If you are looking for a profession that is meaningful and is designed to help others, a career as a social worker may be the perfect choice for you.
Social workers are dedicated to helping people deal with everyday issues in their lives. They can work with individuals on a one-on-one basis or provide aid to groups of people dealing with the similar issues. Social workers help people deal with their emotions and feelings when going through relationship problems, substance abuse, illness as well as other traumatic or difficult situations. In order to become a social worker, you will need either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in social work. The level of social services you wish to practice and state licensure requirements will determine the type of degree you will need. If you've already made your mind, you would surely like to know how to become a social worker.
What Do Social Workers Do?
Social workers provide support to individuals, families and groups of people in need of assistance and guidance in dealing with difficult and possibly life-altering situations. As a social worker, you would provide counseling and assist others in obtaining access to different types of services that will help them improve their lives and well-being.
The social services you could provide would depend on your training, licensure, and caseload. The types of clients you could assist may include any of the following:
People with mental health issues
Families facing difficult situations
People with substance dependency, such as drug and alcohol addiction
Individuals with physical or learning disabilities
Foster and adoptive parents and youth in care
People moving towards independent living
Your job could include the following no matter what you specialize in doing, be it working with children and families or adult service users:
Assessing and conducting case studies on a client’s situations
Building trust and relationships with individuals and their families
Protecting children and adults of all ages from harm
Responding to requests for assistance
Coordinating services from other professionals vital to the client’s well-being
Offering advocacy and counseling while providing information on services available
Developing and managing support plans
Participating in team meetings and case discussions
Supervision of volunteers
Keeping detailed records and reports
Potentially testifying or giving evidence to court hearing when requested
Your job as a social work would also require you to work with other social service agencies and professionals like police, teachers, doctors, nurses, probation officers, and other individuals who assist in the care of others.
How to Become a Social Worker
Determine the Type of Social Worker You Want to Be
Depending on your area of study and specialty, you will perform different types of work. You may be responsible for providing either group or individual therapy sessions. In several cases, you will make referrals to other agencies or care providers. You may have to make arrangements for at-home care or provide crisis intervention services. As part of your work as a social worker, you may have to assist clients in finding housing, job placement or financial aid assistance. You need to determine what and how you want to help others.
Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Social Work
The first step for anyone to become a social worker is to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work which is the minimum educational requirement to work in this field. You will be required to successfully complete classes in topics of social work ethics and values, diversity and cultural issues, social welfare policies, social work research, and state and local government. Once you obtain your B.S. in social work, you should be able to get a job in an entry-level position.
Earn a Master of Science in Social Work
Several positions in social work will require you to earn a Master of Science in Social Work or a Master of Social Work. If you plan on working in a clinical, health or educational setting, you will need a graduate degree. You will also need your master’s degree if you would like to advance to administrative or managerial positions. The graduate program will offer courses in advanced social work practices, human behavior, psychotherapy theories, applied social work research, family therapy, assessment and intervention techniques as well as addiction and substance abuse therapy.
Get a Licensure
It is a requirement of all 50 states that all social workers obtain their license to work. You should research the requirements of the state you wish to work in, as they vary from state to state. In most states, you will need two years of supervised clinical work experience before you can apply for and obtain your license. You can contact your state licensing board for information on location, times and fees related to social worker licensing exams.
Acquire a Certification
As you build your career in social work, you may want to consider earning a professional certification. It is not necessarily a requirement but it can help increase your job prospect and advancement opportunities. You can find more information on certifications through the National Association of Social Workers.
Essential Qualities for a Social Worker
To consider a career in social work, you should possess and be able to show evidence of the following qualities:
True empathy with the desire to help others
Flexibility and resilience
Patience and tolerance
Ability to remain calm in stressful situations
Quick thinking while under pressure
Initiative and drive
Skill to adapt to new responsibilities, roles and situations
Strong organizational skills, including effectively managing caseloads
Excellent analytical, observational and listening skills
Ability to work effectively with others on behalf of clients
How Can You Become a Great Social Worker?
Education can train you on how to become a social worker and you can possess the skills needed to pursue a career in social work, but it takes hard work and dedication to become a great social worker.
Being a social worker can be very stressful. Being successful in social work requires excellence in time management, patience and understanding, and a commitment to work with a wide range of individuals who each brings their own set of challenges and issues.
The psychological profile for pursuing a career in social work is:
Emotional maturity and objectivity
Ability to handle responsibility
Capable of working independently and in team settings
Empathy to the problems of others
Even before you graduate with your degree, you can do things that will strengthen your abilities and make your studies more meaningful. Consider participating in the following activities and practices to begin your journey in becoming a great social worker:
Discover what a career in social work can offer you through extracurricular reading of professional publications.
Work as a volunteer with community organizations and charities to gain valuable experience.
Go beyond required coursework and earn additional credentials from organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers.
After you graduate and start your career as a social worker, remember it is important to remain educated on the most up-to-date information in your field. Continuing education can help you stay knowledgeable in new policies, best practices and emerging techniques. If you grow in experience, skills and knowledge, you will create a path to becoming a great social worker with the ability to help others and your community.