Leave job for lower paying job...does not compute
My brother and his wife live in the Mission District. They ended up there because she got a scholarship to get a masters in social work at Berkeley. She has her undergrad from University of Wisconsin and they had previously been living in Seattle, where my brother worked for Boeing.
She loves her job and finds it very rewarding but I think it would be pretty tough for them without my brother supporting them. They live in a small, not too great apartment in the Mission, but that's all they can afford. The thing that really drove her to pursuing a masters degree is that she had an extremely hard time finding work with only a BA. I think she was only able to find periodic or part-time work in Seattle, so she mostly worked as a cashier at Trader Joe's.
As part of her free ride at Berkeley, she had to work for the State of California for two years, which she did and now she's re-upped with them. I believe she works in Oakland. But that doesn't mean they pay her more than a pittance to do it. For a dual-income family with no children, her and my brother don't seem to be swimming in money.
My point is know what you're getting into before diving into it. Are you prepared to take on a great deal of debt for schooling? Are you prepared to possibly have to earn an advanced degree just to find consistent employment? Also, while your current job may not be rewarding, is trading that stress for the stress of money struggles a good idea?
Based on everything I read about the labor market, I would absolutely not walk away from good-paying work unless I were financially set. If you walk away and then want to go back after a year, you might find that re-entering your old field is difficult.
Financially speaking, what you says makes sense.
Oakland is hell in many areas and the Mission District at times is just as bad if not worse. Northern California is expensive and that's why the people who live in low key middle class looking neighborhoods are all doctors, bankers, high tech types, and entrepreneurs as it takes that much money. Social work is tough in that, like MDs, you have to usually have to have 6 years of college with MA, MS, or MSW, then another 3 years of internship before you are licensed. That license usually gets you a middle class job that pays like a plumber, mechanic, deputy DA, small shopkeeper income, or full time teacher salary. With the reduction of income of that 3 years as an intern and typically 6 years as a student (sometimes with student loans), there's a mountain of debt that can take a whole life to pay off. It's a sacrifice many are willing to put up with and a field where there are plenty of social workers glad to take your place if you don't want to help.
In the 2010s, in the height of the recession, there's a record number of social workers and it ties in with the do-gooder ethic that is currently popular with society as a whole. The whole helping hand thing is a pendulum that swings in every generation or so. It's not that it only happens in recessions or good economic times but is a thing that seems to skip generations. One generation is out there picketing, protesting, and being socially progressive while their kids get the good white collar job and are financially responsible and often create new jobs. Their kids may tend to become the social progressives again followed by another that is more traditionally work and money oriented. An interesting thing I heard is you can even get the pulse of society by watching the Miss America Pageant where most will say, "I want to feed starving children in Africa" or alternately in a different time, "I want to start my own big company".
Any social work job, anywhere in the area, just cannot pay enough to have one live in the city, even the Mission District. From the point of view of a social worker, heck, at least living in San Francisco proper is a success story while you do your calling so it's all perspective. There are people who go to Stanford but end up doing good in third world countries or devoting their life to helping those less fortunate just in the Bay Area. No, they probably won't get rich, ever buy a home or new car, but they are a part of the safety net that makes the ghetto that much less dangerous or deadly. Imagine if they weren't here but many don't recognize their need so let's look at an equal need like cops. Imagine, let's say, if the eight dollar an hour cops in many dilapidated urban areas weren't there either like New Orleans or Kansas City. Those cops are certainly not in it for the money.
There are a lot of people (musicians on Jemsite) here who would probably just love to live in a dive in dangerous Hollywood but be in the thick of the music business, even sell a gold record and tour the world, yet still be unable to ever buy a house RATHER THAN having stayed in the burbs or non-musical large city with a cushy job as an insurance salesperson, diner owner, or young attorney. I have a friend who spent his youth touring with the biggest bands around as openers and co-headliners (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Poison, Testament, etc) and selling quite a few records himself, getting to tour Europe, and living every young person's rock and roll fantasy dream. His more practical friends, who were no less talented than him, went to college or got a trade and settled down a lot earlier but would never have the rich experience he had. Now that he's older and has his own business and plays music for fun, I don't think he would trade the decade of living the industry for a head start at a responsible life that would make the parents happy.
Some of us, me included, were the ones who took music a little further than a hobby, and missed out on an early start to a career. Music is a beech that demands 110% percent to even make modest inroads (and same can be said for effective social work) so making money is usually not in the cards. It's a life calling that can last a lifetime, thus usually making you a starving artist/musician, or just five or ten years (where the money is just as elusive).
At the end of the day, it won't be whether you fully paid off your house, student loans, or credit cards that is the issue, but if you lived life with a purpose. If your purpose was to buy a house, get married, and have a rack of kids who get the best clothes, toys, and education then that's a worthy goal in its own right. If your goal is to help those less fortunate than you, and probably taking a job that doesn't compensate you fairly for your headaches in training, heartache, and long hours, then you probably still couldn't imagine doing anything else because that helping spirit was in your soul. And if you are musical and can't imagine doing anything else because it's not only a thing for self expression but as a way of sharing, then that's good, too. Imagine a world without music, or even a record store or iTunes. Some are called to make money as it's needed for all purposes, some are called to help thy brother, and some are called to make music. We are all parts of a body that keeps society going and any lack/shortage in any area would be felt by all in a negative way.
The best thing about the human race is that we all don't want to be the same thing for a living. We always need diversity and change to literally ensure the survival of the human race.