If you have been helped by a social worker in your life or you feel like you are being called to the profession for another reason, you may be wondering, “How do I become a social worker?” The field of social work has many opportunities for people who are dedicated to helping others overcome social issues.
What is it like to be a social worker?
Social workers focus on helping people find solutions to their current problems. Coordination with other agencies is a major part of a social worker’s job. A social worker assesses the needs and strengths of each client to guide them toward the best individual outcome. Most people who want to become a social worker are compassionate and interested in social justice. Social work can be a very personally rewarding profession.
Social workers work with many different groups of people. Some social workers advocate for abused children and others work with the elderly and their families. These direct service social workers generally work in the field, visiting clients where they live and work. Social workers believe in preserving the dignity of their clients. To become a social worker, you will have to earn at least a four-year degree.
A bachelor’s degree and a professional license are required for most entry-level social work jobs. Most states require a bachelor’s of social work degree for licensure. When a similar degree is accepted, there are strict course requirements to be sure that all social workers are qualified to provide services to vulnerable individuals and communities. Schools of social work prepare students for work with diverse and disadvantaged populations. Common courses include social work ethics, human behavior and development, social work methods and social welfare policy. Social work students are required to complete supervised field work. This field work, in addition to a written exam, is required for licensing in most states.
A master’s degree in social work, or MSW, is offered at most schools of social work. Students who have a BSW can apply for an accelerated master’s degree program. The accelerated program can be completed in one year. Additional field work is required to earn a master’s degree. If you want to become a social worker who works independently or supervises others, a master’s degree is required.
Social workers find jobs in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities and government social service agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average social worker salary is $42,480. School and healthcare social workers have the highest salaries while family service workers tend to be paid less.
Social workers with a bachelor’s degree typically work directly with clients under the supervision of a master’s level social worker. When you decide to become a social worker, you have a lot of options. You can work with clients in need of cash, food or medical assistance in a government office, coordinate home care for patients who are being released from the hospital, assist mental health and substance abuse patients with their transition after inpatient treatment or be an advocate for abused and neglected children. As long as there are disadvantaged people in society, there will be a need for social workers.