Working in a profession that helps others is an endlessly rewarding career path. For many, social work jobs offer the perfect opportunity to do so. Social work jobs exist across different specialties and settings.
Here, we will share everything you need to know about careers in this field, as well as what you will need to do to be prepared.
What is Social Work?
Social work is a field that incorporates an understanding of human development, social and cultural interactions, and human behavior. The field of social work is practice-based and geared towards positively impacting people, communities, and social change.
Social workers perform duties to support various outcomes, including:
- Civil rights
- Worker’s compensation
- Mental health
- Medical care
- Child abuse
- Neglect prevention
- Disability pay
- Unemployment benefits
What Does a Social Worker Do?
In short, social workers help people. There are many different specialties and avenues by which social workers engage and work with individuals and societies. No matter where they perform their work, their actions aid in improving the well-being of others.
Social workers are trained professionals with a robust educational background and experience in the field. They support clients who have disabilities, domestic conflict, substance abuse problems, poverty, and more.
Depending on where they work and what ailment they address, their interventions and therapies will differ.
Where Do Social Workers Work?
Social workers are employed by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private practices, schools, hospitals, medical care facilities, prisons, military barracks, and corporations.
A social worker figures out where they are going to work based on their specialization, more often than not.
For some social workers, they’ll perform their job duties on-site at a client’s home, in the field, or in an office setting.
Social Work Jobs
To better understand the settings in which social workers work, let’s take a look at the different kinds of social work disciplines and specializations that you can choose from.
Child and Family/School Social Worker
A child and family social worker is specialized in helping children and family members. They may work with children in foster care or school settings.
In school settings, they communicate between teachers, parents, and students to ensure that a student is receiving all the help he or she may need to do their best. They are also there to help students who are experiencing bullying or trying to overcome learning disabilities.
Social workers who have earned a master of social work or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) degree can perform psychotherapy. They offer support services and counseling to people who need assistance with mental health issues, abuse, and/or drug usage.
Medical Social Worker
Medical and public health social workers assist certain types of patients along their medical journeys. They make sure that those who are supposed to have access to Medicare and Medicaid can locate necessary services and have their billing needs taken care of.
They also work to coordinate healthcare and manage situations that call for in-home nursing or elderly care.
Child Welfare Worker
Child welfare social workers respond to cases of child abuse and/or neglect. They make sure that children are safe and remove them from toxic environments.
In the case that a family can work it out, a child welfare worker will coordinate and oversee reunification plans in conjunction with court orders and family desires.
Social Work Supervisor
Social work supervisors are typically licensed social workers with experience in the field. As such, they oversee other social workers in clinical, supportive, and administrative settings. They also provide training to social workers.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
The largest group of mental healthcare providers in America are licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). They are social workers who have obtained a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, completed clinical hours, and obtained licensure according to their respective state’s requirements and passed the exam.
With this designation, they can work in a variety of settings and have the ability to even start their own practice. LCSWs offer treatment to clients with emotional and mental issues.
Behavior analysts work with patients with mental, social, and learning disorders to help them cope and overcome struggles. They utilize techniques like positive reinforcement, task analysis, and shaping. They also collect data on human behavior to monitor the progress and growth of their patients.
The Money Talk (Salary and Job Growth)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median social work salary in 2020 was $51,760. That being said, the demand for social work jobs is extremely high, as the field is growing much faster than average at 13% (between 2019-2029).
As with most fields, the more education and experience you have, the higher you can expect your salary to be.
For example, a licensed clinical social worker can expect to earn more than an unlicensed social worker. When it comes to the various positions, the highest paying social work jobs are typically those in supervisory roles and social service administration.
How to Become a Social Worker
To enter any job setting as a social worker, the minimum degree requirement is a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in social work will provide students with an understanding of program organization, community resources, and case management. They’ll learn how to work with patients to deliver crisis response and design treatments.
In many states and places of employment, you’ll also need a master’s degree to practice as a social worker. A master’s degree will allow you to specialize in a certain area of expertise such as healthcare social work, child social work, etc. Master’s degrees offer courses that cover topics like: psychopathology, welfare policy, human behavior, and social work practice with family, to name a few.
Once you’ve graduated from a master’s degree, it may be necessary to take your state’s licensure exam and become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). As part of this process, you’ll be required to complete a certain number of hours of clinical experience to gain hands-on knowledge in the field. To learn more about licensure requirements in the state that you wish to practice, check out this resource.
Becoming a social worker demands time and dedication. Since the role is designed to help others, social work jobs are usually chosen by people with a calling to give back to individuals and overall communities.
With the array of job settings and directions, the field provides for an exciting career path that is constantly changing according to the needs of the people you serve.