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What is Social Work?
As individuals in this modern world, every one of us would have come across the term social work at least once. So, what does social work mean? Merriam Webster defines social work as “any of various professional activities or methods concretely concerned with providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged.”
As shown in the above definition, social work involves a wide range of roles from child and family to mental health and substance abuse. There is a large number of opportunities for those who choose social work as a career choice. In this field, one can make an impact that would be capable of changing the lives of many. This gives the ones choosing this field an opportunity to work for the welfare of humanity.
Social work has existed for many centuries in an informal form. Only during the industrial revolution in 19th century England was it replaced by formal social welfare services. The sudden change in economic and social conditions brought by the industrial revolution is one of the major reasons.
Social work at this stage was mainly focused on handling the mass urban poverty that resulted from industrialization. It was closely linked to charity work because of the high level of focus given to poverty alleviation.
In the present, social work deals with problems arising from homophobia, racism, sexism, and discrimination based on factors like age, physical, mental disability, etc. It also takes a holistic approach towards social issues. In numerous countries, social workers are mandated to register and acquire licenses before pursuing it as a career. The education qualification can go from a bachelor’s degree in social work all the way to a doctorate.
The National Association of Social Workers mentions the following as core values that are the foundation of social work,
- Service: A social worker’s primary goal is to identify a problem and help people cope with it. This is the value that gives rise to the other social work values.
- Social justice: They speak on behalf of the oppressed, the voiceless, and those that cannot support themselves. They advocate for equality and work against injustice. They also work on educating the people that are not aware of the discrimination that they are facing.
- Dignity and worth of the person: They should keep that in mind and treat every client with dignity and respect. They should also be aware of their duties to the client as individuals and society as a whole.
- Importance of human relationships: They work on connecting the people who need help with the organizations or individuals who can provide it. Thus, the ability to maintain human relationships is very crucial for a social worker.
- Integrity: They must exhibit the one character that is very important in this field, trustworthiness. Their behavior also has to be honest and responsible. Only then can they provide the best value for the ones they serve.
- Competence: According to the NASW, a social worker must strive to expand his/her knowledge and competence in order to serve clients to the best.
According to Careerexplorer, there are two main types of social workers. The direct-service social worker helps people with everyday problems in their lives. On the other hand, the clinical social worker helps people with mental, behavioral, and emotional issues by helping with diagnosis and treatment.
Do You Need a BSW Degree to Become a Social Worker?
To become a social worker, a BSW degree is needed. Usually, a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) would be required. However, a bachelor’s degree in related fields like psychology or sociology can also help get a job.
One of the most important things to get a job in this field would be experience. This is because social work is a practice-based profession. The more experience you gain, the more credible your resume will be. It is advisable to join an internship under an experienced social worker while in college. This would give you the necessary exposure to the field along with the experience.
A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree
A master of social work degree allows you to get higher-paying and much more complicated job roles than those you can get with a BSW degree. To get a master’s degree in social work, one would require a bachelor’s in social work or any other related field. Some institutions also ask for work experience as an eligibility requirement.
Most leading universities around the world offer the MSW course online or part-time too. This allows working professionals to take the course and advance in their careers in a very flexible manner.
With a BSW degree, you will be able to get direct jobs like a mental health assistant’s caseworker. On the other hand, only an MSW degree can provide you with the technical knowledge and experience to take up clinical roles, leadership roles, and administrative roles.
If you intend to teach social work, a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree or a PhD in social work would be required. The difference between the two is that DSW programs allow you to take up a clinical role while PhD in social work would allow you to take up research roles.
To take up clinical social work roles, most governments would also require you to obtain a license. This procedure varies with every country. A licensed clinical social worker can make almost twice as much as what someone with a bachelor’s degree can.
So, How do I Become a Licensed Social Worker?
In order to become a licensed social worker, you will have to start with a BSW degree. Then enroll in a master of social work (MSW) program and start gaining work experience by volunteering or interning for established social work organizations or an experienced social worker.
On completion of the MSW program, start the process of getting licensed. The process varies by country, as we saw earlier. You can start your career as a social worker by obtaining your license.
This article published by Texila American University has detailed how to become a licensed social worker. It talks about the MSW program, social work career options, and licensure process in detail.
Master of Social Work (MSW): Career Opportunities
Social workers work in diverse environments, including hospitals, government organizations, schools, non-profit organizations, etc. The work profile, too, varies with the level of experience and the niche you work on. An MSW degree opens your career to much more specific roles than the ones you would be able to get with just a bachelor’s degree. Specialties include children, family, marriage, schools, addiction, etc.
Below is a list of jobs that can take you on a career path in social work,
- Direct Care Worker cares for patients who cannot take care of themselves. This may even include providing help with daily living activities. They also observe patients with regard to changes in their condition.
- The school Counselor is responsible for providing counseling services to students. Schools include private, public, charter schools at all levels. The work requirements also vary based on the age and need of students.
- Social Work Intern assists professional social workers. They learn how to apply their knowledge in real-world situations and practice their skills. They take part in a wide range of roles that a professional may do, although under supervision.
- Case Worker helps individuals, families, and communities who are at risk. This may include children, the elderly, and people with serious illnesses. Their job role requires them to make house visits, perform psychosocial evaluations, provide resources, and report abuse instances.
- Behavioral Health Technician provides intervention services to patients with mental health and behavioral issues. Such issues include post-traumatic stress disorder, psychiatric disorder, developmental disorder, substance abuse, and physical or emotional abuse. They work with doctors, nurses, and analysts to implement treatment plans.
