Become a Social Worker

If you have a desire to help people in their lives whether they are suffering with an illness, trying to cope with a new disability, or have family or unemployment issues, you should learn how to become a social worker.

Social workers work in hospitals and other social assistance industries and provide counseling and advice for patients, with 31 percent working for the government. You will work with substance abuse cases, counsel child and spousal abuse victims, help with relationship problems, assist with inadequate housing issues, and more. Whilst counseling people, a social worker will also work to improve certain conditions and advocate changes, they will conduct research and will also become involved in planning and policy making.

If you hold the relevant state license, then you will be known as a licensed clinical social worker. This license comes at the end of your studies. These studies are for a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) which is the minimal requirement for an entry level position, like a mental health assistant, a caseworker, a residential counselor, or a group home worker. You can however also get an entry level position with a major in psychology or sociology. Many jobs do require a bachelor degree, but there are plenty nowadays that do require an advanced degree. A master’s degree in social work (MSW) will allow you to work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities and schools, and with a doctoral degree in social work (DSW or Ph.D), you will be able to get supervisory, teaching, or administrative job.

Social workers can work in numerous different areas including administrative, policy making, planning, where you can help with fundraising issues and organize groups and policies. You will get the following types of social workers:

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

You will work mainly with children and families to provide them with assistance and guidance to improve their psychological and social functioning. You will need to be good at organizing and might need to find day care for a child whose parents both work, arrange adoptions, or even find foster homes for abandoned or abused children. Usually within this type of social work, you can specialize in child protective services, homelessness, adoption, domestic violence, and such.

This type of social worker also works at schools as a guidance counselor and is the vital link between children and their teacher, as well as families and the school as a whole. You will have to work with students, parents, teachers, and other school officials to deal with any emotional issues or stresses that they might be faced with including teen pregnancy, children with disabilities, and substance abuse. Aside from one-on-one sessions, social workers might also hold workshops and class discussions to bring topics out into the open and help people cope with those particular issues.

Another form of social worker is the child welfare office or family services social worker. This person will travel to families’ homes to check how stable it is and how fit the parents are to be looking after children. Some of these positions are based at individual or family services agencies, and others are based at local governments or schools.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

This kind of social worker must be prepared to deal with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental illness on a daily basis. The services that a social worker in this sphere must offer are support, outreach programs, interventions, rehabilitation socially, and life skills needed to reenter society again. The job is to also provide that assistance to family members of the patient who might need some support and encouragement, as seeing their loved one go though such a painful and emotional time, might cause them to feel helpless and stressed out. You can choose to work in outpatient facilities or in inpatient ones.

If you want to help those who work in mental health facilities or drug abuse centers, you will be known as an occupational social worker. This is very important, because dealing with mental illness and drug addictions all day long can take its toll and some support is always a good thing to relive the pressures of the job.

Medical and Public Health Social Workers

When people get bad news regarding their health and need someone to talk to, this is where you come in as a medical and public health social worker. You are there to offer your compassion and support for those people who are suffering a terrible ordeal. You are also there to provide them and their families with various coping mechanisms. Diseases and illnesses that you might be dealing with include HIV and AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more. Aside from counseling, your job is to offer advice for caregivers and patients about what they need when they are discharged from the hospital and can help to organize home nursing services, meals-on-wheels, and the like. This kind of social workers also evaluates patients who are on the organ transplant list.

As a social worker you can specialize in certain areas of the medical and public health sector, such as working with senior citizens and their families. You will provide help with organizing transport, home care, housing, and offer support groups for the adult children of aging parents. These types of social workers are called gerontological social workers. You can work for local governments, hospitals, nursing homes, family service agencies and clinics.

So, how do you become a social worker? Well, you should first get your degree. For a bachelor’s degree, you will need to spend 400 hours your course getting field experience, to get accepted into an accredited program. The coursework covered includes These programs include courses in social work values and ethics, dealing with a culturally diverse clientele and at-risk populations, promotion of social and economic justice, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, social research methods, and field education.

For a master’s degree you are expected to have a minimum of 900 hours supervised field experience. This degree is usually 2 years, but you can also study part time which will take about 4 years. To get your master’s you are not required to have a bachelor’s degree in social work, but you can have any of the following:

  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Political science

Once you have graduated, you will be expected to take your licensing exam after a certain number of hours in the field have been reached. This differs in all states. As a social worker you will find that job prospects are going to increase between 12 and 22 percent over the next 7 years depending on the type of social work you are involved in. With so many options as a social worker, and having the ability to help people, this is one of the most popular career choices.

Social Worker Quick Facts

Job Title: Social Worker
Office: In an office or hall for group work, as well as at clients’ homes or workplaces.
Description: A social worker is basically a counselor and helps people with various social and psychological issues that they are facing.
Certifications/Education: Aside from your bachelor’s or master’s degree, a course in language is helpful, and you must get your license to practice.
Necessary Skills: You must emotionally mature to be a social worker, compassionate, objective and responsible. You must be able to work independently, in groups, and maintain good relationships with your client and co workers.
Potential Employers: Hospitals, schools, family services agencies, clinics, and more
Pay: The pay for social workers varies according to the type of social worker.
Child, family, and school social workers earn a median annual salary of $40,000, broken down into the following industries:

Elementary and secondary schools – $53,860
Local government – $46,650
State government – $39,600
Individual and family services – $34,450
Other residential care facilities – $34,270

Medical and public health social workers earn a median annual salary of $46,900, broken down into the following industries:

General medical and surgical hospitals – $51,470
Home health care services – $46,930
Local government – $44,140
Nursing care facilities – $41,080
Individual and family services – $38,370

Mental health and substance abuse social workers earn a median annual salary of $37,500, broken down into the following industries:

Outpatient care centers – $36,660
Individual and family services – $35,900
Residential mental retardation, mental health and substance abuse facilities – $33,950

Helpful Links:
National Association of Social Workers
Association of Social Work Boards
Social Work Examination Services
Clinical Social Work Association
National Association of Black Social Workers

Sign up for our newsletter!