• Becoming a social worker: Factors that predict socialization to the profession and differences between groups

      Miller, Shari; Harrington, Donna (2008)
      Though professional socialization is considered an essential aspect of social work education (Barretti, 2004a; Merdinger, 1982; Varley, 1963), there has been scant recent systematic inquiry in this area (Barretti). The existing literature does not provide conclusive information about the role of social work education in the professional socialization process (Weiss et al., 2004). This dissertation is grounded in an adapted theoretical model that synthesizes structural functionalist and symbolic interactionist descriptions of professional socialization and defines the process comprehensively. Data were collected from seven groups of undergraduate and graduate students, and graduate alumni representing key points along the social work education/practice trajectory. Surveys included measures derived from the social work literature, demographics, and exploratory questions. The survey was administered one time and was anonymous and confidential. The study contains four research objectives focused on adherence to the traditional mission of the profession, the degree to which the variables that comprise the professional socialization construct (commitment to social work values, idealistic social work attitude, and professional identity) are related, factors that predict socialization to the profession, and differences between groups.;Respondents are generally adherent to the traditional mission of social work and appear to be socialized to the profession. Findings indicate that the variables that comprise the professional socialization construct are separate facets of a larger whole, and that a number of factors are predictive of socialization with no discernable pattern across dependent variables. Differences emerged between groups across the set of dependent variables pointing to a pattern that suggests that the strongest differences lie at both ends of the education/practice continuum. Findings support the utility of the theoretical model for social work with additional refinement recommended. The study has implications for recruitment and retention of the social work workforce in this era of increasing need for social services. Implications for social work education and educational policy focus on the impacts of key socializing agents and venues including classroom and field experiences. Suggestions for future research include longitudinal studies, refinement of the survey instrument, replication with broader samples, comparing multiple schools of social work, and qualitative studies.