You Want to Become A Social Worker?If you are trying to find out whether a career in social work is suitable for you, this article may help with your decision. It will describe the nature of the job, working conditions, the training required, the employment market, and expected earnings. Jobs in service industries are growing faster than the national average, and social work is no exception.
Social work is a profession best suited for people with a strong desire to help improve the lives of others. Social workers people function as well as possible in their environment, deal with their relationships, and counsel them about personal and family problems. Social workers deal with clients facing severe illness or social problems such as unemployment, poor housing, disabilities, or substance abuse. Social workers also aid families with domestic conflicts, sometimes involving spousal or child abuse.
Social workers sometimes provide services in healthcare-related settings run by HMOs. To contain costs, these organizations are emphasizing lifestyle changes and self-care in order to prevent expensive illnesses. Early intervention and community-based care is being stressed over in-hospital care.
Most social workers specialize in some area of public health. Some are involved in planning or policy development. Others deal with children, families and school programs. Medical and public health social workers provide patients and their families support needed to cope with a variety of illnesses, such as AIDS, Alzheimer''s disease, cancer, and diabetes. They may work for hospitals, nursing homes, individual and family services agencies, or local governments. Mental health and substance abuse social workers, also known as clinical social workers, assess and treat individuals with psychiatric illness or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. They provide services such as individual and group therapy, community outreach programs, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and training in life skills.
Full-time social workers usually keep regular office hours, though some occasionally work evenings and weekends to meet with clients, attend community meetings, or deal with emergencies. Some, especially in voluntary nonprofit agencies, work part time. Social workers usually spend most of their time in an office, but also may visit clients at home, meet with service providers, or attend meetings.
In order to become a social worker, the minimum educational requirement is usually a bachelor''s degree in social work (BSW). However, majors in fields such as sociology, psychology, and similar fields may qualify an applicant for some entry-level jobs, especially in smaller community agencies. For social work subspecialties, an advanced degree is usually required. A master''s degree in social work (MSW) is usually necessary to get a job in the healthcare industry. Supervisory positions also may require an advanced degree, such as a master''s degree in administration or social services policy. College and university teachers and most researchers normally have a doctorate in social work (DSW or Ph.D.).
Accreditation of educational programs in social work is overseen by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). They have approved 442 BSW programs and 168 MSW programs. The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE) also lists 80 doctoral programs in social work (DSW or Ph.D.). BSW programs prepare graduates for direct service positions, such as caseworker, and require a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience.
Master''s degree programs teach students to perform clinical assessments, manage large caseloads, perform supervisory roles, and match social resources with the needs of clients. These programs last 2 years and include a minimum of 900 hours of supervised field instruction, or internship. The program can be completed on a part-time basis in 4 years. It is not necessary to have a bachelor''s degree in social work in order to be admitted to the master''s program, but courses in such fields as psychology, sociology, economics and political science are helpful.
Each State has its own certification requirements regarding social work practice and the use of professional titles. Most States currently require applicants to have two years (3,000 hours) of supervised clinical experience. Also, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers credentials. Social workers with an MSW may apply to be eligible for the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), the Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) credential.
In 2004, social work accounted for 562,000 jobs in America. Competition for work is highest in large centers, but opportunities are good in rural areas. Prospects are best for social workers specializing in gerontology and substance abuse, two rapidly-growing fields. The median income for social workers is approximately $35,000, with a range of less than $23,000 to more than $58,000 depending on experience and qualifications.
Social workers should be emotionally mature people with good interpersonal skills. Prospective social workers are advised to do volunteer work to test their interest and tolerance for this field of employment before entering into a lengthy training program. The work, while personally satisfying, can be very emotionally draining due to the constant barrage of clients'' problems. In addition, social work agencies often suffer from understaffing and large caseloads.