Social Work Careers

 

What Is A Social Worker?

A Social Worker career is a rewarding profession that is closely related to psychology. Social Workers help people manage social, economic, emotional, and behavioral problems. Social Workers help individuals and groups overcome difficulties in their daily lives.  They provide counseling services that can lead to improvement in quality of life. They listen and provide insight, helping clients adjust to significant life changes, such as divorce, job loss, death, illness, addiction, and poverty.

What Is a Social Worker Responsible For?

Social Workers help clients achieve understanding of their circumstances and provide guidance. A huge part of a Social Worker’s responsibility is to connect clients with available human resources and organizations to support them during difficult times. Social Workers counsel individuals and families going through crisis; often helping clients deal with poverty, loss, and illness. They ensure the most vulnerable in society are safeguarded from harm.

Social Workers can expect to do some or all the following while working:

  • Identify individuals who need help
  • Assess an individual’s situation and review their needs, strengths, and support systems
  • Help clients manage challenges in their lives
  • Create a plan to improve a client’s situation
  • Research and provide information on community resources, such as food stamps, child care, assisted living, and health-care services
  • Work with government agencies to help clients apply for available benefits such as Medicare and Medicaid
  • Respond to crisis situations, including domestic violence and child abuse
  • Visit schools to assess academic concerns
  • Arrange home visits to evaluate a client’s health, home environment, and family interaction
  • Conduct interviews and follow-ups with clients to ensure the plan for improvement is effective
  • Maintain accurate reports and records
  • Prepare cases for legal action
  • Provide witness services and evidence in court cases

 

Where Does a Social Worker Work?

Social Workers work with people in a variety of environments. They may work in academia, research, human services, chemical dependency, or mental-health care settings. Some Social Work Jobs exclusively counsel children while others may focus on people with disabilities. Clinical Social Workers perform their jobs in hospitals and mental-health care settings. Administrative Social Workers make policy changes and improvements to help ensure total system well-being by planning for the future.

What Other Career Options Are Available to a Social Worker?

Social Workers make a difference in their clients’ lives. Compassion and dedication are key character traits in this career choice. There are a variety of positions across many fields of industry for those interested in becoming a Social Worker.

Here are just a few of the career options available to those interested in the field:

Medical and Public Health

In the medical field, Social Workers are in high demand. Medical and public health Social Workers provide care to patients in facilities. These may work in hospitals, emergency rooms, hospices, or rehabilitation centers. Some prefer providing support in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or home-health agencies.  A Social Worker in this field counsel’s patients and ensures their needs are taken care of. They act as a liaison between patients, families, and caregivers; providing information and assisting with decision-making and completion of associated paperwork. 

Mental Health

People who live with mental health issues often struggle to function normally in their daily lives. A mental health Social Worker provides support and resources to those affected by these issues. They typically work very closely with a team of other mental-health professionals to support individuals and their family members. Mental health Social Workers help clients find employment, apply for economic assistance, and sometimes act as a legal representative in situations of abuse or discrimination. A mental health Social Worker monitors clients’ progress and evaluates treatment plans for effectiveness. If they find the plan is not effective, they will suggest changes to treatment plans, assist with finding new providers or locate facilities to better serve the client. 

Substance Abuse

Social Workers who specialize in addiction, work with clients in a variety of industries. Employment opportunities are plentiful and include rehabilitation centers, private practices, prisons, non-profit organizations, and juvenile detentions facilities. Clients struggling with addiction often experience dramatic mood swings, anger issues, and relapses. A compassionate, patient, and dedicated counselor can often make a difference between recovery or relapse. Part of the rehab process is counseling the client and their family members, as well as identifying treatment options best suited for the client. Many Substance Abuse counselors manage outreach programs to help educate the public about the dangers of addiction. 

School Counselor

Today’s school counselors help students with academic achievement, personal and social development, and career development. They spend their time in service to students, guiding them through the school curriculum and providing counseling as needed. A school counselor is focused on ensuring individual success. Students can be from very strong families, dealing with abuse or they can be homeless. They may be academic high-achievers, or may struggle with basic scholastic skills. Counselors provide support and strategies to help students navigate their academic environment and offer resources to assist with their future education and/or career opportunities. 

Child Welfare

Social Workers in child welfare are responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect and identifying and locating children in poor living conditions. They protect children from harm and advocate for children who may otherwise have no voice. Child  Welfare Social Workers interview guardians, teachers, and other professionals to ensure the child remains healthy and nourished, and that necessities of life are met. When there are deficiencies in the home environment, the Social Worker liaisons with public and private agencies and facilitates resources as needed. They document all conditions, services, family interactions, and other social circumstances, using that information to develop a plan to keep the child safe and ensure their physical, emotional, and social needs are met. Child welfare counselors assist in legal matters, including preparing documentation of abuse for court issues and testifying in child neglect, endangerment, and abuse cases. 

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical Social Workers diagnose and treat mental and behavioral disorders. They also diagnose and manage emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression. A clinical Social Worker provides may conduct individual, group, couple, or family therapy sessions. The clinician works with clients to develop strategies and plans to improve behavior and cope with emotional situations. Clinical Social Workers collaborate with physicians and other health-care professionals to identify resources and programs that will benefit a patient’s condition and improve their quality of life. Some clinical Social Workers opt to be in private practice or facilities with other health-care providers

 

What Degree is Required to Become a Social Worker? What Do They Study?

A Bachelor of Social Work is the minimum degree required to start a career as a Social Worker. This degree prepares students for direct-service positions, such as a caseworker or mental-health assistant. Coursework covers social-work methods, social welfare policy, child and elderly welfare, or applied research. Part of obtaining the degree includes an internship where students can develop practical skills: understanding group dynamics, interviewing, problem-solving, and decision-making. Strong communication skills are necessary to be a successful Social Worker, and internships and supervised fieldwork programs strengthen communication skills. 

A Master’s Degree in Social Work opens the door to many exciting opportunities. Students interested in administering programs and shaping policy should consider a Master’s Degree. A Social Worker with a Master’s Degree is qualified to work in public schools, private practice, and clinical settings. Many program director roles and supervisory positions require a Master’s Degree in Social Work. 

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, teaches students about the theoretical nature of social work and engages the student in much research. Prospective scholars, educators, and researchers are typically advised to pursue a PhD. A Doctor of Social Work, or DSW, is more practice-focused. This degree is generally sought by clinicians.

 

How Much Money Does a Social Worker Earn?

Social Workers earn an average of $47,000 per year, however this salary varies widely by location, degree, experience, and position. Recent figures indicate that medical Social Workers earn approximately $59,000 and Licensed Clinical Social Workers earn around $66,000 annually. Medical Social Workers in home care earn $55,000 on average and in $49,000 in nursing home settings. Social Worker managers can earn over $85,000.