified social worker.

My degree in psychology will be very helpful at some point in my career. It’s quite hard to see where or when it will be useful just now, but I don’t view it as a waste of time. Social workers regularly work in clinical settings as part of multi-disciplinary teams. Perhaps this may be where my BSc comes in. I don’t need a title in front of my name either. If I am able to earn a living, enjoy my career and have a job for life, I will be happy.

You have options. Clinical psychology is not the be all and end all. And if it’s money you are concerned about, move to Jersey for a year and earn £60-70,000 per year. Even the MOD have started employing social workers to work in clinical settings. Many of their employees suffer from mental illness, such as service men. A recent post at Faslane Naval Base in Scotland wanted a couple of social workers experienced in mental health to work there on a long-term basis. They were offering £35.00 per hour!

The selling point for me isn’t the money. It helps, yes, and will make a difference, but for me it’s the fact there is a guaranteed job when you do it. An MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience or Clinical and Health psychology doesn’t make you employable, especially when there are bus loads of students every year with the same qualification.

An MSc in Social Work makes you EMPLOYABLE.

This is my take home message, and I hope this post has been helpful.
Last edited by miriam on Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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lingua_franca
Posts: 918
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:29 pm

Re: Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by lingua_franca » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:53 pm

I think all CPs would agree that social workers are fantastic and much-needed. However, to be brutally honest...you aren't a social worker yet, and all you've done here is share that the application process isn't as competitive as clinical psychology and that you feel social workers make decent money. Your lack of understanding of the career path is shown in the contradictory things you say - you mention that social workers are overworked, stressed out, and on sick leave, and then observe that "a career in social work will not only open doors to earn decent money, it can be achieved a lot easier and quicker." I'd dispute that. I've worked in teams that included social workers, and two of my good friends are social workers who are very passionate about their jobs, but I doubt the word 'easy' is in their vocabulary. If you assured them that they could "move to Jersey and earn £60,000 a year", they'd probably burst out laughing. They are senior social workers, but that kind of salary is rare. You might well find you love social work once you start, but I think speaking to some social workers and seeing them at their day-to-day work would be more helpful to you than Googling their salaries.

Personally I would never go for social work, despite an interest in community psychology. I much prefer individual over systemic work, to give just one of several reasons. It's not a question of just choosing what is likely to get me a guaranteed job - if that were my thinking I'd be a plumber. People are more likely to succeed in their career paths if they have a realistic knowledge of the job and of themselves, and they pick what's right for them.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

CoolBreeze
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 13, 2019 7:37 am

Re: Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by CoolBreeze » Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:02 pm

Thank you for your response.

You are of course entitled to your opinion.

I will say that recently, an article in the Guardian did reveal that around 50% of social workers are working for agencies due to the number of vacant posts. By doing this, hourly rates of £30.00 are not only frequent, but happen. My dad and my aunt are both working as SWs for an agency. They earn around £1000 per week on average, and whenever their contracts are coming to an end they simply move on to other posts or these are renewed depending on circumstances. They’ve been doing it for years.

There are no contradictions in what I am saying. It is a known fact that in the current climate, SW is a very demanding job role. Local authority workers in particular are very much overworked. When I said “easier” I meant the process of reach the goal of becoming qualified “will be easier” than undertaking a clinical doctorate.

This is really simple now - you don’t need to do, what, an 40-60,000 word thesis or whatever it is? And also secondly because the time in training is less than a clinical doctorate. That’s where I am getting the “easier” part from. You don’t need an MSc to be a SW, but it’s an option on the course to do it. That means students who do undertake the MSc don’t even have to achieve this and they can work as SWs. All they have to do is gain their diploma after the two years. No dissertation required. No research work required. And no situational judgement tests to sit.

The ‘process of becoming a qualified social worker compared to a clinical psychologist is not only quicker, but easier’ is probably quite accurate when we weigh up the nature of the courses. I agree both will have their challenges and demands, and also their similarities, but gaining a two-year SW diploma is obviously not going to be as challenging as achieving a doctorate. Please.

In terms of your desire to work individually, that’s just the nature of the job as a CP. Obviously you are going to be working with individuals more often as a CP with one-to-one sessions that are very much tailored to them. The jobs are very much different. This post isn’t about discussing the nature of the jobs, my knowledge of them, their differences and/or similarities. It was to let people know who have just done four years of uni who feel up-against it that there are other alternative conversions. I know what it’s like to feel fed up with the system and struggling to find a suitable course or career. It’s an absolute nightmare.

This post wasn’t intended for people like you who seem to have a negative outlook. I’m not sure what your exact experiences are, but you have certainly cast a fair bit of negativity over what was intended to be a positive post for people who are struggling. People who are fed up and are thinking they’ve wasted their time sometimes need some positivity. I’m trying to shine a light on the fact that social work is a very good alternative job that will still enable you to progress within the mental health side of things, maybe even giving you a better chance of applying to the clinical doctorate another few years later, and also giving you the chance to become a successful agency worker.

Becoming a plumber - thats a bad way to put it. The way I have written this post was to purely direct people’s attention on to the importance of doing a post-graduate qualification that will lead to a job, and in SW in the current climate, that prospect is very high. Doing other MScs in things like Clinical and Health Psychology might be very interesting and good for the portfolio, but with the number of people doing them each year, I doubt you’re chances are not increasing very much of getting on the clinical doctorate training programme even with it.

When you’re 30, you start to see that the most important thing in terms of this “full career thing” is employability and where you’re going to work. Living in limbo with a clinical doctorate project, undertaking hours and hours of unpaid voluntary work and basically trying to throw glitter all over your CV to just get as much as an interview might be ok if you’re 22 years old or whatever. This post is intended for people who, like myself, want to become employable and don’t want to waste their four years they’ve just completed. It’s about applying those four years to another career that will make you employable.

Having qualifications that don’t lead to employment are pointless. You need a job. People need money. People need a stable income where they can pay into a pension, spend money on their children, have families and be able to live their lives. Going from an undergraduate degree in psychology to SW will do just that for most people, and I for one am not willing to hang around glittering my CV at my age for a course that I might never ever get on.

And for your information, “bursting out laughing” st £60,000 per year is probably true. I agree most people would, because local authority wages are around half this. But when you actually take your time you will realise that there are many jobs for SWs in Scotland paying £30.00 per hour upwards. A lot of people in SW don’t really know too much about agency work or what they pay. If they do “burst out laughing” which I assume they might, then please direct them to some of the posts listed on that care agency website please.

lingua_franca
Posts: 918
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:29 pm

Re: Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by lingua_franca » Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:27 pm

At 32 I'm slightly older than you. I work part-time as a research fellow/lecturer and part-time in a more clinically orientated role. As an academic who only obtained my PhD a couple of years ago, I certainly sympathise with the need for stability (precarious short-term contracts are the norm for junior academics). I also think having a plan B is a great idea, and I've always found it really interesting and valuable when other allied health professionals have come on here to share their insights and perspectives. But you haven't done that, as you aren't a social worker yourself and you don't yet have personal insight into what it means to do that job or even to train for it.

I'm pretty sure most health and social care professionals in this country know about agencies and will have heard of the website you mention. The issue with agency working is that it isn't secure - the before-tax salaries may look higher in comparison to the public sector, but that is because with an agency there is no occupational sick pay (agency employees are entitled to SSP only), no maternity/paternity leave, often no occupational pension (certainly no defined benefits), and no redundancy pay. Contracts are either zero hours or fixed-term. So you are not necessarily benefiting by working for an agency, and you may be losing out in the long term. Then there are a lot of health and social care professionals who dislike agency work on principle. It's often terrible for client continuity, it eats money that could be better spent, and it contributes to the not-so-stealthy privatisation of services that should exist only for the benefit of the people they serve, as opposed to the profit of a company. People who are drawn to social work on its merits (making a practical difference in marginalised communities, etc.) are unlikely to see signing on with an agency as a perk.

