This week we are highlighting the career of SOCIAL WORK! Normally, when people think about this career, they automatically think of someone working at the Department of Human Services in Child Welfare removing children from abusive homes and placing them in foster care. While that is a route a Social Worker can choose to go, there are SO MANY more options for someone who chooses a career in Social Work.
What do Social workers even do? Social workers help individuals, families, and communities combat difficult or stressful life situations. They work in rehabilitation centers, schools, hospitals, hospices, and correctional facilities, and often cooperate with professionals in other social service programs. They may help children with behavioral disorders, families in poverty, or victims of domestic abuse. Social workers are different from counselors, although some of their roles are similar. Counselors help individuals manage a specific issue such as alcoholism, divorce, or depression. Social workers provide a wider spectrum of services to a larger and more diverse clientele. In addition to one-on-one counseling, social workers help their clients access social services like recovery programs, financial assistance, or hospice care. Social Workers can work with individuals, families, groups, and can even be in charge of different policy changes within a community.
After graduating from high school, someone interested in pursuing a career in Social Work will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college in Social Work (BSW), which will take a minimum of 4 years. It is possible to become a licensed Social Worker without getting a BSW; however, it will take longer, you will miss out on learning the necessary basics early on and in the long run you will have spent more money. After obtaining a BSW (or another bachelor’s degree), the next step is to enroll in a Master’s program (MSW). This is where obtaining a BSW saves you time and money. If you successfully complete a BSW program, you can enroll in an advanced standing Master’s program, which means you can obtain your MSW in a minimum of 1 year! For someone who does not have a BSW, the time to complete an MSW program will take a minimum of 2 years. In many states, in order to practice more specific forms of Social Work, such as therapy, you need to be licensed. In the state of Pennsylvania, in order to become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) you need to pass the state exam, and in order to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) you have to work in the field for 6 years as an MSW or beyond, complete 3,000 hours of full time experience under an LCSW and pass the state exam. There are a handful of opportunities as a BSW, but as you move up the ladder and obtain more credentials, more opportunities and money become available.
If you are drawn to social justice, interested in feelings, behavior, and overall mental health, this may be a career to consider! Maybe you survived difficult circumstances and now want to help people in similar positions. Maybe you have insight into what motivates people, you know that people’s lives change when they are empowered, and you find the work of helping others rewarding. If so, Social work may be for you!