Many people are drawn to a career as a community support worker (CSW) out of a desire to improve the lives of vulnerable individuals.
CSWs give at-risk people the tools and resources they need to overcome their challenges and rebuild their lives.
This role is about offering compassionate, practical support to those in need. And it can be very rewarding.
But of course, there are advantages and drawbacks to every job. You should have a full picture of what to expect before you commit to a career path.
Read on to discover the major pros and cons of becoming a CSW, and see if this role truly is your calling.
PRO: CSW TRAINING DOESN'T TAKE LONG
Unlike social workers, who must have a bachelor's or sometimes even a master's degree, community support workers do not have to spend years in university.
You can get started in this career with a college diploma. A CSW program can usually be completed in less than a year.
For example, the CSW diploma program at Herzing College is only 11 months long.
CON: Community support workers don't make high salaries
No one goes into the social services field for the money. CSW salaries can be on the low side, especially when you're just starting out.
The Government of Canada Job Bank says community support workers in Winnipeg make a median salary of about $36,000.
However, as you gain experience, your income can rise substantially. The top CSWs in Winnipeg earn around $62,000. So there is room for growth.
PRO: DIVERSE JOB POSSIBILITIES
The community services field offers a wide range of career opportunities.
As a CSW, you can focus on serving:
☑️ Immigrants and refugees
☑️ Homeless people
☑️ Children and youth
☑️ People with disabilities
☑️ Aboriginal people
☑️ Survivors of abuse
☑️ People struggling with mental health or addiction issues☑️ The LGBTQ community
You could work in group homes, shelters, schools, social services agencies, and many other settings.
Tip: If you start out in a large organization that serves multiple populations, you'll have an opportunity to try many different service areas to see what you enjoy most.
CON: DANGER OF BURNOUT
As a CSW, you will spend most of your time helping people in distress. That can take a toll on your emotional resources.
It's important to deal with the stress that comes from supporting those who are suffering.
Chika Modozie graduated from the CSW program at Herzing College Winnipeg and is now a police officer who focuses on community relations.
She says CSWs need to be resilient.
"You must process emotions and deal with stress in a healthy way.
Self-care is really important. My job is busy, I'm a mom...I don't have a lot of time! Self-care for me can be as simple as watching TV and just tuning out for an hour. But I also do kickboxing.
The bottom line is, if you're going to be a great resource for others, you must keep yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally strong."
PRO: BIG DEMAND FOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT WORKERS IN WINNIPEG
CSWs are in strong demand in Winnipeg.
The Job Bank gives this occupation 3 stars for career outlook—its highest possible rating.
And the Manitoba government expects more than 2,000 jobs for community services workers to become available throughout the province between 2019 and 2025. That represents an employment growth rate of 27%.
So you shouldn't have to look too far for job opportunities.
CON: YOU CAN'T ALWAYS HELP everyone
You will not be able to solve every problem. Sometimes a client's situation is just too overwhelming, or the necessary resources just aren't available.
And some people simply don't want to be helped.
It can be very difficult when you aren't able to do as much as you'd like. Chika says you have to be prepared for things to not turn out the way you hope.
"You must accept that you won't be able to help everyone. You can't take it personally, or you'll burn out."
PRO: COMMUNITY SUPPORT WORK IS NEVER BORING
A CSW's job duties are so wide-ranging that every day can be different.
Experienced social services professional Cindy Palmer puts it best:
"One day you could be helping with an assessment and referral—and the next day you're problem-solving how to obtain underwear for your client. It really is about meeting your client where they are at.
There is never a dull moment. Each day brings something new—a new challenge to overcome, a new problem that needs creative solutions. You get to meet so many different people from so many walks of life. And they all have a story to tell."
IS CSW A GOOD CAREER FOR YOU?
Think the pros of becoming a community support worker outweigh the cons? Your next step it to learn more about CSW training programs in your area.
Start by exploring the Community Support Worker diploma at Herzing College Winnipeg.
Training takes just 11 months and includes a 4-week internship at a local community organization.
Our CSW grads have landed roles with West Broadway Youth Services, Arcane Horizons, Turning Leaf Community Services, and other Winnipeg organizations.
Click below to get more details on the CSW program and chat live with an Admissions Advisor who can answer your questions. We're here to help!