Dear Elcee:


I am 37 years old and have been considering going back to school to get out of my dead end job and into a career I will enjoy. I would like to work in the Social Work field however  I don’t know where to start. There are so many career options out there and the information can be overwhelming. Can you help me?


Confused in Collingwood


Dear Confused,

I can certainly understand your dilemma.  Know that you are not alone.  The number of adults (29+) returning to school to either start or upgrade their postsecondary education is growing all the time.  There are some questions to consider before making the leap.


What to study? The field of social work is very broad. Choosing an area of study can be one of the most difficult decisions you will  make.  Take into consideration such factors as what you like to do currently.  Are there skills you currently have that you can transfer into your new  career?  How much time (and money) can you invest into your studies.  I highly recommend doing an online or in-person career assessment. If you are in the Toronto area you can call 211 and they can steer you to a local community employment centre for more information.


How to study? You can attend classes, study online or do a combination of both.  The path you take depends a lot on the area of study you choose,  the type of learner you are and the accessibility to a local learning centre.


Do you need to upgrade?  Depending on how long you have been out of school you may wish to brush up on your computer skills.   Some fields, such as healthcare, may require you to upgrade your math and science skills.  The humanities may require upgrading in essay writing and English skills. 


Are there learning opportunities through your work?  Many employers offer bursaries for their employers who wish to upgrade or continue their schooling.  Unions will also often offer learning opportunities.


I highly recommend doing volunteer work in a variety of areas related to the field of social work.  Seniors homes, Hospitals, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are just a few organisations that accept volunteers.  Look for something in your own community that you can commit to.  This will help clarify your goals, gain insight into the field and develop your skills.


I highly recommend the website for up to date labour market and career information.  Another good resource is the book “What Colour is Your Parachute 2017 and the accompanying website  And of course, Learning Curves...real information from real life long learners! Good luck.  With thorough planning, patience and commitment you are sure to achieve your goals  Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life! 


Dear ELCEE is written by Deborah Noel,

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