Social workers help people. They help individuals cope with problems such as inadequate housing, lack of job skills, financial mismanagement, prolonged illness, disability, substance abuse, or unwanted pregnancy. They also work with families that have serious conflicts, including those involving child or spousal abuse.
Most social workers specialize in a clinical field. Clinical social workers offer psychotherapy or counseling and a range of services in public agencies, clinics, and private practice settings.
Medical social workers help patients and their families cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses and handle problems that may stand in the way of recovery. They also advise family caregivers, and help plan for patient needs after discharge by arranging for at-home services. Some work on interdisciplinary teams that evaluate certain kinds of patients such as geriatric or transplant patients.
Mental health social workers provide services for persons with mental or emotional problems. These services include individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and training in skills of everyday living. They may also help plan supportive services to ease patients’ return to the community.
- Healthcare facilities
- Mental health and substance abuse centers
- Social assistance agencies
- Local and state government
- Federal government
Employment for social workers is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. The growing elderly population and the aging baby boom generation will create greater demand for health and social services, resulting in rapid job growth among gerontological social workers. Mental health and substance abuse social workers is expected to grow by almost 20 percent, faster than some of the other areas of social work.
- Ability to learn the principles and methods of social work and community organization
- Good verbal and math skills
- Ability to listen to people and to be persuasive
- Ability to keep records and write reports
- Ability to direct, organize, and plan projects, treatments, and programs
- Ability to make decisions based on experience and observation
- Objectivity and sensitivity to people and their problems
A master’s of social work (MSW) degree is usually the minimum requirement for employment. A bachelor’s of social work degree is adequate for a few entry-level positions. A doctoral degree is necessary for most teaching and some supervisory positions.
An applicant for certification to practice as a social workers must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work from an approved program. To be certified to practice as a master social worker, an applicant must have a master’s or doctorate degree in social work from an approved program, have 3,000 hours of experience practicing social work, and have passed the certification exam.
Programs in Nebraska
Related / Links
- Community health educator (Health promotion specialist)
- Human services worker
For more information on a career in social work:
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at www.bls.gov