Social work is a field which offers its members choices, variability and potential for personal satisfaction. Child welfare, health care, education and behavioral health are just a few fields that employ social workers. The social work degree is available at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate level. Social work is not, however, without its downfalls.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the average salary of child, family and school social workers at about $43,000 in 2008. This range varies across states and even cities, and beginning social workers are dismayed to find the average salary is much less. For example, a Child Protection Service Specialist in the state of Arizona earns a beginning salary in the range of $33,312 to $38,855, with the higher figure applying to those with advanced degrees or several years of experience.
Education and Training
Another common drawback to social work is the length of time it takes to acquire the education, training and experience necessary to qualify for the higher-paying positions. In most instances, medical social work, school social work and therapeutic social work require a master’s degree. These fields can also require up to two additional years of work experience, professional supervision and a passing score on an examination to qualify for licensure or certification.
Case managers oversee every aspect of their clients’ care needs. These social workers perform a variety of duties for each client, including conducting assessments to determine the needs of the client, obtaining necessary treatment or services for the client, and coordinating the provision of services by multiple agencies. With the number of social problems faced by communities growing each year, social workers have a difficult time keeping their caseloads at a manageable level.
Compassion fatigue is equivalent to job burnout: It refers to the pressures faced by helping professionals that, if not addressed, lead to ineffective and impersonal job performance. Given potentially low salaries, high caseloads and increasing training requirements for social workers, compassion fatigue is a real possibility.
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