- The counselor guides patients to cope with issues that affect their mental health and well-being. Patients may be individuals, couples, families, or groups. They persuade their patients to discuss their emotions and experiences. They then help them define their goals and gain insight into the patient to plan a course of action. The major issues they work with are substance abuse, depression, career guidance, anger management, relationships, bullying, aging, and stress.
- Child Welfare Specialist ensures children are protected. They make sure children live in a safe and secure environment, receive medical care, and receive a proper education. Child welfare specialists have to decide on removing children from unsafe situations like an abusive home. The social worker is then responsible for finding the child the right home and ensuring that the child is safe and happy.
- The Case Manager works in the healthcare or social service industry. Duties include rehabilitation, geriatric care, mental health care, education, nursing, etc. They are responsible for meeting patients, creating care plans, making visits, and following up on progress.
- Addiction Counselor offers services to people or groups with addiction issues. They help their patients identify their problems and guide them through coping strategies. They may also work in hospitals and dedicated rehabilitation institutions.
- Crisis Counselor helps people or groups that have recently gone through a major crisis. They help them recover and improve their sense of safety. The role’s main purpose is to provide relief through psychological support. They also refer their patients to long-term counseling or therapy as their role is more short-term.
- Medical Social Worker helps patients with the various struggles related to the diagnosis of major illnesses. They spend time educating patients about their treatment, available resources, and health insurance. They also provide counseling when necessary. They can help raise awareness about lifestyle choices, disease prevention, healthy practices, etc.
- A therapist is a licensed mental health professional. They help their patients overcome mental illness. A therapist’s role is to be unbiased, nonjudgmental and support the patients in their journey to better mental health. They are also called psychotherapists.
- Behavior Analysts use behavioral psychology to help their patients with problems, usually social, emotional, or behavioral. They are responsible for assessing the patient’s behavior and creating a support mechanism and intervention plans. Most countries require behavior analysts to be registered and licensed.
|A Comprehensive List of High Paying Roles in Social Work Profession|
|Director of Corporate Social Responsibility||Marriage & Family Therapist|
|Professor of Social Work||Office Manager at an NPO|
|Employee Assistance Program Counselor||Older Adult Social Worker|
|Veteran’s Affairs Social Worker||Wraparound Facilitation Supervisor|
|Executive Director of a Non-Profit Organization||Certified Addiction Counselor|
|Social Science Researcher||Corrections Social Worker|
|Director of Development of an NPO||Program Coordinator at an NPO|
|Housing & Community Development Director||Education Outreach Coordinator|
|Licensed Clinical Social Worker||Recreational Therapist|
|Medical Discharge Planner||Community Health Advocate|
|Program Evaluator||Community Organizer|
|School Social Worker||Case Manager of Social Services|
|Clinical Coordinator||Crisis Intervention Counselor|
|Public Policy Analyst||Housing Support Specialist|
|Grants Administrator||Adoption Counselor|
|High School Guidance Counselor||Group Home Supervisor|
|International Social Worker||Community Health Worker|
|Assistant Director of a Nonprofit Organization||Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate|
|Medical Social Worker||Youth Social Worker|
|Staff Lawyer||Street Outreach Social Worker|
|Social Science Research Assistant||Family & Child Advocate|
|Hospice Care Social Worker||Licensed Master of Social Work|
|Military Social Worker||Mental Health Counselor|
|Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor|
|Job||Average salary (per hour)||Job||Average salary (per year)|
|Direct care worker||$11.28||Case manager||$41,885|
|School counselor||$12.17||Addiction counselor||$42,856|
|Family Advocate||$13.66||Medical social worker||$55,030|
|Social work intern||$15.90||Behavior analyst||$68,593|
|Behavioral health technician||$17.17|
|Child welfare specialist||$18.95|
|Clinical social worker||$40.82|
What is it Like, a Social Work Career?
As a social worker, you will be spending most of your time in an office. However, the job would require you to travel locally. This would be to visit clients, service providers or to attend meetings. Although a very satisfying career, it can sometimes be challenging.
Enough about location; now let’s talk about what makes social work so satisfying. This is a profession that has the potential to improve the lives of people. It helps people to cope with issues in their lives. These issues range include disability, diseases, unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, and many more.
Job opportunities for social work are also projected to grow about 13% in 2019–2029. This is higher than the average for all occupations. This growth rate may vary with specialty, though.
For instance; Child, family, and school social worker employment is projected to increase by 12%, while healthcare social worker employment is expected to increase by 14%. The employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is expected to see the highest growth at an astonishing 17% increase.
Nigeria can be Transformed with an MSW Degree
You read that right. Nigeria, a nation fraught with social, religious, political, and economic issues, can be transformed by social work. Some major problems plaguing Nigeria include juvenile crimes, population explosion, poverty, drug abuse, cultism, poor education, and inequality.
Like we saw earlier, social workers can solve all the problems of Nigeria. Social workers have been working towards betterment in Nigeria. Between 1996 and 2015, there has been a 68% decline in juvenile crime because of social workers’ contribution.
Social workers have been working towards eliminating unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, child abuse, etc. This article by Texila American University talks in detail on this topic.
Benefits of a Career in Social Work
Social work can be an enriching career because of the following attributes and benefits,
- A versatile career path
- A large number of opportunities
- The ability to change the lives of people
- The ability to make this world a better place to live in
- Good pay with constant growth and development
- The fulfillment that your contributions make a difference in someone’s life
In conclusion, social work is a rewarding field of work that can potentially change the lives of millions around the globe. It also has the benefit of working for the betterment of humankind. It has the capacity to reach and positively affect people of all strata of life. Because of the magnitude of its capacity, social work has huge potential for job opportunities in the near future. Texila American University (TAU) provides an MSW program with an advanced course structure and the ability to learn online.