Untangling the Thread

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“Should I pursue a doctorate?” and other Topics Members Discuss on NASW’s Online Forums

When it comes to questions like “Should I pursue a doctorate?” getting an answer from someone who has been there is often more helpful than any online research. But in our field, that can be challenging. Many social workers are the only ones in their roles at their jobs. That can make it difficult to find a mentor or connect with someone with more experience for career advice. Fortunately, NASW members can find a community of experienced practitioners where they can ask their questions and find insightful guidance.

Walter Saunders, a social worker in Nevada and Secretary of the NASW-NV Chapter, is one such insightful professional, who often responds to questions on MyNASW, the NASW members-only online discussion forums. A former drug and alcohol counselor, Saunders earned his BSW in 2018, his MSW in 2020 and is currently working on his PhD.

The MyNASW discussion forum includes tens of thousands of members logged in, and more than 1,000 discussion posts and replies each month.

“The NASW online community has always been relatively active—a segment of us is more active in posts than other members,” Saunders said of the NASW Forums. “We discuss diverse topics—sometimes heated, most times very supportive—that is social work advocacy in action.”

In his experience, Saunders says topics can vary widely and cover the breadth of social workers’ interests. Some examples of recent discussion topics include:

  • How to establish a private practice
  • Pay parity to that of psychologists through insurance panels
  • Desire for an interstate compact that allows a social worker’s license to be recognized when they move to a new state
  • Whether NASW will work with states to license DSW/PhD social workers now that the CSWE is working towards accreditation of these programs much like the APA does in psychology
  • Whether the doctorate in social work is worth it (Online students looking for field practice sites and ways to document their hours)
  • How social workers can have more influence in federal decision-making
  • Research project help
  • Information about specialty certification
  • Ethical discussions

Saunders believes that no matter how busy they may be, seasoned social workers need to make the time to respond to questions on the forums.

“I think it’s what we as social workers are called to do,” he explained. “We are called to research and grow the body of knowledge through contribution. Also, as clinicians, we find clinical decision-making tools very helpful. This is just a small way I can give back to future social workers, LCSWs, and scholars.”

Navigating MSW and doctoral programs is something Saunders is very passionate about, so he comments often when these discussion topics come up.

“I have a fair amount of history in taking cautious and well-researched steps in navigating social work education,” he said. “All school programs are not created equally. Some are not CSWE-accredited and that can mean disaster should the student desire licensure. And these schools often won’t tell their students.”

Saunders continued, “Even CSWE-accredited schools come in many flavors: advanced generalist, clinical, and hybrid. I feel obligated to help future students figure out which path works for them by explaining these nuances.”

Saunders would urge students and established social workers to get involved in online discussions. It helps them learn, grow and stay up to date on the knowledge of the field.

“Our field is changing daily. If I haven’t heard about it, surely another social worker has and will post it. This helps us to keep current on many topics that have importance to our profession,” said Saunders.

Learn how all social workers can connect with NASW. And become a member today to take full advantage of NASW’s membership and networking opportunities like the MyNASW online discussion forums.

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