CAREER GUIDE Friday, August 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

It pays to be a social worker
here are many definitions of what constitutes social work. These range from providing help to individuals and families to deal with their problems, to radical political activism, which seeks to change society. Social work, in fact, provides for help in all "social" areas ó the family, the group and the community.

Do you know how to study effectively?
Vikas Vats
t is a usual phenomenon among students that the time spent on studies and its outcome is not in proportion. The reason in most cases is non-effective study habits. Students need to understand that it is not the time spent on studies that matters, it is actually effective or quality time spent that brings you laurels. Educational psychologists have recommended some study patterns to help students grasp more in less time.



It pays to be a social worker

There are many definitions of what constitutes social work. These range from providing help to individuals and families to deal with their problems, to radical political activism, which seeks to change society. Social work, in fact, provides for help in all "social" areas ó the family, the group and the community.

Social work as a paid profession is a relatively recent phenomenon in India. Earlier, people were engaged in voluntary social work, which was linked with the major issues of social and political change. Although a number of organisations still have voluntary workers, or workers paid an "honorarium" or wages lower than they would get in other professions, social work has of late begun to emerge as a full-fledged, specialised profession.

To qualify as a social worker, a Masterís degree in social work is required which is offered at a number of institutions. Various specialisations in this field include criminology, child and family welfare, rehabilitation, community nutrition and public health, psychiatric social work, legal social work, community and criminal justice, correctional institutions and law, juvenile delinquency, rural development, education, womenís development, vocational guidance and counselling, etc.

Social workers should have a genuine concern for people, but should be able to remain objective while working with their problems. They require organisational and practical skills, as they may need to liaise with employers, organisations or government departments.

Where to study

Professional training in social work includes a study of the methods and techniques to assess the needs of society and acquiring skills to render help and assistance. The courses of study, therefore, include instruction in sociology, psychology, economics, social and political philosophy, agriculture, village and community development, social and public administration, etc. Fieldwork forms part of the training.

Courses in social work are professional and job-oriented even at the undergraduate-level. Several universities offer Bachelorís as well as Masterís in social work. Some other institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and the Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi, also offer a wide range of courses.

At the postgraduate level, there is scope for specialisation in areas such as family and child welfare, community development, medical and psychiatric social work, criminology and correctional administration, social welfare administration, etc.

Employment opportunities

There are various opportunities, including teaching and research, employment in both government and private sectors. Social workers are required in government welfare departments, womenís welfare, youth and community development and rural development programmes. Other jobs are related to the specific areas of specialisation. Social workers can be attached to hospitals, childrenís homes, institutions for the disabled, homes for the aged, community centres, prisons and rehabilitation centres, schools and other organisations. They may also find employment in charitable organisations; organisations for social reform and with NGOs involved in AIDS prevention and ecological awareness.

Large international organisations like the UNDP, the WHO, the ILO, UNICEF, etc offer high-profile jobs with salaries to match. While mostly contractual in nature, the work mainly involves liaising and policy planning and demands a high level of experience, expertise and hard work.

In schools: Here social workers help schoolchildren and teachers with various problems like student misbehaviour, integrating physically or mentally challenged children, looking into the problems of prolonged or frequent absence, illnesses, and disturbed family situations.

In child welfare and family services: Social workers working in this field have a similar role as above. In addition, they look after the child within the family and provide solutions to problems faced by parents. They provide counselling for children and youth on problems of social adjustment. They offer advice and help in cases of marital problems, divorce, illness, addiction and unemployment. Social workers also investigate abuse and neglect and intervene if necessary, especially for the welfare of child labourers and women.

In industry: Industrial or occupational social workers are attached to industries or organisations. They provide counselling to employees on work-related, personal and family problems. They also advise on further education and training and career advancement.

In medicine: Medical social workers help patients and their families cope with illnesses and accidents of various kinds. They may visit patients in hospitals and find ways to help them. They bring them in contact with other support groups and provide special facilities for particular illnesses such as cancer, AIDS or Alzheimerís disease.

For the mentally and physically challenged: Social workers working with the mentally and physically challenged provide help for the person and the family. They arrange for training in skills to help them live normally, provide for therapy and social rehabilitation. A social worker for spastic children may arrange ways to study privately and take exams. They also arrange for the self-employment of the physically challenged and provide avenues for work.

