Maria’s inspiring career change from retail to social work

By Barry de Silva
Maria Won in blue suit looking at camera
They say it is never too late to switch careers and follow your passions. ACAP graduate, Maria Won epitomises this notion. Having worked in retail at Sydney Airport for over 25 years and overcome cancer, she graduated top of her class with a Bachelor of Social Work, and is committed to a future supporting and empowering women.

Maria has called Sydney home for almost 40 years, having come over from the Philippines in 1985. With a foundation of values rooted in her love and support of her family, she has always felt empathy for those around her.  

“My family has always been my biggest source of inspiration and motivation. We all value relationships and connections and that’s what I’ve applied while training to be a social worker – building relationships.”

Before studying at ACAP, Maria honed her interpersonal skills through her work in the bustling environment of Sydney Airport’s retail sector.

“Selling fragrances taught me the importance of effective communication and the value of connecting with people from all walks of life,” Maria explained. “I always felt like female colleagues at work would confide in me, and they’d often come back and tell me how they’d improved their lives after our chats.”
After two decades at Sydney Airport and overcoming cancer, Maria decided she wanted to effect meaningful change in society, so she explored the idea of studying social work for a new career.

“After going to ACAP’s Info Night I found that social work was about being in tune with what’s happening in the world and the ecological reasons as to why people are having problems, which I liked the sound of,” Maria said. “I told my family I didn’t want to be working at the airport when I was 60 – it can be exhausting.”

ACAP’s Bachelor of Social Work is a four-year degree that is professionally accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers and focuses on areas that include psychology of health and wellness; mental health; cultural diversity; ageing and disability social work; and interpersonal, family and structural violence.

“I’ve now finished my degree, so the future is looking bright! I can’t thank the lecturers at ACAP enough, they were so knowledgeable and supportive, I couldn’t have come first in my class without them.”

As Maria embarks on the next chapter of her career as a social worker, she is eager and excited about the prospect of using her skills and knowledge to empower and advocate for women in need.

“I am deeply passionate about supporting women who are facing challenges in their lives. As a social worker, I am committed to providing them with the resources, support, and encouragement they need to thrive.”

ACAP Dean, Professor Christopher Klopper commented on the growth of the social work sector, and the learning opportunities available at ACAP to mature-aged professionals who wish to switch careers.

“Demand for social workers in Australia is high and ranks as one of the top growth industries in Australia, with a 23.2 per cent growth rate until 2026,” Professor Klopper said. “ACAP offers a range of full and part-time study options to suit professionals at different periods of their lives. The transferable skills and life experiences mature-aged students bring to their studies has a profound impact on their new careers upon graduation.”

ACAP offers accredited courses online, on-campus and through hybrid delivery.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Social Work and ACAP’s Degrees of Difference

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