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How to Become a Social Worker

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If you have ever considered becoming a social worker, this is the perfect time to do it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of social worker jobs will increase to 790,000 by 2026, which is a 16% growth rate. Social work also consistently appears on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of top jobs. Here is what you need to do to become a social worker.

Social Worker Responsibilities

Social workers can have different responsibilities depending on their job and the people they help. In general, social workers assist people when they need help. They make it easier for people to handle everyday problems. This may include connecting them to resources, advocating for them or providing a crisis response. You may also need to do counseling, case management, community organization and policy reviews. Many social workers help people with welfare and Social Security.

A social worker focuses on the person and that person’s environment to help. This means that their job duties can vary greatly from day to day as they assist people. For example, on Monday you may help a child who is being bullied in school, and on Tuesday you may work with a teenager who is having substance abuse problems.

Areas of Social Work

The BLS divides social work into the following areas: substance abuse, healthcare, child, family and school, mental health and all others. Across these areas, you may work with people of all ages and races. From infants to the elderly, many people need help from a social worker at different stages of their lives. Some of the most common areas that you may work in are addiction, poverty, mental illness, homelessness and other illnesses.

Figuring Out If This Is the Right Job for You

Consider compiling a spreadsheet of the attributes social workers need and your personal strengths and weaknesses to see if this is the right job for you. In general, social workers must want to help people and enjoy the process. They should be patient, empathetic, dependable, organized and caring. Social workers also need to have good listening and critical thinking skills.

Required Education to Become a Social Worker

Education requirements for a social worker can vary depending on your specialty, but most jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a license. For entry-level jobs, you need at least a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare (BASW). Licensing requirements will vary from state to state, but you will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

You will need a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, which takes two years, to work in most clinical settings. You can also pursue a Doctor of Social Work degree (DSW) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in social work, which takes three to six years.

Internships and practical experience are also important parts of your education in social work. Some states require a certain number of hours of supervised work experience and passing a criminal background check before you can work. Clinical social workers need at least two years of supervised clinical experience before they can work on their own. In addition, continuing education will be part of your career after school to maintain your license.

Job Opportunities

Social work is a versatile career with many options. Many social workers end up in nonprofit organizations, but this is not the only route available. You can also work for a school, college, government, or another type of organization. City, state and national governments need social workers.

You can find work in substance abuse facilities, clinics, hospitals and assisted living facilities. Correctional facilities, military locations and VA offices also need social workers. Another option is to start a private practice and offer services in an office, people’s homes or virtually.

Salary Prospects for Social Workers

Although pay will vary, the average salary for social workers is about $46,000 a year, according to the BLS. Only 2% of social workers are self-employed, and their pay can be very different from salaried employees. Your salary will also depend on where you live since each state has its own averages.

Demand and Career Outlook for Social Workers

In Florida, the demand for social workers is growing. More social workers are needed because of the large number of older residents and the increasing population. There is a need for social workers who can help those who have illnesses, life transitions, housing issues and other problems.

Becoming a social worker requires education, training and licensing. It can take time and effort to get this job, but it is a worthwhile pursuit. The ability to help people every day is the main responsibility of social work and it can be a fulfilling career.

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