In psychiatry: Psychiatric social workers offer counselling, psychotherapy and social support. They help the patient cope with social and family situations, and readjust to normal life after illness or hospitalisation. They visit the person at home and advise the family on ways of helping the patient. They also provide help in dealing with stressful situations.

For the elderly: Gerontological social workers deal with the personal or social problems of the aged. They are attached to old-age homes or work with families. They provide for care in the case of ill health, help them claiming their pension and life insurance, provide for recreational facilities and also advise other members of the family on their care and support.

In criminal and legal departments: Criminal and legal social workers provide services for prison inmates and help people get legal justice. They assist those without resources to approach the courts, help them present cases and arrange for lawyers. They advise people on their rights and help in rehabilitation.

In rural and community welfare departments: Social workers engaged in this field offer services, advice and help to members of the community in the areas of healthcare, hygiene, nutrition, education, etc.

In non-formal education: Social workers in the field of non-formal education work in literacy programmes in rural or urban areas. Social workers can also work as welfare administrators.

Of late, research, consulting and social advertising have emerged as upcoming areas within this field.

So if you are looking at a career that is not only vastly satisfying, but also professionally challenging, social work fits the bill beautifully.

Pervin Malhotra

Do you know how to study effectively?
Vikas Vats

It is a usual phenomenon among students that the time spent on studies and its outcome is not in proportion. The reason in most cases is non-effective study habits. Students need to understand that it is not the time spent on studies that matters, it is actually effective or quality time spent that brings you laurels. Educational psychologists have recommended some study patterns to help students grasp more in less time.

The structure of human brain is such that anything read after 45 minutes of continuous reading does not get registered effectively. Students must take small breaks of 5 to 10 minutes between their studies after every 45 minutes. These breaks should be relaxing, not strenuous, to the brain. Do remember to be back on studies after the break.

A big dilemma for students is the timing of study. Parents usually stress on studying early in the morning. Scientifically, every individual has own time when he is most effective on studying. Early studying was perhaps a schedule supported in old days by lack of electricity, when studying in night was not so easy. Pick up your time and study then only.

One major reason why students do poor in exams is the change in the sleep-awake pattern. Students change their sleep-awake timings in vacations before the exams and start studying till late night and getting up late in the morning. When in exams they suddenly start getting up early, their brain does not support. Researches tell that for a change of more than 45 minutes in the sleep-awake pattern, it takes almost six months to our brain to adjust. Do not go for such changes or you wonít be able to recall properly in exams.

This is a widespread myth among students that consuming coffee helps in delaying sleep and keeps one active. Completely wrong. Experiments have proved that a cup of strong coffee mitigates learning capabilities by up to 20 per cent. Similarly, effects can be seen from cola drinks. Memory enhancement pills are another epidemic. Scientifically such medicines are effective in case of mental retardation or memory loss due to old age. There is no substitute for a nutritious diet.

The best formula to remember is revision. About 40 per cent of whatever we remember is forgotten within 24 hours. Studies show that the best revision paradigm is to revise on the 2nd, 7th, 15th, 30th and 180th day of the original learning. This will produce maximum recall.

Students must keep their minds fresh during exam vacations and exams. Do not stop going out or meeting friends. Just keep track of the time you devote to various activities and feel fresh.

Also a word of advice to parents - no pressures please. A small amount of anxiety is always productive, but tonnes of undue pressure will only hamper the success of your child. Encourage your child to compete with his own-self rather than a neighbour or a friend.


Q I am a non-matriculate. Could you please tell me if I could join the Indian Coast Guard?

Kulwinder Sindhu

A The Coast Guard is one of the armed forces of the Indian Union that guards and protects our long coastline (7,615 km) and 2.2 million sq km of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) comprising some 1200 islands and 11 major and 164 minor/intermediate ports, not to mention some 500 Indian merchant ships sailing around the world and the Rs 1500 billion worth of offshore oil assets.

From checking piracy, smuggling, poaching, maritime fraud and terrorist activities to fighting oil spills and even rescuing whales, the Coast Guard has its hands full although its responsibilities are shared by the Indian Navy.

