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Social Work Careers

Profession Overview

Social workers help people by providing emotional support, innovative solutions, and serving as liaisons to a wide variety of services. Important qualities include excellent listening skills, compassion, and the ability to effectively interact with different groups and types of people. Organizational, time-management, and problem-solving skills are also essential.

Social workers are employed in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, government offices, nursing and residential care facilities, military bases, private practices, and mental health and addiction care centers. Travel to meetings and clients may be required.

Social workers can focus on specific environments or populations:

Child and family social workers – They help families find services they need and work with children. Duties can range from helping families with adoptions, to ensuring that children are placed in caring foster homes and removing them from abusive or neglectful situations, to giving students advice on how to solve academic and social problems.

School social workers – They work with parents and school officials to improve a student’s development and performance.

Medical and public health social workers – This type of social worker helps people who are sick, or have long term illnesses and conditions, adapt to their situation and take advantage of the services available to them from the government and health care providers. They also advise and work with the families of sick people to ensure that they’re well taken care of.

Profession Overview

Social workers help people by providing emotional support, innovative solutions, and serving as liaisons to a wide variety of services. Important qualities include excellent listening skills, compassion, and the ability to effectively interact with different groups and types of people. Organizational, time-management, and problem-solving skills are also essential.

Social workers are employed in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, government offices, nursing and residential care facilities, military bases, private practices, and mental health and addiction care centers. Travel to meetings and clients may be required.

Social workers can focus on specific environments or populations:

Child and family social workers – They help families find services they need and work with children. Duties can range from helping families with adoptions, to ensuring that children are placed in caring foster homes and removing them from abusive or neglectful situations, to giving students advice on how to solve academic and social problems.

School social workers – They work with parents and school officials to improve a student’s development and performance.

Medical and public health social workers – This type of social worker helps people who are sick, or have long term illnesses and conditions, adapt to their situation and take advantage of the services available to them from the government and health care providers. They also advise and work with the families of sick people to ensure that they’re well taken care of.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers (also called clinical social workers) - These social workers help people who have mental illnesses or who have drug and alcohol problems. They teach classes and provide individual counseling so that these individuals can better cope with and overcome their problems and addictions.

The future employment outlook for social work is positive and growing faster than the average occupation. Entry-level jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree while advanced positions require a master’s. Read on for more information on the current job market and salaries for social workers.

Social Worker Salary and Job Growth

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers made a median salary of $42,480, or $20.40 per hour, in 2010. The bottom 10 percent of social workers made less than $26,710 annually, or $12.84 per hour, and the top 10 percent made more than $70,390 annually, or $33.84 per hour.

Social Workers typically work full-time, and their schedules may include evenings and weekends.

2010 Median* Social Work Salaries

Social Work Job Market

Projected Social Work Job Growth (2010-2020)

 

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare social workers are predicted to add approximately 51,200 jobs (an increase of 34 percent) between 2010 and 2020. This is significantly higher than the overall job-growth average of 14 percent. A greater demand for social services and health care will contribute to this significant rise.

Child, family, and school social workers will see a heavier demand for child abuse case investigation as well as foster care and adoption placements. Healthcare social workers will see a rise in need for their services due to the large population of aging baby boomers. The increase in mental health and substance abuse social work is expected because more people will be seeking treatments for their disorders and addictions, inclusive of drug offenders sent to rehabilitation programs instead of jail.

Child, family and school social workers are also expected to grow in employment by 20 percent, and substance abuse social workers are projected to expand 31 percent. Job growth for all other social workers is predicted to be 16 percent.

Social Work Degrees and Programs

A career in social work generally requires at least a bachelor’s degree for the entry-level positions and a master’s or doctorate for advanced work in the field.

Degree Type

Length of Program

Program Setting

Qualified Jobs After Graduation

Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) 4 years Universities and colleges Entry-level social work positions
Bachelor in related field (i.e. Psychology, Sociology) 4 years Universities and colleges Some entry-level social work positions
Master of Social Work (MSW) 2 years, possibly 1 year with BSW Universities Clinical social workers and advanced positions
Most social workers in healthcare and schools
Doctor of Social Work (DSW) 2 – 4 years after MSW completed Universities Research and teaching positions, leadership
and administrative occupations
All potential Social Workers are required to adhere by licensing regulations set by each individual state.