What is Social Work?
Social work is an area of study and practice that allows individuals to assist members of social groups suffering from a variety of issues ranging from the economic to the abusive. Social workers take upon patients and clients who have difficulty adjusting to daily life or suffer from dangerous and abusive environments and work with them to develop a plan toward remedying their situations. Social workers will work with patients, employers, physicians, parole officers, and any other individuals who provide support or interest the life of the patient, utilizing them to ensure that the patients needs are met and that assistance is available. Social work has various specialization dealing with a broad range of issues, with the purpose of providing guidance and methodology as assistance.
An individual seeking a social work degree will have to complete a minimum of four years of post secondary education, receive a bachelor's and pass all state certification requirements and exams. The requirements will vary from state to state, and it is best to check your state's licensing agency for more information. More advanced degrees will offer more job opportunities and higher financial rewards. It is important to note that one does not need a social work bachelor's degree to pursue a social work master's degree as a bachelors degree of any type will suffice.
Potential classes include:
- Social Work Practice
- Issues in Social Welfare
- Diversity and the Struggle for Human Rights
- Social Welfare Policy
- Human Behavior Theory
A degree in social work encompasses a broad range of social services, from mental health therapy to addiction prevention and treatment. Due to the variety of fields and jobs that fall within the realm of social work individuals will most likely choose to specialize. Specialization often comes through study at the graduate level, through social workers may begin work with a bachelors degree. Certain social work jobs will already specialize in a particular area, such as child welfare agencies or shelters for abused women. The role of the social worker is to provide a safe environment and examination of the clients or patients background and circumstances in order to provide assistance. Cases are treated independently and require attention and follow through in order to successfully aid needful individuals.
Here are some areas of social work:
- Disaster Relief
- Military and Veterans' Service
- Community and Rural Health
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Adoption and foster care
- Homeless Family Assistance
- Domestic Violence
- Housing Assistance
- Employment Services
Employment and Licensure
Social workers typically work in the healthcare industry, government agencies, and schools. Depending on the field of specialization, social work can be very rewarding or highly stressful. There is a lateral movement in regards to focus, allowing social workers with a certain amount of experience to change their position and area of assistance. It is important to note that individuals with a specialization are not guaranteed positions related to their expertise, with entry level positions in social work often related to substance abuse, child abuse, violence and other areas that suffer a high burnout rate. Additionally, some states may require licensure or certification to work as a social worker and it is best to research an individual's state to ensure all requirements are met.
A recent trend has shown that individuals that have had initial success with a different career are returning to school to pursue a degree and career in social work. Such individuals are typically burned out by their previous career and feel that assisting others may prove to be a more rewarding career. As noted above, any bachelor's degree qualifies an individual for social work master's programs. These programs can be night, weekend online or full time, and offer varying lengths of study in order to match the schedule and needs of the individual.
Risks and Dangers
Though social work can be rewarding as a career, it is important to note that some forms of social work may expose individuals to horrible events or traumas that can have a negative mental impact on the social worker over time. Social workers in high stress fields, such as abuse counseling, addiction, and disaster relief tend to move on to other forms of social work relatively quickly due to the heavy mental toll it takes. Some individuals choose to leave the field completely or focus on management or policy issues rather than direct patient care.
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields
There is expected to be increased growth in the field of social work as social issues continue to arise from a all parts of life. As a result, individuals will be able to find work with comparative ease, particularly in the areas of social work that have higher than normal turnover. Social workers on average make approximately $40,000 per year. Entry level position for those who have a bachelor's degree averages around $30,000 per year, and increases with more advanced degrees and experience.