Fundamentally, a career in social work is all about improving the lives of others. As such, it is a career for those who have a sincere interest in other people’s lives, and who have an earnest desire to help those around them. It is a job that demands a great deal of commitment and personal sacrifice, but at the same time, it can be immensely rewarding.
What to Expect
The social worker provides support for people who are suffering from all types of personal troubles and catastrophes. For instance, when an individual suffers from a physical disability, or loses their home due to some financial crisis, or who suffers from some type of substance abuse problem, those individuals will more often than not be referred to a social worker for assistance. Simply put, a social worker acts as a liaison between the suffering individual and the resources that are out there to provide help to that individual; the social worker helps the individual get in touch with those resources and make the most of them to get his or her life back on track.
Education, Training, and Certification
Being a social worker requires one to work closely with people from all walks of lives and to deal with a wide range of psychological and physical health issues. As such, it is essential for the prospective social worker to have a great deal of training in how to effectively handle such issues in an appropriate and productive manner. This being the case, social workers require at the very least a bachelor’s degree in some relevant field such as social work, psychology, or sociology. Very often, however, a master’s degree will also be required by the majority of employers out there.
Besides these degree requirements, many states have a separate standard for licensing, which requires an individual to undergo some degree of training in order to obtain a professional license. For example, supervised clinical experience may be required for social workers working in a clinical environment. Teaching certifications might be required for those social workers who have to perform educational functions or work with children. Those interested in the field are well advised to research exactly what is required for the career of their choice.
A career in social work can take on many different forms. For instance, a social worker might work with children or families, providing assistance by coordinating with foster programs, or helping parents access counseling or therapeutic services for children in need. Medical social workers may work in health facilities, providing support for individuals who suffer from terminal or debilitating diseases such as AIDS or cancer. Those who are academically inclined may even work as social work researchers, helping to develop the theoretical frameworks that other social workers use in the field.
Social work is a profession with a positive future. Those interested in a career in social work should be aware that the field is expected to grow by as much as 16% over the next decade. The fastest rate of growth is for medical social workers (22%), closely followed by mental health and substance abuse social workers (20%), and then children and family social workers (12%).
The salary earned by one working in a career in social work depends entirely on what kind of social work one performs and what sort of institution one works for. Children and family social workers can expect to earn an average of $39,530 a year, with the highest salaries afforded to those who work in an elementary or high school environment ($53,860). Medical social workers stand to earn a slightly higher median salary of $46,650, with the highest earnings going to those who are employed in hospitals ($51,470). As for mental health social workers, the average salary is $46,220.
The editors of McGraw-Hill and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Big Book of Jobs, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013 ©2009 by the McGraw-Hill Companies, Material "Adapted"