Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Sciences

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Over the past several decades, there has been much debate over the role of social workers in the mental health field. Factors related to career motivation and practice preferences has had limited research and many have attributed materialistic and self-seeking motives as the reason for a social work career choice. Research has shown that there may be a divergence or ‘mission drift’ from traditional social work values and mission of social justice and social change at the systems level. Identifying factors related to career motivation and practice preferences is important in an ever-evolving field such as social work. This study examined the relationship of socioeconomic variables and career motivation. In particular, race, age, gender, and family income and the preference to work within certain areas of social work and with particular client populations. The study also examined the relationship of socioeconomic variables and practice preferences. Lastly, this study examined the relationship of MSW education on practice preferences. A modified digital Social Work Career Influence Questionnaire was utilized in a national survey of 399 MSW students. Results found that the social change and social justice mission of the profession had the highest influence on motivation to enter social work, but practice preferences were focused on direct practice and mental health services. Significant relationships between age, race, and family income were found relating to career motivation and aspirations. Challenges relative to conceptualization of the terms direct/clinical practice, social justice and social change and implications for future MSW course development and CSWE education policy accreditation standards are discussed.

Date

7-25-2022

Committee Chair

Allen, Priscilla

Available for download on Saturday, July 12, 2025

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