What is Social Work?
At its core, social work is the helping profession. The major mission of social work is to enhance the well-being of all people, as well as meet the basic and complex needs of everyone in society. Social work is a bit different than the related professions of psychology and mental health counseling because the focus is on both the person and the environment. (Socialworkers.org).
If you want a career in social work, you will find work with meaning, action, satisfaction, and diversity. Below is more information about the social work profession, including how to become a social worker, job outlook and much more.
Social Work Overview
Social workers help the vulnerable among us by relieving their suffering, fighting for social justice, and improving their lives and communities. While most of us think of social workers when they imagine child welfare and poverty alleviation, they do that type of work but also a lot more.
Social workers work in all aspects of community life: at schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected offices, prisons, military, public health, government, and private companies. (Socialworkers.org).
Many social workers help clients who are facing job loss, a disability, or life-threatening disease. Others help people with social problems such as poverty, inadequate food or housing, unemployment, or substance abuse. Some help families that have serious domestic problems that involve spousal or child abused.
How Do Social Workers Help the Patient?
Below are the major focus areas of the modern social worker and how they help their patients.
- Administration and management: Administrators in social work are strong, proactive leaders in private and public agencies that offer social services to clients and community members.
- Advocacy and community organization: Social workers champion the rights of communities and individuals with the end goal of achieving social justice for all.
- Aging: Social workers connect older adults with social services that help them to live both with dignity and independently, which allows them to maximize their quality of life.
- Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs: These professionals help families and communities learn how to recover from substance abuse. They offer treatments that focus on clients as they relate to the environment, community systems, policies and cultural attitudes. They often work in case management, group and individual therapy, and family counseling.
- Child welfare: Social workers help children by helping their families and providing a safe, nurturing environment for all young people. If families cannot do this, social workers must step in to protect children from suffering harm. Social workers ensure that children who are abused or neglected are supported by social services.
- Developmental disabilities: Social workers help parents of children with special needs to understand all of their legal rights. They teach parents to advocate for their children, and to locate services that allow children to be as independent as they can.
- Healthcare: Social workers help people handle the personal and social factors that affect their health. Some work in direct service and offer healthcare services to individuals and families.
- Justice and corrections: Social workers in justice and corrections may work on a clinical basis with accused criminals, or may work in administration and management of social programs.
- School social work: They connect school, home, and community to assist children with emotional, educational and development issues.
How Can You Become a Social Worker?
Many entry-level social workers only need a bachelor’s degree in social work to begin. Your BSW will prepare you to work in most direct-care roles, such as caseworker or mental health assistant. All bachelor’s programs in social work require you to have an internship or supervised fieldwork. (BLS.gov)
Those who want to become clinical social workers and provide healthcare and counseling services to clients must earn their master’s degree in social work. It takes two years to earn a master’s in social work, and also requires you to complete an internship or supervised practicum.
After you have earned your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you must be licensed. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires you to have your master’s and two years of supervised clinical experience after you graduate. You then must pass your clinical examination to get your license.
Some of the classes you may take to earn your master’s degree in social work are: (USC.edu)
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Science of Social Work
- Policy and Advocacy in Professional Social Work
- Applied Learning in Field Education
- Research and Critical Analysis for Social Work with Children and Families
- Diversity, Social Justice, and Culturally Competent Social Work Practice
- Integrative Learning for Social Work Practice
If you want to work at a high level in research or academia, you may choose to earn your doctorate in social work, which takes up to five years to complete.
What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?
To be admitted to a master’s in social work program, you will need to meet strict criteria as the selection process is competitive. Each school has different requirements, but you can expect these items:
- College transcripts: For a master’s program, you need to provide your bachelor’s program transcripts. Or, if you are earning your bachelor’s, you should provide your high school transcripts.
- Letters of recommendation: Depending on the program, you may need anywhere from two to four recommendations from employers and professors.
- Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s social work, you may meet all social work prerequisite requirements.
- Personal essay: Social workers need strong writing skills, so your personal statement or essay is of critical importance.
- Application: Most bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work have online applications.
What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?
To become a social worker, you must have at least your bachelor’s degree and pass a state examination for your license. To become a clinical social worker, you need your master’s degree in social work, sufficient supervised clinical experience, and pass the state licensing examination. Requirements for licensure can vary by state. (ASWB.org)
Is The Job Outlook for a Social Worker Good?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment for social workers will grow by 11% by 2028, which is much faster than average. Higher demand for social services and healthcare will increase the demand for social workers. (BLS.gov)
Employment for family, child, and school social workers will rise by 7% by 2028, which is faster than average. More child and family social workers will be required to work with families to prevent child neglect and abuse and to increase parenting skills.
Employment of healthcare and clinical social workers will increase by 17% by 2028, which is much faster than average. These professionals will be needed to help aging people and families to adjust to new treatments and lifestyles.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers will see 18% job growth by 2028, also much faster than average. Employment is growing as people need treatment for substance abuse and mental illness.
Further Resources for Candidates in Social Work
Below are additional resources for students interested in a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work:
- How Much Do Clinical Social Workers Make?: To become a clinical social worker, it is required to earn your master’s degree in social work (MSW) or your doctorate in social work (DSW).
- Top 5 Online DSW Social Work Programs: Capella University offers an online DSW Social Work program that will help you to nurture your advanced, real-world leadership skills, and prepare you for a social work leadership role.
- American Clinical Social Work Association: This is the largest national association for clinical social workers in the United States.
- National Association of Social Workers: The largest national organization for all types of social workers in the US.
- Society for Social Work and Research: A nonprofit organization that improves and broadens research and enhancing the support that is provided to social workers.
- Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Social Work Degree: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary for all social workers is $44,470, with the top 10% earning more than $81,400 per year.
Now that you understand what social work is and how to become you, you only need to start on your social work education!