A social worker talks to group of people

What Does a Social Worker Do?

Learn how you can work in a rewarding career field that serves people in your community

Social workers can hold a variety of positions and therefore work with many different types of people in many different situations. As a result, it is sometimes hard to answer the question: What does a social worker do?

An easy, all-encompassing answer is that social workers help people. Whether it be with children, adults or the elderly, social workers provide assistance that helps many people cope with challenges that come up in life. This could include helping someone overcome drug abuse, assisting in applying for food stamps, protecting children, providing counseling and more. The roles of a social worker vary depending on the position, but each role is likely to make a positive impact on society.

How much do social workers make?

Just as the duties of a social worker vary by position, so does the pay. According to the U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for social workers in May 2016 ranged from $42,700-$60,230. This data includes salaries of social workers with a bachelor’s degree and social workers with a master’s degree. A graduate degree in social work is typically correlated with higher wages.

Some of the highest social worker salaries are those of Licensed Clinical Social Workers ($66,625) and Healthcare Social Workers ($59,877). School Social Workers ($48,326) and Substance Abuse Counselors ($42,150) tend to be on the lower end of the pay range.

Why choose social work?

High Job Satisfaction

Social Work is a great career path for anyone who wants to make a difference through their work. Because they are continually helping people, it is common for social workers to feel their job is rewarding. U.S. News and World Report even lists many social work positions in their list of The 100 Best Jobs.  

Promising Career

Social Work is also a promising career path for those looking for job security, as social workers will see a 15% growth rate in the industry between now and 2026. This is compared to the 7% growth rate average for other industries.

Variety of Career Options

Lastly, Social Work can be a great career choice because of the variety of positions available for social workers.

A career as a Child and Family Social Worker is great for an individual who wants to work hands-on with children and families in needs. Whereas, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers typically assist adults with their addictions. Other types of social workers include School Social Workers, Healthcare Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW).

Clinical Social Workers require licensure and a graduate degree. As a result, they are highly specialized in the field and address issues such as mental and emotional health. While extra schooling and experience are required to be an LCSW, higher pay and greater job opportunities are worthwhile benefits.

How to become a clinical social worker?

Anyone wanting to become a clinical social worker must first start with a Bachelor of Science degree in either Social Work or a related field. Bachelor’s degrees in sociology, psychology and child development are among the most relevant.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree, aspiring clinical social workers should get a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree. This graduate degree prepares future clinical social workers for advanced clinical practice and specialization within the field.

Next, graduates should check the licensing requirements for the state where they intend to work. Most states require supervised clinical experience where individuals will gain real-world experience in the field. The number of required hours varies by state, so interested individuals should contact their state licensure board or check with the Association of Social Work Boards.

Once the required supervised hours are complete, the last thing to do is pass the licensure exam.

With such a high job outlook and rewarding benefits, it is not surprising that many people decide to pursue a career in social work. Regardless of the position or specialization, many social workers love being able to make a difference in their community.

The Nth Degree

Is an online magazine created by Newman University to provide valuable content to all students bound for undergraduate and graduate college.