Social workers are dedicated people who help individuals, groups and communities learn to lead better lives by helping people learn to deal with their problems and hopefully find solutions to overcome their problems and struggles. They observe, research and assess what help and resources clients need and then develop treatment strategies for them to follow. Social workers are involved in all areas of community life from schools, hospitals, private practices, prisons, local and state government to corporations. Examples of issues social workers are involved with are poverty, physical and mental illness, academic problems, disability, unemployment and family instability.
Most social work employment requires a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). However, some employers will hire a person who has a major in a related field such as psychology or sociology for an entry-level position. A number of social workers earn a master's degree in social work (MSW) to broaden their job opportunities, especially those who are interested in clinical work. Some social workers go on to earn a doctoral degree in social work (DSW). All states require that a social worker receive a license or certification, with the procedure varying by state. Before licensure, most states require social workers to perform 3,000 hours of supervised fieldwork.
Child, family and school social workers strive to improve the social and psychological well-being of children, families and students. They work mainly for individual and family service agencies, schools, or state and local governments. This field of social workers provides a large array of services for people of all ages. These services include assisting single parents, arranging adoptions, finding foster homes for neglected children, assisting senior citizens and their families, and providing support for students by being the link between them and their families and teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in May 2006, the median annual earnings of this type of social worker was $37,480.
Career goals of medical and public health social workers involve providing services and support for people who have health problems whether they are chronic, acute or terminal. They also advise family, friends and caregivers how to help someone in need. Further, these social workers perform many other services such as arranging for at-home services, counseling patients, providing nutrition classes, planning for one's needs after they are discharged from the hospital and providing psychosocial support for patients. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in May 2006, the median annual earnings of this type of social worker was $43,040
Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients improve their mental health and/or their substance abuse problems. Their main career goal is to improve a client's psychological, physical and social functioning. They help prevent, diagnose and treat mental disorders and substance abuse problems by providing a number of services such as individual and group therapy, teaching classes on life skills, performing crisis intervention and fostering social rehabilitation with an end goal of re-entering the community. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in May 2006, the median annual earnings of this social worker was $43,580.
Employment for social workers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all other occupations. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were approximately 600,000 jobs held by social workers in 2006. Total projected employment through 2016 is expected to increase by 22%, for a total of nearly 727,000 jobs. This large increase is due to factors such as a rise in the elderly population, an increase in school enrollment, a rise in substance abuse and a decrease in the length of hospital stays.