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About Social Work

What Is This Job Like?

Social workers help people overcome problems and make their lives better. They might work with people who are homeless, sick, or having family problems. Or they might help students who are having trouble in school.

One of the ways social workers help is by finding resources for people. For someone with family difficulties, social workers might find a parenting class or support group. For a homeless person, they might find a place to live and a career training program. For a student, they might find a mentor or a learning disability expert.
Some social workers set up resources like these. They research what kinds of help people need. Then, they set up programs to provide that help. They might focus on child abuse, poverty, violence, and other problems.

Many social workers give counseling. They talk to people about their lives and help them to understand and solve their problems and to make plans.

How Do You Get Ready?

Social workers must go to a 4-year college. Many social workers also need additional schooling to get the jobs they want. Some people stay in school longer to earn a doctorate degree.

BSW programs prepare graduates for direct service positions, such as caseworker, and include courses in social work values and ethics, dealing with a culturally diverse clientele, at-risk populations, promotion of social and economic justice, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, social research methods, and field education. Accredited BSW programs require a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience. The Shepherd University Program requires 600 hours.

Before they can get a job, social workers need a license, certification, or registration. The rules for getting these things depend on the State where you live. Workers can also get a certification from the National Association of Social Workers. This certification makes it easier to get some jobs.

How Much Does This Job Pay?

In May 2010, these workers had average yearly wages of $42,480.

What About the Future?

Between 2010 and 2020, jobs for social workers are expected to grow faster than the average (25%) which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Jobs working with older people will grow especially fast because there will be more people who are old and need help. Jobs helping people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol will also grow quickly. Jobs in schools will grow because there will be more students with special needs.

In cities, competition for jobs might be strong. It might be easier to find jobs in rural places. Job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas. The growing elderly population and the aging baby boom generation will create greater demand for health and social services, resulting in rapid job growth among gerontological social workers. Employment of social workers in private social service agencies also will increase.

Employment of child, family, and school social workers is expected to grow by 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of healthcare social workers is expected to grow by 34 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is expected to grow by 31 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Taken from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (August 2012 Edition) U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics