Not For Profit Careers: Community Service and Social Work

The world's charities and community service organizations by far do most of the work in dealing with society's disaster areas. If they didn't exist, government services wouldn't begin to fill the gap. They're that important, and their work is vital to their communities and society as a whole.

The people that do this work have careers unlike almost any other profession. There are no equivalents. Community service work ranges from front line social work to top level policy consultation with governments. In many cases, the big charities, like the Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, the Smith Family, Wesley Mission, and others, operate full spectrum social services for their communities.

It's possible to oversimplify the view of social work careers. Readers should note that qualifications for careers in this field range from sociology doctorates and medical specialists to economics degrees, as well as the familiar roles of frontline social workers and charity work.

The scope and variety of careers in pure social work is vast. The career path starts with qualifications in fundamental social work fields, like counseling, at degree or certificate level. Careers tend to specialize over time, depending on the field of employment, although multiple degrees and qualifications are quite common.

Specialization can take interesting turns. You can start as a social worker, and become a qualified psychologist doing social work, or be a psychologist who becomes a qualified social worker. The career path creates these options and needs for specialist qualifications.

Career opportunities

Some charities are as big as major global corporations in scope, and career opportunities are many. These are good employers, and they have comprehensive training programs and career opportunities built in for their employees. They actively encourage further training and qualifications, and it's not uncommon to see their administration staff taking up degrees in the field.

A career track is hierarchical, within and across organizations. This works well for many long term employees, and interestingly staff retention is usually good. Their staff are dedicated people, and the workplace culture is unique and in-house family oriented. These organizations keep their local knowledge base and the experience required to do the work well.

Career environment

There are no dull spots in this career track. A society's hard places are a unique career environment. Only aid work even approaches the social work career idiom. Working in this environment has to be learned. On the job coaching is the realistic, practical approach to this big learning curve. This is where the local knowledge is developed, and it's a direct orientation to the organization's role.

In contrast, the professional career environment is sometimes right on top of the scale. Doctorate theses have been written in social work across the spectrum of the roles. Government agencies often employ community service organizations and charities as study groups for policies. In some cases, the organizations act as direct lobby groups to government for social change and reform.