Professionals and students who want to help people solve their problems, and also want to have a great career with strong job prospects, should consider becoming a social worker. There are many different specialities in social work that you can choose, depending upon your interests.
Whichever social work speciality you eventually settle upon you will enjoy job demand in the next decade as high as 19%, which will ensure that you will always be able to find good paying work. Many Congressmen and women are actually social workers themselves, so becoming a social worker also is a worthy goal if you want to affect state and national policy.
What Social Workers Do
Overall, social workers help people to deal with the many problems in their lives. They help people cope with many types of situations: from dealing with an ill relative, to adopting a child to finding housing and food resources in a time of need.
Social workers can work with adults, children, the disabled, and people who have illnesses or are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Social workers also generally determine the social, emotional, and economic needs of patients and work to address those by finding community resources that are applicable.
Depending upon what exactly you want to do, you can most likely find an area of social work that appeals to you:
Child and Family Social Workers
This is the most common type of social worker, and is one that you can usually become with a bachelor’s degree in social work. You will work with vulnerable children and families who need emotional, financial and physical assistance. Most often family social workers help their clients find affordable housing, child care, food stamps, health care and other social services that are designed to help people in need.
A child and family social worker also will intervene in a dangerous situation when a child is being neglected or abused. Some of these social workers also will set up adoptions and find foster families.
Many social workers will earn their bachelor’s degree and begin as a child and family social worker. After they gain experience, they may choose to earn their MSW, and move into a more advanced area of social work.
California currently has the highest number of child and family social workers.
Clinical Social Workers
For experienced social workers who earn a MSW degree in social work, the most popular and best-paying path is to become a clinical social worker. This type of social worker has been highly trained and is licensed to diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral problems.
Clinical social workers are authorized to provide individual, group and family therapy, and they work with their clients to come up with effective long term strategies to change problem behaviors.
Another very important part of the clinical social worker’s job is to offer community and social service resources to their clients. They may provide referrals to social service agencies that can provide hospice care, child care, long term care and other social services that can help them solve chronic life problems.
Many clinical social workers work in a private practice, similar to a counselor. If you work in your own private practice, you will also need to do many administrative tasks and work with insurance companies to ensure that you are being paid for your services.
To become a clinical social worker, as with all type of social worker, you will need to pass a national examination and meet the standards of the state in which you work. These tests are administered by the Association of Social Work Boards.
If you want to become a clinical social worker, you can now do so online, with a program such as at Catholic University of America. This is a two year program that prepares you for your licensure as a clinical social worker. Their curriculum covers all of the most critical areas that affects social workers today and deals with all areas of clinical practice, ethics and best practices for working with individuals, families and couples. Classes include:
- Diversity in a Multicultural Society
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Welfare Policy and Services
- Social Welfare Policy and Services
- Social Work Research
- Assessment, Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Illnesses
- Ethical Issues in Social Work
School Social Workers
School social work is a very popular and rewarding area of social work. You will serve as the liaison between the school and the family or guardian of the student. You will be a bridge between the personal life of the child and their education to ensure that all needs are being fully met.
A school social worker may function more as a guidance counselor and also may work with children with special needs to help them to better integrate into regular classes. You may address many types of school problems with your child clients, including;
- Behavioral integration programs
- Truancy prevention programs
- Sexual education
- Health education
- Crisis intervention
- Good communication between parents, teachers and students
Healthcare Social Workers
This is another type of social work that is for more experienced professionals with at least a master’s or MSW degree. Healthcare social workers help their patients to better understand their diagnoses and to change their lifestyle, health care and housing to be more healthy.
Some healthcare social workers may help their clients to transition from being in a hospital for several months to living at home again. They may provide the client with social service resources to make that transition easier.
For example, an elderly patient who has been in the hospital for six weeks may need to be sent home according to her insurance company, but she is not yet able to live independently. A health care social worker may be assigned to her case to ensure that she is provided with the resources that she needs to live, which might include providing meals, or providing a home health care aide to assist her with the daily tasks of living.
Healthcare social workers also may work in a hospital or other medical center and work with doctors and patients so that both understand the effects that various conditions have on mental and emotional well being. Not every doctor is well informed about the mental health aspects of the diseases they treat, and a health care social worker can be a vital information bridge between doctor and patient.
Mental Health Social Worker
This type of social worker assists their clients to deal with mental health and addiction problems. Mental health social workers may work with a team of mental health professionals to ensure that the client is getting the help that he or she needs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, social workers are the largest group of mental health care providers in the US. There are actually more clinically trained social workers – at least 200,000 – than psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists combined.
Many mental health social workers have a bachelor’s degree in social work but eventually will go on to earn a MSW.
One of the most important steps for a mental health social worker is to complete an expert assessment of the client. This will involve your interviewing and talking with the person, and possibly other family members and doctors. This assessment is crucial to determine the mental and substance abuse problems that are present. Next, the social worker can put together a proper care plan for the patient and recommend vital community resources to help complete the plan.
This type of social worker may help the person to find work or to get unemployment insurance. You also may help the person to apply for various benefits, including welfare, disability, food stamps, etc.
All types of social workers are needed in American society today, as they provide vital mental and public health services to underserved communities, many of whom do not have access to psychologists and counselors. Social workers help to provide vital needed services to these communities. Consider which type of social work appeals to you and start your education in the field today. See also Counseling vs Social Work Differences and Similarities.