How to Become a Social Worker

How to Become a Social Worker

Social services are vital for many people who face personal, family, or health issues that negatively impact their daily lives. People who choose careers in social work are dedicated to helping people who find themselves in less than ideal circumstances to improve their quality of life.

What does a social worker do?

There are several different areas of specialization for social workers. Child, family, and school social workers are primarily responsible for tasks that include locating foster homes for children who have been abused or neglected, providing assistance for single parents or troubled youths, and helping senior citizens who are in need of housing, long-term care, and other support by coordinating services.

Medical and public health social workers arrange for the appropriate services to be provided to people with terminal illnesses, chronic illnesses, or home health-care needs. Their responsibilities can include counseling their clients, offering advice to caregivers, and coordinating home-based services for recently discharged patients.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers provide their clients with assistance in the forms of crisis intervention, teaching life skills, individual or group counseling, and social rehabilitation. They work to ensure that those who are affected by mental illness or addiction are able to safely function within a community.

The various work environments for social workers include hospitals, residential treatment facilities, family service agencies, or government agencies. They often travel locally within a community to visit service providers or clients. Click here to find out how to become a social worker.

What kind of training does a social worker need?

Entry-level social services jobs require a bachelor degree, including 400 hours of supervised field instruction, and state licensure. Positions at this level include small local agencies. A master degree, including 900 hours of supervised field work, is required for most jobs in social services. A master degree in social work is appropriate for careers in clinics, health agencies, and the public or private sector. Doctorate degrees in social work (DSW, Ph.D.) are offered for those who wish to concentrate on research. Click here to get a list of online degrees in social services.

To become a licensed social worker, one needs to complete at least 2 years (3,000 hours) of supervised experience in a clinical setting. Social workers in private practice usually require credentials from the National Association of Social Workers.

What are the prospects for a career as a social worker?

Prospects for social services careers are very good, as demand in this field is expected to increase at a much faster than average rate in the near future. In 2006, a total of 595,000 people were employed as social workers, and this number is expected to increase to 727,000 by 2016 — an increase of 22%. Career prospects are particularly favorable for those who work with senior citizens, in home-based health care and in rural communities. (1) Click here to see if a social worker job is right for you.

How much do social workers make?

Social worker salary varies depending on specialization. Those employed in the medical and public health sector earn an average of $53,000 a year. Salaries for social workers at the higher end may exceed $61,500. (2)

A career in social work is ideal for people who enjoy working for those who need help and have a strong sense of responsibility, sensitivity, and objectivity in regard to the challenges faced by their clients. Click here for a list of programs to get your social services degree online.

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