A career in social work is incredibly exciting and rewarding. Social workers are some of the biggest unsung heroes, working tirelessly to improve the quality of life for those in their community.
As with any helping profession, social work focuses on assisting individuals face and overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges. The work is dynamic in that it takes into consideration an individual’s internal struggles and also examines their family dynamics, community environment and systems and policies affecting their path to growth and success.
If you’re someone with a desire to advocate for others and help them build upon their skills and strengths, then a career in social work may be calling.
Social workers may opt to work with individuals, couples, families or small groups deal with a variety of problems such as poverty, abuse, addiction, unemployment, educational problems, disability, trauma and mental illness. These professionals provide their clients with resources and special services to empower them to meet their own needs.
Many social workers will deal directly with nonprofit organizations, schools or government agencies, helping to develop programs that will assist vulnerable populations and communities.
On a day-to-day basis, social workers may:
- Identify individuals who need help
- Assess clients’ specific needs to develop a course of action
- Help clients cope with life challenges such as divorce, illness and unemployment
- Direct clients toward community resources such as healthcare, food stamps and childcare
- Follow up with clients to ensure their situation has improved
- Monitor community services provided to ensure that they are effective
- Diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression
- Encourage clients to discuss their experiences and emotions to better understand their lives and the direction they need to go
- Offer clients strategies to change behavior and navigate difficult situations
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for social workers in May of 2018 was $49,470. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,750, and the highest 10% earned more than $81,400. Salary will be determined on your location, hours worked, and level of education.
The BLS projects that overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, which is considerably faster than all other occupations. This growth will be in large part due to an increased demand from baby-boomers for healthcare and social services, as well as for a growing student population.
The Path to Becoming a Social Worker
If you’re ready to get started on your career path, here are the steps you’ll need to take:
Step 1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
Your first step is to obtain your bachelor’s in social work (BSW), Human Services, or a related program, from an accredited college or university. A BSW program will prepare you for entry-level, professional and generalist social work as well as for graduate social work education.
Regardless of which major you choose, be sure to see how OnlineDegree.com could help you as well. You can take free courses toward your degree and utilize tuition discounts we’ve organized at universities across the country…we provide all of this for free as part of our mission to make college a reality for everyone.
Step 2. (optional) Earn a Master’s Degree
As with many helping careers (nursing, law enforcement, medicine), the higher you go in education, the larger your yearly salary will be. A master’s degree will also help you stand out among other prospective social workers when it comes time to land a job in what may become a competitive career field.
Step 3. Choose Your Specialty
Will you decide to become a clinical social worker or are you more interested in advocacy or nonprofit management? Whatever your interests, now’s the time to determine your exact path so you can obtain the necessary education and real-world experience.
Step 4. Get Licensed in Your State
Research your state’s licensing process so you can start the application process early. Take every opportunity to get ahead of the pack. Each state will define what is required for each level of social work license. Some states will require you to obtain a license before beginning your career while others may allow you to work toward progressive licenses as you advance in your career.
Step 5. Land Your First Job
You’ve studied and prepared to enter the workforce and now it’s time to land that first job and start changing people’s lives. You can use a variety of avenues to look for a position that’s right for you. Job boards such as Monster and Career Builder can be helpful. There are also boards like idealist.com directed at social work professionals and the nonprofit sector.
You can also look at local job boards inside schools and hospitals as well as state and local government agencies. And don’t forget to tap into that social network you built in school. There may be someone you’ve met along the way who can connect you with the right people.
Step 6. Maintain Your Licensure and Education
You’ll need to stay on top of licensing and education requirements so you can stay up-to-date on best practices in the field. Social workers are lifelong learners and many value ongoing education throughout their career. Be open to furthering your education so you can help your clients to the best of your ability.
Getting Started on Your Social Work Career
Getting that bachelor’s degree is your very first step on your new and exciting career. But here are a few additional resources to check out to get started on your path to becoming a social worker:
- Why Online Education Might Be Best- Working adults typically have little free time to attend traditional classes. They also tend to have limited budgets to further their education. Online degrees offer flexible scheduling for adult students who have other life commitments. So, even if you’re a parent that also works full-time, an online program can work around your schedule.
- Salary and Other Data on Social Workers-
- How OnlineDegree.com Can Help- To make college a reality for everyone, we provide free courses that could apply toward your degree, tuition discounts at universities across the country, and much needed guidance. All free.
If you’re ready to get started toward becoming a social worker, enroll with us today!