What Is a Public Health Social Worker?

Besides working with individuals and families, social workers in the public health specialization also work with communities battling widespread health problems and the social issues that may come with them. Read on for more information about the job duties of this career, as well as the requirements for entering the field. Schools offering Clinical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

As a public health social worker, you would research, help prevent and intervene in health and social problems afflicting communities and populations at large. By collecting and analyzing data on a macro-level, you can better understand larger trends in fighting AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, as well as other health issues. You'd use this information to assist individuals who suffer from disease, provide support to their families and help communities that have been hard-hit by health issues.

Your duties as a public health social worker would involve helping clients in recovery adjust to the everyday emotional and practical requirements of life. You'd assist clients in keeping up with treatment strategies and form family support groups, as well as working to find support for the elderly. You'd make sure that the services your clients receive have been effective, and you'd follow up with them regularly.

Because of their wide focus, public health social workers can find jobs in agencies, residential facilities, hospitals and hospice care facilities. They can also do advocacy work with local governments and work with individuals and their families through community organizations.

Important Facts About Public Health Social Workers

On-the-Job Training None required
Key Skills Active listening, organization, problem solving, empathy, time management, interpersonal
Work Environment State and local governments, hospitals, ambulatory health care services, nursing and residential care facilities, educational services
Similar Occupations School and career counselors, rehabilitation counselors, psychologists, social and human service assistants, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Educational Requirements

You must have a 4-year bachelor's degree in social work or a related field for entry-level employment. During your program, you'd study human behavior, population diversity and social welfare, as well as gaining some experience in the field. Some positions require a Master of Social Work (MSW), which would enable you to do clinical work or administrative work with private and public agencies. If you have completed a bachelor's degree in a field not related to social work, you may still be able to enroll in a master's program.

To specialize in public health, you will probably need a master's degree. One option is the combined Master of Social Work/Master of Public Health. School departments of social work and public health come together to offer coursework and study from both departments. Through this program, you will learn how social services work and how their accessibility might be improved. You will utilize essential research skills as part of your study and gain valuable field experience in social work and public health.

Licensing and Certification

To be a public health social worker, you must be licensed through the regulatory social work board of your individual state. Information and requirements for each state board can be found through the Association of Social Work Boards (www.aswb.org).

Your career opportunities can be broadened by also obtaining professional certification from the National Association of Social Workers (www.socialworkers.org). This organization offers advanced practice specialty credentials in several areas for the public health social worker. These include hospice and palliative care, clinical care, healthcare, youth and family, case management and gerontology. NASW also offers the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW); for this credential, you would need NASW membership and a master's or doctoral degree, among other requirements, and pass a thorough evaluation process.

Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed healthcare social workers was expected to grow by 19% in the 2014-2024 decade, which is much higher than the average percentage of growth expected for other occupations (www.bls.gov). There should be an increased demand for specialization in gerontology. In May 2014, the top employers of healthcare social workers included general hospitals, home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, individual and family services and outpatient care facilities.

Salary Information

Healthcare social workers earned $53,590 on average in May 2014, reported the BLS. Wages for most of these social workers ranged from $32,060-$76,940. General hospitals offered an average wage of $59,440, which was much higher than the $44,590 average wage for those working in individual and family services. The average wage was $58,320 for home healthcare services, $47,960 for nursing care facilities and $53,600 for outpatient care facilities.

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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