What Are the Different Fields of Social Work?

Social work can be a rewarding experience, since you can work with an array of clients to determine their needs and use your community's resources to ensure proper treatment and assistance. Learn about your options for working as a social worker. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of the Three Main Fields in Social Work

Social work has three main fields, each a bit different: with families, children and schools, in the medical and public health fields or in the mental health and substance abuse areas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field is sometimes sufficient to gain entry-level work in any of these areas, but a master's degree is usually required to work in schools, in public health or in supervisory positions (www.bls.gov). Each state has its own rules for social work licensing, so you'll have to check your own state's requirements. The following information will give you some important facts and an in depth look at what working in these three fields is like.

Important Facts About Different Fields of Social Work

School and family social work Public health social work Mental health and substance abuse social work
Median Salary (2014) $42,120 $51,930 $41,380
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% growth 19% growth 19% growth
Key Skills Patience; problem solving; social awareness Clear communication; reading comprehension; time management; critical thinking skills Good judgment and decision making; close listening; situational awareness; people skills
Similar Occupations School and career counselors; health educators; community health workers Social and human service managers; psychologists; rehabilitation counselors Mental health counselors; marriage and family therapists; substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Social Work in a School and Family Setting

You can expect to perform many job duties as a social worker in this type of setting, such as guiding, advising and counseling children and families regarding legal matters, child abuse and welfare issues. You'll work with school officials, teachers, parents and children to consult on behaviors, disciplines and programs. You'll write reports and manage paperwork and financial records. You may also perform research into matters such as treatment programs and community services.

You may also work with children who are adopted and/or need to be placed in foster homes, as well as parents seeking adoption or who offer foster homes. You might assess children's school needs or behavior and mental health issues. Working with schools and parents to make sure children receive the care they need is another important duty. With older children, you may also assist with job training and social guidance. You might also help families budget their resources.

Public Health Social Work

In this area, you'll work with patients regarding their medical needs and health-related issues. Using your community's resources, you advocate for your client based on the client's illnesses and needs to assure the client gets proper treatment. You'll assist your clients with counseling and support groups, manage medical records and maintain treatment and behavior files.

You may work with medical care facilities to which you'll refer clients. You'll work with other social workers and medical care providers to ensure your client receives the proper care. The BLS notes that social workers specializing in geriatric issues will be in demand to assist America's aging population and their families.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Work

You'll work with clients and patients who are recovering from mental health and substance abuse issues. You will work with doctors and counselors to ensure your patient is meeting appointments and responding to treatment. As this type of social worker, you'll counsel patients to make sure they are dealing with their issues, including communicating with other family members when necessary. Maintaining client records and referring your client to appropriate treatment and doctors will be imperative. Being aware of community services will be important, since you will advise your clients on what treatment they may need.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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