How to become a Social Worker
A social worker is a professional who assists people with everyday life issues and helps to solve personal and family problems. Social workers often specialize in working with a particular population or handling certain types of situations. The different types of social work specialists include:
- Child, family, and school social workers: These social workers attempt to maximize the well being of families. They may find themselves helping children succeed in school, assisting single parents, arranging adoptions, and helping find foster homes for children in need. Some specialize in work with senior citizens.
- Medical and public health social workers: These social workers focus on providing psychological support to people with illnesses. They also advise the patient’s families and caregivers in making arrangements for the patient. Most find work in hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, or local governments.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers: These social workers help individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems. This might involve directing therapy sessions, crisis intervention, and social rehabilitation. They are also known as clinical social workers and often work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, individual and family services agencies, or local governments.
- Administrators, policy makers and planners: These social workers work on developing and implementing special programs to address common social work issues. These issues may include child abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, and violence. They are also responsible for conducting research, helping raise funds, or writing grants to support these programs.
Social Worker Education Requirements
Most social worker positions require the applicant to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, human services, or criminal justice. A master’s degree is required for most positions in health settings or clinical work. Social work teaching positions often require a PhD. Licensure, certification, or registration requirements vary between states.
Job Outlook for Social Workers
According the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for social workers is expected grow through 2016. Social work job opportunities should be plentiful for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas in particular.
This may be due to:
- Rise in the elderly population
- Rising student enrollment in schools
- Hospitals limiting the length of time a patient is allowed to stay
- Growing need of public welfare, family services, and child protective services
Social workers can expect median annual earnings of around $43,580. Social work positions that require a higher degree of education have a higher earning potential.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition