About different careers as social worker – A study about a central aspect of a collective professionalization project within the Swedish welfare state.

Project: Dissertation

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Work


  • Professions, Social worker, Career, Professionalization, Sociology of professions


Social workers as professionals and their careers are shaped in time bounded contexts. Time and space are, as shown by Durkheim through the division of labour and Weber through bureaucratization, central aspects of both profession and career as concepts. From a general Swedish work life perspective, the work force has in recent years shown an increasing individualization on a competitive labour market. Work life is more heterogeneous with differences between sectors, workplaces and individuals, which also apply to social workers. Differentiation and stratification provides reasons for mobility within the social work-profession, but ‘socionom’-careers has in some matters been depicted as a problem in the public debate. Is the ‘socionom’-profession located in a field of tensions in which professionals' views on their own careers collide with ideologies that affect the profession or the human service organizations in which professional practice is performed?
A borrowed definition of ‘career’ in a work life context gives the following meaning: “the evolving sequence of a person´s work experiences over time”. Careers of social workers are central aspects of social work as a collective professionalization project in the Swedish welfare state. By linking the institution to individuals through the lens provided by careers it is possible to illuminate the role that individuals play in institutional processes and how institutional properties and processes shape individual actions. By doing so, career is in this study not simply seen as the victim of structural forces but also as a driving force within the profession.
The aim of this research project is to describe and explain ‘socionomers’ career patterns on the basis of those career-related sequences that entering in current work have meant by the time of the study in 2014. The study focuses on ‘socionomer’ who holds a degree from Swedish universities in three different periods of the education´s development, and have passed the early professional life, are in mid-career or in the end of the career and professional life. Which factors affect the careers among social workers at the individual level, the inter-individual level and the organizational level and how do these three levels interact in social workers careers? By studying a sequence of professional careers, career as well as profession is viewed as both property and process.
A questionnaire was sent to 2 462 social workers who graduated in 1987, 1997 and 2007 at respectively 4, 4 and 8 universities in Sweden. The questionnaire was answered by 1 416 persons (response rate of 58 per cent). When the great proliferation of social workers' job titles and the profession's dependence upon organizations for professional practice are considered, and related to the profession's lack of monopoly on job titles and jurisdiction, interesting questions emerge: Do social workers make careers at all as social workers? How can discretion and autonomy be seen as dimensions of social workers careers?
Short titleAbout different careers as social worker.
Effective start/end date2012/08/01 → …