What you need to know
Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.
Social workers work in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, schools, child welfare and human service agencies, hospitals, settlement houses, community development corporations, and private practices.
Some of the things a social worker might do:
- Identify people and communities in need of help
- Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
- Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
- Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
- Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
- Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
- Maintain case files and records
- Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
- Provide psychotherapy services
- Communication skills: Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To provide effective help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.
- Emotional skills: Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have patience, compassion, and empathy for their clients.
- Interpersonal skills: Social workers need to be able to work with different groups of people. They need strong interpersonal skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.
- Organizational skills: Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.
- Problem-solving skills: Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.
The average pay for social workers in the United States ranges from $33,020 to $85,820 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Child and family social workers will be needed to work with families to strengthen parenting skills, prevent child abuse, and identify alternative homes for children who are unable to live with their biological families. In schools, more social workers will be needed as student enrollments rise.
Healthcare social workers will continue to be needed to help aging populations and their families adjust to new treatments, medications, and lifestyles.
Employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers will grow as more people seek treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. In addition, drug offenders are increasingly being sent to treatment programs, which are staffed by these social workers, rather than being sent to jail.
A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level administrative positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.
Clinical positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Two years of supervised training and experience after obtaining an MA degree is typically required for clinical social workers.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Social Work.