Vandana Gopikumar, a Masters in Social Work, graduated from Madras School of Social Work and went onto establish The Banyan, an NGO that works with, and for, women with psycho-social needs. Today, the organisation is among the strongest voices in the advocating the mental health rights of the country; they even have their own research institute. This is one among the innumerable success stories of the real impact that Social Work (SW) graduates and their work have had in the country; which is why this course is slowly, but surely, becoming a widely admired and pursued course among students in India.
For starters, the subject is both a social science and a professional degree, where classroom education is primarily based on practical reality. It began in 1936, in a place that is now known as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, popularly, TISS. Since then, the course has evolved to be an amalgamation of modern management with development, where focus is laid on extensive research and timely interventions. While the trend in India is to mostly pursue the subject at the post graduate level, a few colleges do offer it at the undergraduate level as well.
A premier institute for the course remains TISS, where the MA in SW Programme comprises of “Classroom and field learning components distributed across four semesters; Courses comprising of foundation courses in social science disciplines, basic courses on perspectives and methods and advanced concentration courses in varied fields of practice and thematic arenas.; Field learning comprises of field work, rural practicum and field study engagements.” Other institutes include the Delhi School of Social Work, Madras School of Social Work, College of Social Work Nirmala Niketan etc. (see ranking) In Post Graduation, which is usually for 2 years, specialization can be done in fields such as public health, mental health, criminology, women’s issues, disability studies, child rights etc. Madras School of Social Work is among the colleges that offer an undergraduate programme.
Graduates often go on to undertake very diverse employments, both governmental and non-governmental. Working with the government mostly involves community development projects in relation with education, health, rural developments, tribal rights and the likes. Quite of few undertake entrepreneurship and run their own organisations. Working with national and international NGOs is also a very popular option. Of late, with corporate organisations giving great importance of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), graduates of this discipline have become of great demand in the form of both executives and advisors. Remuneration varies with one’s nature and organisation of employment.
Meera Vishwanathan, a second year BSW student says that though she was initially apprehensive about studying a highly practical subject theoretically, but she has now come around to understand the quantum of things that exist to learn. “I was genuinely surprised by the options that are available for MSW!” she says. So should you, like Meera, pursue the discipline? Professor Sanjai Bhatt from the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi says that “not if a cushy job with loads of money is your idea of bliss”. Both studying and practicing the subject is taxing but at the same time also very rewarding. If you are looking for a meaningful career, which is dynamic and challenging, then a degree in Social Work should definitely be under consideration!