What Do Social Workers Do?

Students who would like to work assisting people of varying backgrounds may wish to consider a career as a social worker. Social workers help people with issues involving family, school, employment, relationships, and health. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Social workers, who may work in a variety of specialty fields, help individuals cope with special circumstances, stresses, and difficulties. Depending on the demographic with whom you work, you will act as a source of assistance for counseling, government programs, financial assistance, or other means of support as a social worker. Communication skills and compassion are necessary to do well in this career, as is the ability to deal well with stress. Read on to learn more about the fields in which social workers may be found.

Important Facts About Social Workers

LicensureMust pass exam to obtain license, which is required
Similar OccupationsSchool counselor, psychologist, marriage and family therapist
Key Skillscompassion, organization, problem-solving
Work EnvironmentHospitals, clinics, governments, schools, private practices

Family or School

These social workers work with families to improve the functionality of the family unit. They may help children foster a better relationship with their parents or assist single parents in overcoming difficult situations. These social workers may act as an intermediary between the family and a child's school, helping to ensure that the child is getting the appropriate classroom attention needed to achieve full potential.

Public Health

Public health social workers provide emotional as well as practical support to people dealing with medical issues. They may coordinate with health care professionals with regards to the discharging of a patient and a future plan of care. Public health social workers may be employed by the hospital directly or by a government or family services agency.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Individuals in this form of social work provide help to people fighting substance addiction or mental illness. These social workers may offer individual or group therapy and help drug addicts re-enter society after spending time in rehabilitation. They may also teach basic life skills and help mentally ill patients secure work.

Education and Certification

Most social workers hold an undergraduate or advanced degree from an accredited institution. Many employers require a master's degree in social work or a related field. Those who wish to pursue an academic career at a college or university are generally required to complete a doctoral degree in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), all U.S. states have licensing and certification requirements for social workers.

Salary Statistics and Job Outlook

In May 2018, the BLS published the average annual salaries earned by the varying categories of social workers as follows: child, family, and school social workers, $49,760; healthcare social workers, $ 58,470; and mental health and substance abuse social workers, $49,630. Employment opportunities for social workers overall will grow by 16% from 2016 to 2026, depending on the aforementioned speciality field, per the BLS.

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