Forging a successful career is something that many are keen to do in life and it can bring a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction. However, with so many different sectors and roles out there, it can often feel overwhelming trying to settle on the right one. Of all the options, one that can feel especially rewarding and satisfying on all levels is becoming a social worker.
There is no doubting how awesome it feels to help the most vulnerable in society and the buzz social workers get from helping people turn their lives around. It can also feel very satisfying to help address inequalities in society and help clients escape from dangerous or negative situations.
This article explores the role of social workers, particularly their involvement with analyzing human behavior and school environments.
An in-demand role which analyzes human behavior
The numbers around social work as a career choice show why it is so popular. Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on social work, for example, show that there were over 700,000 jobs in this sector in 2022 and this is expected to rise by around 7% moving forward. As a result, social work is an in-demand role that offers good job security. When also factoring in competitive salary levels and the chance to work in a range of niches, the industry’s appeal is obvious.
Many people also like moving into this sector because it develops their ability to understand human behavior in numerous unique settings. One of the most interesting is the relationship between how humans act and school environments. As a result, this can be a topic which social workers analyze in great detail.
But what does social work involve, how do individuals get into it, and how do social work professionals analyze links between human behavior and school settings?
What are social workers?
Social work sees professionals in this field use their expert knowledge to help and protect the most vulnerable people in society. Social workers usually see clients from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures in their daily role. In addition to working directly with clients, social workers can also engage in advocacy work in key areas like social justice.
People who work in this sector can work across a wide range of settings and this can often mean working with other professionals or agencies to provide the best support to clients. A good example of this may be social workers liaising with staff at government agencies to see what financial or housing support is available for a client. It can also involve social workers engaging with local politicians to raise issues they are advocating for on behalf of a community.
How to become a social worker
The first step for any aspiring social worker is getting the right training through a Master of Social Work (MSW). This provides the qualifications needed to begin the journey in the sector as well as the advanced knowledge needed to operate as a social worker. This advice holds true wherever the individual is based in the country or wherever they plan to work after graduation.
The online MSW in North Carolina from Florida State University (FSU) helps illustrate this point and is the ideal program for people looking to work in North Carolina once they graduate. It is available to be studied on a part-time basis and is CSWE accredited. In addition, FSU’s MSW teaches students all they need to know for moving into social work around North Carolina.
While the above example might relate to the Tar Heel state, getting the right qualifications to work in this industry is good advice for any location nationwide. Online learning is one way to achieve this and is a convenient and flexible way to go about it. Once this is done, students would also need to complete the relevant number of professional practice hours to work in a particular state and also pass their specific licensing requirements.
What do social workers do?
The advanced training which social workers undertake enables them to carry out their duties each day. The most common tasks professionals in this field are responsible for include:
- Individual or group counseling and therapy.
- Addressing behavioral concerns and social interaction issues.
- Helping clients deal with mental health issues.
- Help with substance abuse problems.
- Addressing issues at home.
- Support for positive behaviors.
- Consultation with and support for families.
Social workers are ultimately key for protecting people who need assistance and helping people tackle problem behaviors or improve their lifestyles.
The connection between human behavior and school environments
Achieving success as a social worker involves learning how to analyze human behavior and how people interact with one another in social settings. One very good example of this is the time social workers spend analyzing the connection between how humans act and school environments.
While this is good for helping social work professionals get a feel for how certain settings can impact human behavior generally, it is especially useful for anyone who plans to become a school social worker. This is a specialized role that sees social workers operating in school environments and delivering positive support to students, parents, and teaching staff. Those who plan to move into this area of the industry will naturally find it very useful to have a firm grasp on the relationship between human behavior and school settings.
The best way to achieve this is through careful analysis of this relationship from a social work perspective. But how do professionals in the sector go about this?
Holistic understanding of human behavior
A holistic understanding of human behavior involves looking at every aspect of a person when determining what drives their actions, thoughts, or speech. As with a holistic approach to medicine, it enables individuals to be studied in their entirety and avoids only one aspect of their personality or lifestyle being examined. This approach can produce better results, as it means key drivers behind someone’s behaviors are not missed and that everything which can be influencing how they act is considered fully.
In essence, a holistic understanding enables social workers to get a 360-degree view of what might lie behind the way students behave in school environments. This could involve looking at all aspects of an individual student to see how being placed in a busy school environment is affecting their behavior. It could also examine all the possible influences school environments could have on a student’s development and what impact they have had through a holistic approach.
Recognizing the impact of social systems
Social systems play a key part in the life of any school and make up a major part of the overall environment. This usually involves a disparate number of students forging connections to make larger friendship groups within schools.
Very often, these social systems can be based on specific interests those within them share, such as sports or gaming. It is also possible to see social systems in schools which involve popular students’ banding together or those considered not popular to form their own support networks.
