Become a Social Worker

Despite the current economic downturn, the field of Social Work is one of the few professions that is expected to grow over the next decade.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the job growth for the field of Social Work is expected to grow at a rate of 16% through the year 2018, which is faster than the average when compared to all other occupations. 

It appears that as human suffering and other life challenges continue to mount across the country, the need for more and more social work interventions will increase in the years to come.  Also, the increased growth in the elderly population and the aging of the baby boomers will be a large contributor to the need for more social workers, especially in the area of gerontology social work.

If you have ever considered  obtaining a degree in social work, now may be the perfect time.  As online educational opportunities continue to expand, it is making it possible for people everywhere to obtain a social work degree, regardless of their geographical location.  Many people are even able to maintain their full time employment while they work on their social work degree.

The field of social work is very diverse and the skills and abilities of a trained social worker can be applied across a broad spectrum of settings and institutions.  Listed below are the top five careers in Social Work today and in the foreseeable future.  A general description of the particular career as well as approximate income potential is provided.

5. School Social Worker— As more and more emphasis is being placed on integrating children with disabilities into the general school population and as enrollments continue to rise, the need for school social workers will as well.  School social workers act as a liaison between the school and parents in behalf of the children.  Their purpose is to enhance the educational experiSocial Worker Counseling Teenence of the students.  They do this by designing behavioral interventions, providing individual, family and group counseling, pregnancy prevention, truancy prevention programs, educational and healthy self-image groups and crisis intervention.  School social workers make anywhere between $32,000 and $52,000 a year depending upon their experience and the level of education they have completed.

4. Child Welfare Social Worker— This area of practice is expected to grow at a rate of 12% through 2018 which is as fast as the average for all occupations.  Social workers who work in Child Welfare are responsible for providing services to abused and neglected children and their families.  One specialty career within child welfare is that of a child protective services (CPS) worker. CPS is responsible for investigating the reports of abuse and neglect towards children.  They determine if abuse or neglect has occurred and if so, what level of intervention is necessary in order to keep children safe.  This can include removing the children from their home and placing them with appropriate family members or in foster homes.

Child Welfare social workers who provide foster care services are responsible for developing permanency plans for children in foster care which could include reunification with their biological parent, guardianship with a family member or adoption.  They see that the child’s needs are being met while they help parents to remedy the circumstances that brought their children into foster care.  Child Welfare work can be very stressful at times but also very rewarding.  Child Welfare social workers who provide the aforementioned services can expect to be paid anywhere from $25,000 to start out, and up to $47,000 as they gain experience.

3. Mental Health Social Worker – Most often social workers who provide mental health related services have at least a Master degree in Social Work and have completed the requirements to be licensed as a clinical social worker (LCSW).  These social workers have often been trained in psychotherapy and are found providing therapy services in community mental health centers, EAP programs, mental hospitals, for profit organizations and private practice to name a few.  These social workers provide mental health assessments, diagnosis and develop treatment plans to assist individuals in overcoming or learning to cope with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder or anorexia nervosa are examples.  They will also provide marriage and family therapy to help families or couples address relationship problems.  Mental Health Social Workers average around $41,880 across the country but can be much higher depending on the area in which they practice.

2. Substance Abuse Social Worker – As prisons are increasingly becoming overcrowded, criminal and family courts across the country are ordering substance abusers into treatment as a condition of their sentence or probation, rather than placing them behind bars.  This has resulted in an increased demand for social workers who specialize in the area of treating addictions or substance abuse treatment.  It is expected that jobs for social workers in substance abuse will grow Group Therapyat a rate of 20% through 2018 which is well above average for all other occupations according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  These social workers are found working in community residential substance abuse treatment programs, for profit facilities, correctional institutions and private practices.  It is the responsibility of substance abuse social workers to assist individuals on the road to recovery by applying different treatment modalities based on the setting and type of addiction.  Substance abuse social workers make on the average between $29,000 and $49,000 annually depending on experience and locale.

1. Medical and Public Health Social Workers – Jobs as medical and public health social workers is projected to grow at a rate of 22% through 2018.  This is a much higher rate than other occupations and the highest rate in the field of social work.  Providing social services to the growing demographic of older Americans will be a high priority over the next 20 years.  Social workers practicing in these areas will find employment in hospitals, emergency rooms, long term care Social worker with elderly patientfacilities, nursing homes, home health agencies and hospices.  These social workers provide individual and group counseling, case management, help cope with new diagnosis, crisis intervention and address end of life issues.  Most importantly medical and public health social workers advocate for patients as they navigate the complex health care system.  Medical and public health social workers hold some of the higher paying jobs in the field of social work as they average between $41,000 and $58,000 annually.

 Although these are the top five careers in social work there are many other career options for those who want to pursue a noble career in social work.  Social work is an occupation for those who truly want to make a difference in the lives of others.  It appears that now, more than ever before, the need to have more social workers in the field is upon us and will remain so for years to come.