As a non-matriculate male, you can join as a Navik in the domestic branch. The eligibility is a pass in class VIII with 55% agg (45% for SC/ST). If you have passed Class 10 you can join as a Navik in the general duty branch. The age requirement for both is 17-22 yrs (relaxable by 5 years for SC/ST and 3 years for OBC). You will also be required to meet certain physical standards. Selection is on the basis of a written test/interview. For latest recruitment notification see Employment News (20-26 July).


Q I had taken most of the medical entrance exams this year, but I am not very sure of getting into a good college. Will it be advisable to seek study options abroad?

Amrita Singh

A Studying medicine abroad can be a very expensive and a long-drawn affair. For the UK, you require A-levels (which can now be done privately in a few schools in India like Delhi Public School or The British School.

For Australia and New Zealand you need to do a pre-entry foundation programme before you can be considered for admission. Besides, entry is tough and restricted. In the USA, medicine is only taught after graduation. So it takes you that much longer. A full degree may cost you anywhere between Rs 60 and 70 lakh depending on which country you go to. All said and done, therefore, it would be best to study medicine in India itself.

The Russian MBBS degree takes seven years of which the first year is devoted to Russian studies. Medical education in Russia is certainly cheaper than the capitation fee you may have to shell out in a mediocre Indian medical college, but due to very little direct hands-on interaction with patients due to the language barrier, the learning process is hampered. Moreover, the internship at some medical colleges is not recognised in India. Which means that you may well have to complete the 6-month internship in India.

The important thing to note is that it is now mandatory to get an eligibility certificate from the Medical Council of India if you wish to enrol in an undergraduate course in any foreign medical institution.

For details, contact the MCI, Aiwan-E-Galib Marg, Kotla Road, New Delhi-11002 (


Q I wish to study for graduation through correspondence. What will be my chances of procuring a job after getting the degree?

Prakash Singh

A Regular full-time courses are always preferable to those done through correspondence. But the chances of landing entry-level jobs straight after graduation would be more or less similar irrespective of the fact that you have acquired the degree through correspondence or a regular course. A call-centre for instance, would not differentiate between the two as long as the other requirements are in place.

Also in many universities, the degree that is awarded to you at the end of a correspondence course does not specifically mention the fact that you have studied through correspondence.

Certainly the prospects get bright if you acquire a professional postgraduate qualification subsequently. Since mere graduation is not sufficient to equip you with the skills required to enter a profession, the PG course you pursue subsequently is what will really matter. Even if you do your Bachelorís through the distance mode, make sure your PG course is a regular full-time one, and preferably from a well-reputed institution.

At the PG level, correspondence courses are fine only for those who need to supplement their work experience with formal qualifications.

So go ahead and do your Bachelorís through correspondence from a good university.

Sat II

Q I have heard that some colleges in the USA require foreign students to take SAT II subject tests before they seek admission to their Bachelorís-level courses. Could you please tell me something about this?

Sumit Katara

A While several colleges in the USA are satisfied with SAT I scores which includes a verbal and mathematics test, many others request that SAT II scores be submitted.

SAT II is a 3-part test more closely tied to subjects (10) studied in US high schools. SAT II is not a mandatory qualification for admission nor does it guarantee scholarships. As the tests donít conform to any specific textbooks, grading system or methods of instruction, they help colleges assess students from different educational backgrounds. They also serve as a yardstick of how well you are prepared for the specific programmes to which you seek admission.

You can choose as many papers as you like and can take up to three tests a day on designated days for which you must register in advance. However, you canít take SAT I and SAT II on the same day.

Papers like writing, literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are multiple-choice tests (60 min). The number of questions may vary from 50 (math IIC/IC) to 95 (world history). The language papers offer an option of taking a listening test (20 min) in addition to the regular exam. The total score is reported on a 200-800 scale.

The SATs are administered in India by USEFI. While SAT I costs $54, SAT II costs $ 43 plus additional test fees ($ 11 for writing test and $ 6 for other subjects).

For further details, contact your nearest USEFI office or check out the official SAT website:

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to:

Editor, Career Hotline,
The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at [email protected]