Social workers help people deal with the personal, social, and economic problems they face. They work with individuals, families, groups, and communities. They help clients identify their goals and develop strategies to achieve them.
Social workers counsel clients to help them cope with a crisis or deal with long-term problems such as unemployment or poor housing. They also help clients manage their personal finances, keep track of their medical records, and locate other social services.
The term “social worker” is used in several different ways. For example, a social worker may work for a state or local government agency, a nonprofit organization, or a private company.
Social Worker Job Duties
Social workers have a wide range of responsibilities, but some common duties include:
- Helping people deal with social and economic problems.
- Assessing and addressing the needs of individuals, families, and groups.
- Providing counseling to clients.
- Working with children, adults, or seniors in different settings.
- Conducting research on social issues and providing policy recommendations.
- Advising organizations on how to improve their services.
Social workers have a variety of responsibilities depending on their area of expertise and employer. They might be responsible for providing direct care to patients, researching the effectiveness of various social welfare programs, or managing projects for private companies or government agencies.
Social Worker Salary & Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics states that as of May 2020, the median annual wage for social workers is $51,760. That’s approximately $23.60 per hour. The highest 10% of earners are making more than $85,820.
The employment of social workers is expected to grow by approximately 13% between 2019-2029. This growth is due to an increasing and aging population, as well as changing attitudes towards mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Social Worker Job Requirements
The requirements for social workers are as follows:
Education: The educational requirements for social workers vary based on the state and the specific role. However, most social workers hold a master’s degree in social work. This degree allows students to learn the theoretical concepts behind social work and gain practical experience. Bachelor’s degrees are also available in social work, but they are not typically sufficient for this field.
Licenses: All social workers must earn a license to practice. These licenses are generally obtained through state boards and require candidates to pass exams covering specific topics like human growth and development, psychotherapy theories, and basic psychological principles.
Training: Social workers may need additional training before beginning work with clients. Some of this training may come from an employer, but most of it will be on-the-job training. Social workers learn new skills every day, so employers may expect them to complete continuing education courses to ensure they are up to date on the latest methods.
Social Worker Skills
In addition to education and experience, social workers must possess the following skills:
Empathy: Social workers must be able to understand the feelings of their clients and provide the appropriate support.
Social skills: Social workers must be able to work well with people from all walks of life.
Patience: Social workers need patience because some clients will take longer than others to accept their advice or support.
Teamwork: Social workers need to work well with other professionals, such as psychiatrists or counselors, in order to provide the best care for their clients.
Good listener: A social worker needs to be a good listener in order to truly understand what a client is going through and how they can best help them overcome any obstacles they may face.
Creativity: Some social workers use art therapy or other creative outlets when working with patients who may not be able to communicate verbally about what’s bothering them.
Social Worker Work Environment
Social workers work in offices and other locations and spend time working with people from all walks of life. They typically work with people who need assistance such as the elderly, people with disabilities, and people who are in crisis.
As a social worker, you may work with people who are experiencing emotional, mental, or physical distress. The emotional aspect of this job can be draining, and there is also a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to deal with.
Social Worker Career Advancement
Social workers can advance their career past their job by gaining more experience or earning a higher degree. The most common direction for social workers is to earn a Master’s degree in another field, such as psychology, counseling, or public health. This will broaden their skill set and allow them to advance to management positions.
Social workers may also choose to become the director of social services at a hospital or healthcare facility, which means they would oversee all social work services for patients and their families. Some hospitals might require you to have an advanced degree in health care management before considering someone for this position.
Social Worker Trends
Here are three trends influencing how Social Workers work. Social Workers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
The Rise of Mental Health Awareness
The past few decades have seen an increase in awareness about mental health issues, with more people seeking help for depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. As such, social workers will be increasingly needed who specialize in treating patients with mental illnesses—in fact, many employers now specifically ask for applicants that can provide therapy services as part of their responsibilities.
More People Seeking Help Outside the Medical Model
Increasingly, people are looking outside of the traditional medical model to find support when dealing with addiction or trauma; this trend has led to greater demand for social workers who provide services such as counseling and therapeutic care outside of the hospital setting or clinic office space. For example, some new social worker graduates may enter into rural areas where there is an acute shortage of qualified professionals who can offer these types of specialized care without having prior experience working within a medical system first.
Increased Focus on Family Dynamics
In recent years there has been an increasing focus on family dynamics when caring for children who have experienced trauma or neglect—this trend is expected to increase in coming years due to new research findings suggesting that one-on-one therapy with families can lead children who are experiencing maltreatment or violence toward prevention instead of perpetration later in life when compared against traditional group approaches like foster care.
How to Become a Social Worker
1. Planning Your Career Path
The social work field is diverse, encompassing everything from case management to group therapy. As a result, you’ll want to identify the area of social work that interests you most before you apply for jobs. Some options include working with at-risk youth, counseling those with substance abuse problems, or helping people find housing.
2. Writing a Resume
When writing a resume for a social worker position, it is important to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and experience for the job. This means that you should focus on any relevant work experience you have had in the field.
However, if you do not have much work experience, you can still be competitive by highlighting other skills you have, such as being bilingual or having taken relevant classes. Additionally, you should highlight any relevant extracurricular activities or volunteer work you have done that demonstrates your compassion and desire to help others.
3. Applying for Jobs
Social workers have a lot of options for finding jobs in their field. You can visit Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, SimplyHired, and The National Council of Social Service for listings in your area. To make sure you’re well-prepared, ask about the hiring process with a social worker who works at the place you’re interested in working; this way you’ll be able to know what to expect and make sure you are able to interview well.
4. Ace the Interview
To succeed in an interview as a social worker candidate, it is important to prepare for your interview by researching the company beforehand. If you know the organization’s mission statement and values, it will be easier to talk about how your own skills and abilities can support that mission during the interview. During the actual interview, keep in mind that you will be expected to discuss how you handle different types of situations with clients (e.g., difficult family dynamics or financial hardship).
For social workers, it is important to be warm and friendly during an interview because you will be dealing with many different types of people. Your attitude can influence how others feel about themselves, so try not to appear bored or angry during your interview.