Social workers help people to deal with a variety of issues they may be experiencing. This includes helping people through traumatic events, relationship issues, substance abuse etc. They also work with vulnerable people, including children and adults, to ensure they are protected from harm
A social worker can be based in hospitals, schools, government office, or other locations. As part of their jobs, they maintain professional relationships with a wide range of people, acting as an advisor. There are times when difficult decisions will need to be made and the social worker will need to use all of their professional judgment in order to make them.
Many people consider social work as they want a career that enables them to work with people and make a difference. All though this is more than possible as a social worker, it is also important to remember that it is a very difficult job at times. Add this to the fact that there is a lot of media exposure at times, mostly negative, and the pressures of the role really start to add up.
Social workers work in both statutory and non-statutory roles. Statutory social workers adhere to laws and enforce them, to protect the vulnerable in society. Non-statutory social workers are not responsible for enforcing the law. Rather they work in specialist roles such as providing support for drug users, homeless people or people with mental health issues.
Education & Training
If you are considering a role as a social worker, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree. There are specific degrees in social work, however, sociology and psychology will also provide you with the required education.
As part of this degree, you will be introduced to many different forms of social work including individual, family and community scenarios. You will learn social policy, welfare, research methods, diversity and human behavior. A fieldwork component is also required.
You will also embark on fieldwork under supervision, giving you an in-depth insight into the day-to-day workings of a social worker.
If you wish to become a social worker in a clinical worker or a school, you will need to achieve a masters degree. These graduate level programs will allow you to specialize in certain areas including clinical practices, policy creation, research or management.
Again, there will also be fieldwork, however, much more emphasis will be on this in your masters than your bachelor’s.
Organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) can provide professional development and networking opportunities as well as job search assistance and career resources.
Once you have achieved your required level of education, you will need to acquire state licensure in order to work. The requirements for this vary by state, however, most states require you to perform clinical work for 2 years and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice.
Once you have achieved your licensure, you will need to complete continual education requirements in order to maintain your credentials.
Finally, though it is not a requirement, many social workers achieve certification withing their fields of work. The NASW offers many certifications for a range of focuses including clinical social workers, healthcare social workers and child, youth and family social workers.
These certifications can drastically improve your chances of finding work.
Your duties will depend on your area of work and / or specialization. However, social workers can expect their responsibilities to include the following:
- Conduct interviews to assess specific situations
- Undertake and write assessments
- Offer information, guidance, and support;
- Organize and manage packages of support to enable people to improve their situations
- Recommend and make decisions as to the best course of action for a particular person or family
- Liaise with, and make referrals to, other agencies
- Participate in multidisciplinary teams and meetings regarding child protection or mental health etc.
- Maintaining accurate records and prepare reports for legal action
- Give evidence in court
- Training and supervision
Social workers will start in junior positions, being supervised until they have the required amount of hours to obtain licensure. They will then use continual education in order to specialize and advance in their careers.
There are a variety of paths available and many social workers find themselves moving into positions of management. This in itself can be a difficult transition to make and social workers who are looking to make the change are recommended to take courses in communication, management, evaluation, and ethics. It is also beneficial to get advice from others who have made the transition and learn what the most important factors are to watch out for.
In this way, the transition is made much more easily and any shortfalls in your knowledge can be addressed before the transition.