If you are drawn to social work for its own sake, then go for it. Just bear in mind that what looks easy/difficult to you may not seem so to other people. I wrote a 90,000 word thesis for my PhD, and I absolutely loved it - it was challenging, yes, but I enjoy research and it suits me. What you don't seem to be grasping here is that a lot of aspiring clinical psychologists are looking forward to the research opportunity. If they weren't they would have chosen a career path that doesn't involve a doctorate, or come with the expectation that you remain on top of the research literature when you qualify. They aren't just seeing it as a box to tick. It's also worth pointing out here that most successful applicant don't spend years pouring glitter on their CVs. They tend to get on within their first two applications, and relatively soon after graduating.

And having done a doctorate that involved designing and running a study from scratch and then writing a book, I can say that I might well find a two-year social work programme more challenging, because being good at X does not automatically make you good at Y. It really is a question of knowing your own strengths and then playing to them. This is why it's important to understand what the different jobs entail in practice. People are more likely to be successful if they pick something that actually suits them.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

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miriam
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Re: Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by miriam » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:00 am

CoolBreeze, does it not seem a bit strange to come on a CP forum and use your first post to tell us that all our aspirations are misguided?

With my admin hat on I would also note that in two posts you have mentioned one employment agency/website's name five times so far. They haven't paid to advertise here, and they aren't aligned with the topic or values of the site, so if you mention them again I will ban you for spamming.

Second, I totally agree with Lingua. These posts reflect a completely skew perspective (and one that sounds like you are desperately trying to persuade/justify your own decision), and don't fit with my morals or values at all. Agency work is like the gig economy - it funds the profits of middlemen, whilst giving lower service at a higher price to the purchaser and poor terms and conditions of employment to the person doing the work. It doesn't offer long-term relationships to colleagues or clients, or CPD, supervision and career development to the employee. The headline salaries don't reflect the loss of pension, sick and maternity pay, paid leave or funded support with professional development. Agency staff often feel less belonging in services, and are therefore more prone to low job satisfaction and burnout. If salary was the be all and end all, then there are plenty of better paid roles (plumbing included), but people usually pursue clinical psychology because of a desire to apply a scientist practitioner perspective to psychological wellbeing, rather than because they want to earn the highest possible salary.

However, for balance, CP can be pretty lucrative too. I turn down court work paying £100/hour every single week, because working in child protection and children's social care is demanding and emotionally depleting even at triple the hourly rates you cite. Likewise I've been offered jobs paying salaries well above my leaving NHS salary of £67k (including a job offer in Highlands paying top of 8C a few years back, with an £8k relocation package). There is scope to earn more in the private and locum sector but they've never appealed to me, and I'm sure I could earn six figures in the channel islands if I wanted to (most of the work I have done there has paid £125-£145/hour). So we can equally throw about figures, and in fact I'd say CP is generally a better paid profession than social work, if that is your main driver.

Social work is an important but tough job. As Lingua said, it is often a thankless profession, with high rates of burnout, sickness and stress. It also has higher levels of risk because of the home visiting. A social worker was also murdered the other day in the course of their duties. And the role is different, with less scientist-practitioner elements, less therapy, less research and narrower remits in the roles in health settings. So it certainly isn't something that will appeal to everyone.

CP is competitive, but many people enjoy the path of gaining experience and do not experience undue delay in securing their place on training - two to three years of experience after gaining GBC is typical. If you are not enjoying the journey and want more security of employment, then social work, like nursing, is one potential option to explore. But go into it with your eyes open: it is very tough work, and generally lower paid than CP with a lot more statutory responsibilities.
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

Mudisco
Posts: 28
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:21 pm

Re: Social Work as an excellent alternative

Post by Mudisco » Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:12 pm

CoolBreeze wrote:
Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:02 pm
Thank you for your response.

You are of course entitled to your opinion.

I will say that recently, an article in the Guardian did reveal that around 50% of social workers are working for agencies due to the number of vacant posts. By doing this, hourly rates of £30.00 are not only frequent, but happen. My dad and my aunt are both working as SWs for an agency. They earn around £1000 per week on average, and whenever their contracts are coming to an end they simply move on to other posts or these are renewed depending on circumstances. They’ve been doing it for years.

There are no contradictions in what I am saying. It is a known fact that in the current climate, SW is a very demanding job role. Local authority workers in particular are very much overworked. When I said “easier” I meant the process of reach the goal of becoming qualified “will be easier” than undertaking a clinical doctorate.

