How to become: Social Researcher?

We are starting with a new series in which we shall be conducting interviews with men and women taking up various professions, jobs and trades. We shall be taking a peek into their everyday professional lives so it can help you take up a wise decision when deciding your career..

India is the fastest developing economy in the world, while it grows at tremendous rates, it is need of the day to structure development so that its benefits trickle down to the lowest strata. To do this job we need extensive research and understanding of society as whole, various development models and people who understand them. a.k.a Social Researchers.

Below is the interview of Ms. Surbhi Bharti, who is a professional Social Researcher.

Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? Describe what your job is, what it is about and how long you’ve been at it, etc.)?

Hello! I am Surbhi. I am professional social worker (more of a social researcher). I did my graduation, post-grad and M.Phil in social work from Delhi School of Social Work, Delhi University. I have an interesting diverse educational background. In graduation I chose to study Mass Communication and Mass Media and later major shifting into social work ever since then found myself in the field of social work. Since my high school I wanted to pursue mass media and communication as interested in learning editing techniques and study radio, newspaper and T.V. and this paved me way into media line.

Why did you want to become a social researcher? When did you know it was what you wanted to do and how did you find your way into this line of work?

However, taking up this line wasn’t easy for me. I come from a family with strict science (engineering specifically) background and I had to put my foot down to take this up. I have been happy with the choices that I’ve made so far and with whatever I am doing helps me grow and learn every day.

It was during my final year of graduation when I was involved into our assignment of documentary making (conceptualizing and editing) that I found my niche in social work. I realized I have a strong inclination in learning about socio-economic, development issues. Many have asked me how you found link between mass media and social work; well for me, it just clicked. My graduation degree enabled me to acknowledge and address social issues (through reporting, radio social messages and documentary making) and taught me ways to reach out to masses. Since then I incorporate my mass media learning in addressing social-economic-political issues and reaching out to masses (mobilizing crowd, crowd funding, street plays, social advertisements, brochures, posters etc.). So if you feel you have a desire to be a part of the change that you want to see, then social work profession is the thing for you. But to be clear for a layman it is widely understood nothing more than a philanthropy or charity. Where as in our ‘profession’ (yes, it is a profession) it is nothing of that sorts. Social work principles thrive on empowerment, justice, equality, welfare and confidentiality.  The profession teaches you of various models, theories, methods and techniques that enables the lesser privileged to get empowered and not dependent (unlike charity). So we are like catalyzing agent trying to make society a little less unequal and unfair.

For me Masters in Social Work was not enough, I wanted to learn more than just bringing changes at grassroots level. Basically, wanted to get into social research and thus took M.Phil in Social Work.

After submitting my thesis, I started looking for employment opportunities and found one where I am involved in policy advocacy. Currently, I am engaged with health sector for bringing changes in the health policies ( and parallel projects to implement WHO’s ‘best buys’ with various stakeholders);we work on writing papers, factsheet,  conducting high level meetings (my seniors of course) and qualitative research.

Tell us about how a normal workday of yours would look like?

Usually my days regular 9:30 am to 5:30 pm unless I am traveling for meetings, case studies, seminars or program monitoring and evaluation. There are also few days when we take work home (occasionally during proposal submission days and project writing) .

What’s the best way to prepare to become a social researcher? What courses should you do and what kinds of experiences and skills should you seek?

 It is a good news, you can pursue BSW (Bachelors in Social work) and MSW (Masters in Social work with any education background. One has to keep themselves updated with the minimum cut-off else there are no limitations. But one has to be clear why they want to pursue it.

P.S Be aware of the social economic and political events happening across the world. Study various social movements and global social activists.

What kinds of employment opportunities are there for social researchers? Who are your employers — universities, private companies, government?

Well, a lot depends upon your preference and your level of qualifications. One have options for having their own NGO, working in NGOs, Government projects, Government vacancies for labour welfare, teaching, UN projects and programs and Corporates in human resources and corporate social responsibility.

Where can one see themselves after 10 years in the job?

It all depends on one’s work profile.

What is the best part of your job?

Being able to have an opportunity to work for making a change.

This profession will make you explore about yourself. Clear your theoretical understanding of things around you , gives your different perspective of issues and have clear ideologies and theories.

What is the worst part of your job?

Sometime your get affected by the issues around you. Especially when going on case studies (feeling of helplessness). However it is rare.

What is the work/family/life balance like for you?

It is fine as of now. I mean at the end of the day you have keep yourself professional and not carry baggage of certain things home. And then that is how you balance. Find a middle path.

What would you say to all those aspiring to enter the profession?

It is an out of the box profession but it is worth doing it. The amount of exposure one gets is worthy and then also you get fine placements ( average Rupees 5 lacs to 8 lacs p.a )!

Good luck!

 Let us know your views, suggestions and opinions in the comments below.

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