Therefore, one way that social workers analyze the bond between human behavior and school environments is to recognize the impact these social systems have. As they play such a key role in the student experience and are impossible to avoid for most pupils, they really can have a major impact on overall behavior.
Perhaps the most obvious way this presents is when peer pressure within these systems drives certain actions. If someone within a particular group is being pressured to act in a specific way by other members, then this can see them adopting new behaviors. This might include acting in unusual or undesirable ways.
This also touches on another area that provides an interesting analysis for school settings and their links to behaviors – the desire to fit in. This desire can feel almost overwhelming in schools, where having a group of friends to hang around with is valuable. Due to this, the very nature of being present in a large-scale social structure and wanting to fit in can have its own impact on how people behave. Of course, social workers who are analyzing this relationship tend to recognize how interactions between different groups within the overall school social system can impact student behavior. If one group within the social system is feuding with another, for example, this could see members of the groups engaging in certain actions such as fighting or arguing.
Identifying social determinants of behavior
Social determinants can be a powerful driving force behind how people behave. This refers to social factors people experience in their daily lives and how these feed into their general actions, words, or thoughts. While this can be positive if these social determinants lead to good behavior, the opposite can be true if they sway people to act in a less-than-ideal way.
The very nature of schools makes looking at behavior determinants one of the ways social workers can analyze how people act. This is most obviously related to how students at schools behave, as there are often a myriad of social factors which can influence this. A good example is the social norms which are accepted in terms of how pupils interact. If these interactions are not generally positive, students may pick up on this and start to behave in the same way themselves. This can see individual students start to speak aggressively to others or swear when talking, if this seems the social norm to them.
By looking at what social determinants are present in a school setting and looking at how they drive behavior, social workers can then use this knowledge to pinpoint what might be the root cause of how someone is acting. They can also work with the school to adjust any problematic social determinants in a specific setting and help improve behaviors in turn.
Focus on inclusive practices
One aspect of the relationship between school environments and human behavior that social workers focus on to gain a better understanding are inclusive practices. This refers to schools themselves creating a fully inclusive environment for everyone which helps them to thrive. Although this is often with the student body in mind, inclusivity is also key for staff members.
Schools will usually achieve this through policies around inclusive practices to follow. This helps the general school environment be somewhere everyone feels at home and can exist comfortably. As a result of this, an inclusive setting can have a positive impact on human behavior.
People who feel valued are more likely to behave well, feel happier, and interact more positively with others. On the other hand, a non-inclusive setting can have a negative impact on how people act. This could involve people acting towards others in an unkind way the emotional or behavioral issues people experience as a result.
The promotion of inclusive practices is therefore something that social workers find useful when looking at how the school environment can influence the behavior of humans within it. By taking this approach, they can put inclusive practices into place in schools and analyze what impact they have for future reference.
Collaborating with school stakeholders
When analyzing any subject, it pays to get accurate data and expert knowledge from people who know the most about it. When it comes to looking at the connections between schools and human behavior, social workers will collaborate with school stakeholders.
This enables social work professionals to discuss the various links between the school environment and human behavior with people who have a direct experience of it. These collaborations can often see social workers discover new angles on how this relationship works or revisit previously held beliefs on what this connection looks like.
The school stakeholders they could collaborate with include principals, teachers, students, support staff, and families. By engaging with this range of stakeholders, social workers can dig into the ties between how humans behave and school settings.
Development of individualized interventions
While school social workers will naturally find understanding human behavior in a school setting to be invaluable, those in other settings may also find it useful. A private practice client who is a younger adult, for example, may indicate that their interaction with the school environment is driving problem behavior in general life.
To effectively analyze the links between how people act and schools, one route to explore is the development of individualized interventions. These tailored interventions could be designed to address problem behavior which is potentially being caused by an aspect of the school setting. If the students’ overall actions improve after the intervention is in place, social workers can confirm what was driving the original poor behavior and the influence of what happens at school.
A good example of this could be a student who gets into a lot of fights at lunch having a tailored intervention which lets them eat in the library while reading. This may keep them away from bullies in the main canteen and prevent them from getting involved in fights regularly.
Human behavior and school environments
Although there are many social settings in life which have close ties to how people behave, schools are fairly unique. There are not many other settings where there are many young adults packed together who must find a way to co-exist peacefully. Pre-schools, colleges, and universities are perhaps the only other settings with this kind of unique social dynamic.
For social workers, analyzing the relationship between human behavior and school environments is worthwhile. It helps them to further understand what drives behaviors in this specific setting and understand how large-scale social structures determine behavior. For trained social workers who plan to operate in the school environment, this kind of analysis is naturally essential and important for the role.