Social Worker: Occupational Outlook & Job Profile
Social workers help individuals and families deal with a variety of issues, including social, personal, medical and mental health problems. They provide counseling, social services and treatment for clients.
Occupational Outlook for a Social Worker
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in social work are expected to increase by 25% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). This growth is thought to be due to the needs of children and of the aging population, as well as to the fact that substance abusers are increasingly being placed into treatment programs rather than being sent to prison. As such, the BLS notes that those with a background in substance abuse treatment may have the best opportunities in the industry.
The BLS divides salary information for social workers into those who work with children, families and schools, those who work within in the healthcare industry and those who work with mental health and substance abuse. Median annual salaries for each of these were $41,530, $49,830 and $39,980, respectively, in May of 2012, according to BLS data.
Job Profile for a Social Worker
Social workers may work for public or private agencies, schools, hospitals and healthcare facilities. They may address the needs of certain groups, such as children, families, senior citizens and students, or focus on specific social and psychological issues like individuals with terminal illnesses, cancer, AIDs or substance abuse problems. Social workers participate in duties that may include interviewing clients, assessing client needs, preparing case reports, provide counseling services, collaborating with other treatment providers and maintaining treatment plans.
A bachelor's degree is the usual entry level requirement for a job in social work. Most employers prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree in social work; however, aspiring social workers may also find jobs with majors in sociology, psychology and similar fields. Social work majors may take courses in human behavior, social work practice and social welfare.
A master's degree in social work may be required for certain positions, especially for clinical work and in schools and health environments. Although a bachelor's degree in social work is not needed to begin a master's program, prior coursework in psychology, social work, sociology and political science are helpful.
Social workers who use titles, such as licensed social worker, or participate in clinical practice are regulated in all states and the District of Columbia. Standards vary by state, but licensure requirements typically include two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work.
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