Learn About Being a Social Worker
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What does a social worker do?
Social workers help individuals and families cope with various challenges, including trauma, debilitating injuries, addiction, disabilities and terminal illness. Some of a social worker’s responsibilities include:
Evaluating patients’ needs based on their current situation and limitations
Communicating with patients, helping to address their concerns and work toward their goals with a positive mindset
Collaborating with physical and occupational therapists to ensure the comfort of patients
Adhering to facility policies as well as government regulations
Building and implementing care plans for patients, providing therapeutic support as needed
Social worker salaries can vary widely based upon factors such as an individual’s qualifications and the business’s geographical location.
Common salary in the U.S.: $57,469 per year
Some salaries range from $16,000 to $125,000 per year.
Social worker requirements
Becoming a social worker involves certain training and education, as well as specific skills and professional certifications. Some of these requirements include:
A Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work is typically required to begin a career as a social worker, though for some positions, it may be acceptable to hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Sociology or another related field.
Students in social work programs learn through coursework, hands-on practice and observation of fieldwork. These students typically participate in part- or full-time internships after completing their coursework. Two years of professional experience supervised by a licensed social worker is typically required for licensure.
Licensing requirements vary depending on the state. Some states require you to hold a social work license to provide any social work services or even carry a social worker title. Other states do not require licensure, but it is often preferred by employers. Check your state’s licensure requirements to see if your state requires it.
The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is in charge of administering national social work licensing exams. The ASWB administers five categories of exams for aspiring and current social workers: Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist and Clinical.
Social workers typically possess the inherent skills required to perform this role that they continuously hone to better serve their patients. Some specific skills include:
One of the asocial worker’s duties is to provide case management services, such as billing. This requires a high level of organizational skills as well as the ability to prioritize according to the urgency of clients’ needs.
Social workers use their communication skills to build relationships with patients. The responsibilities of social workers always include the ability to communicate with and actively listen to many different people and in many different ways. These professionals communicate with other care providers and patients’ responsible parties. They also document and provide written reports for insurance companies, supervisors and agency administrators.
Communication skills, empathy and emotional intelligence combine to help social workers understand what a patient needs and why. Being able to understand and relate to others intellectually, emotionally and across cultures is necessary to provide the most helpful services.
Critical thinking skills
Clients often seek help for complex problems in many areas of their lives. A social worker needs to be able to think quickly and creatively to effectively help patients.
Social worker work environment
Social workers work in settings that include clinics, children and family service agencies, schools, prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, community development organizations and private practices. They generally work full time with the occasional need to work evenings, weekends or holidays. Other conditions include:
Working in an office most of the time, with occasional local travel
Using computers, printers, fax machines and office telephones
Working with other healthcare professionals to best serve their patients
Working in an emotionally-draining environment regularly
Creating reports for patient records and insurance companies
Communicating with patients’ responsible parties (parents, guardians)
Social workers can pursue many different specializations, including:
Children and family social work
Community social work
Mental health and substance abuse social work
Social work administration
Social work for military and veterans
How to become a social worker
Here are the most common steps to follow to become a social worker:
1. Pursue education
A Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology or a related field is typically required to begin a career as a social worker.
2. Gain relevant work experience
Internships provide opportunities to interact with clients, build necessary skills and explore specializations. An internship can be completed in a local nonprofit health organization, clinic or hospital setting.
3. Earn licensure
Regulations regarding licensing vary by state. Check your state’s requirements with the ASWB.
4. Begin a job search
For finding a job, one of the first places you’ll want to check is the internet. Peruse major job boards as well as those specifically dedicated to your line of work. You could check with your local nonprofit organizations for job openings, as well.
5. Build a network
Professional networking can allow you to position yourself as a viable candidate for positions you’re interested in. By attending networking events, you’ll be able to meet fellow professionals who can recommend you for certain positions. Furthermore, expanding your social circle and nurturing relationships can lead to the opportunity to provide or receive referrals in the future.
Social worker job description example
The State Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is seeking a social services worker to serve in Child and Family Services, supporting the Medicaid program.
Daily duties include:
Telephone communication with clients in various socio-economic situations
Verifying financial and demographic information
Updating client and patient information accurately in our database
Providing a kind, empathetic experience to our clients
Customer service experience
Experience with examining and processing financial assistance applications or insurance claims
Software proficiency: database, desktop publishing/word processing, email
Valid driver’s license
Mandatory 60-day classroom training and orientation
Must be able to multitask while keeping the focus on the client
Time management skills—must be able to set and manage priorities
Here are some related fields that a social worker might be interested in:
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