This is really simple now - you don’t need to do, what, an 40-60,000 word thesis or whatever it is? And also secondly because the time in training is less than a clinical doctorate. That’s where I am getting the “easier” part from. You don’t need an MSc to be a SW, but it’s an option on the course to do it. That means students who do undertake the MSc don’t even have to achieve this and they can work as SWs. All they have to do is gain their diploma after the two years. No dissertation required. No research work required. And no situational judgement tests to sit.

The ‘process of becoming a qualified social worker compared to a clinical psychologist is not only quicker, but easier’ is probably quite accurate when we weigh up the nature of the courses. I agree both will have their challenges and demands, and also their similarities, but gaining a two-year SW diploma is obviously not going to be as challenging as achieving a doctorate. Please.

In terms of your desire to work individually, that’s just the nature of the job as a CP. Obviously you are going to be working with individuals more often as a CP with one-to-one sessions that are very much tailored to them. The jobs are very much different. This post isn’t about discussing the nature of the jobs, my knowledge of them, their differences and/or similarities. It was to let people know who have just done four years of uni who feel up-against it that there are other alternative conversions. I know what it’s like to feel fed up with the system and struggling to find a suitable course or career. It’s an absolute nightmare.

This post wasn’t intended for people like you who seem to have a negative outlook. I’m not sure what your exact experiences are, but you have certainly cast a fair bit of negativity over what was intended to be a positive post for people who are struggling. People who are fed up and are thinking they’ve wasted their time sometimes need some positivity. I’m trying to shine a light on the fact that social work is a very good alternative job that will still enable you to progress within the mental health side of things, maybe even giving you a better chance of applying to the clinical doctorate another few years later, and also giving you the chance to become a successful agency worker.

Becoming a plumber - thats a bad way to put it. The way I have written this post was to purely direct people’s attention on to the importance of doing a post-graduate qualification that will lead to a job, and in SW in the current climate, that prospect is very high. Doing other MScs in things like Clinical and Health Psychology might be very interesting and good for the portfolio, but with the number of people doing them each year, I doubt you’re chances are not increasing very much of getting on the clinical doctorate training programme even with it.

When you’re 30, you start to see that the most important thing in terms of this “full career thing” is employability and where you’re going to work. Living in limbo with a clinical doctorate project, undertaking hours and hours of unpaid voluntary work and basically trying to throw glitter all over your CV to just get as much as an interview might be ok if you’re 22 years old or whatever. This post is intended for people who, like myself, want to become employable and don’t want to waste their four years they’ve just completed. It’s about applying those four years to another career that will make you employable.

Having qualifications that don’t lead to employment are pointless. You need a job. People need money. People need a stable income where they can pay into a pension, spend money on their children, have families and be able to live their lives. Going from an undergraduate degree in psychology to SW will do just that for most people, and I for one am not willing to hang around glittering my CV at my age for a course that I might never ever get on.

And for your information, “bursting out laughing” st £60,000 per year is probably true. I agree most people would, because local authority wages are around half this. But when you actually take your time you will realise that there are many jobs for SWs in Scotland paying £30.00 per hour upwards. A lot of people in SW don’t really know too much about agency work or what they pay. If they do “burst out laughing” which I assume they might, then please direct them to some of the posts listed on that care agency website please.
I hear you. I like you thought of other career options but in the end, I settled for clinical psychology and counselling psychology because I love service improvement, research therapy, supervision, consultation, and teaching. I considered social work but it seemed that a lot of it was the liaison and signposting without the therapy/psychology element.

Practicality is important, but like what Lingua and Mariam said, it is about your interests/passion and strengths, something that you could see yourself doing long-term. In the end, I decided not to settle or compromise, no matter how long it took me. As you said, you may decide to give the clinical doctorate another ago after being a social worker for a while...

And yes, CP is very competitive. However, if everyone was dissuaded from applying for the doctorate for that reason, then no one would apply or get on. I happened to be one of the fortunate ones to get on despite the odds placed against me.

My advice to think about why you want to go for a desired career path. If there is some leeway and is what you want deep down, then go for it.

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