Social work is a dynamic and practice-based field deeply rooted in social development, healthy growth, and empowering vulnerable people and communities. The altruistic professionals assist people in contending with crises and help the clientele connect with social services and valuable resources.
The job responsibilities of social workers differ according to their specialization areas and work settings. For instance, some may decide to work in ambulatory healthcare services and hospices. In contrast, others might plan to work in palliative care units or schools and colleges.
However, it’s relevant to note that joining a social work career is a significant undertaking. Thus, an individual’s interests and skills must align well. Therefore, ponder the following crucial questions: do you possess the outside-the-box and analytical thinking ability? Can you come up with inventive solutions and manage time effectively?
If the answers to most questions fall near affirmative, a social work profession is most likely a right fit. Here’s the handy guide that imparts information about getting a foot in this challenging yet rewarding field.
Pursue a bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s in social work (BSW) is the minimum educational credential required for this field. It helps individuals become eligible for entry-level positions in various settings, such as social service agencies, drug abuse recovery centers, or schools.
Not only this, but it also acts as a learning pad for learners to pursue advanced degrees. Students study institutional courses, including social welfare, case management, community intervention, human behavior, and community resources.
Complete master’s in social work
A master’s in social work (MSW) is the next natural step to pursuing this meaningful career. It helps professionals prepare for a diverse range of MSW careers that might not be available with just an undergraduate degree. A few of these include substance abuse counselors, foster care social workers, community outreach directors, and many advanced positions.
Of course, the earning potential of each of these professions depends on the geographical area. However, individuals can opt to work for non-profit organizations, government institutions, community development corporations, or private practices.
A master’s degree equips the learners with comprehensive knowledge and specialized skills. Not only this, the degree delivers research-informed education to help prospective social workers brace for the licensure examinations.
Meet fieldwork hour requirements
A bachelor’s degree arms students with generalist skills in various domains, such as legal, policy-making, and ethical concerns. Not only this, but it also imparts a broad spectrum of knowledge to qualify for non-clinical and junior positions. However, students in master’s degree programs specialize in sub-disciplines and hone clinical skills.
Once individuals complete these degrees, meeting fieldwork hour requirements is crucial. Also known as a practicum or an internship, fieldwork refers to the duration in which students incorporate their knowledge in real-world scenarios. It’s a golden opportunity for students to notice and learn valuable wisdom from mentors in the field.
The fieldwork hour requirements depend on the degree type and geographical location of the intended social work school. However, students should always try to venture out of their comfort zone when picking the fieldwork placement to boost their skillset.
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Prepare for the ASWB exam and obtain state licensure
While various social work certifications strengthen the educational profile and enhance the skillset; however, these aren’t a replacement for the ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) examination. Students should complete the licensing exam along with other jurisprudence assessments.
It’s worth noting that all examinations issued with ASWB contain varying levels: bachelor’s, master’s, and advanced clinical. Additionally, each of these examinations comprises multiple-choice questions with different difficulty levels.
Once done with the educational and examination requisites, students should acquire state licensure to work as licensed social workers. According to the BLS, a license is critically important for all clinical social workers. Some may even mandate it for non-clinical job positions.
SKILLS REQUIRED TO BECOME AN EXCEPTIONAL SOCIAL WORKER
Besides education, aspiring social workers must develop vital skills to boost their resumes and stand out among a pool of candidates. Here’s a roundup of some of those:
- Empathy: Almost every other day, social workers encounter clients dealing with emotional, logistical, and challenging problems in their lives. To better understand their emotional state and intellectually determine how to render assistance, professionals should know the art of stepping into another person’s shoes.
- Communication: The job responsibilities of social workers encompass interacting with clientele, agencies, healthcare facilities, providers, and other colleagues. Thus, it gives more reasons for professionals to practice effective communication – verbal and non-verbal. Individuals should learn to be transparent and concise and understand non-verbal cues irrespective of literacy level, race, gender, and cultural background.
In research, inquiry, and action, social work is a meaningful career pathway that centers on social development, cohesion, social justice, and empowerment. The professionals in this field, beyond doubt, play an integral role in serving society and communities in various contexts.
A career in social work is the calling for individuals who wish to assist people in attaining positive life results, notwithstanding hardships and obstacles. According to the BLS, the rewarding field is likely to witness a growth rate of 12% by 2030, translating to a wide array of opportunities for prospective social workers.
Therefore, there’s no right time like the present to step foot in social work. While the time required to become a social worker is entirely contingent upon the individual’s commitment – meaning: the type of degree format pursued. Nonetheless, it typically takes six years, factoring in the bachelor’s and master’s degrees and state licensure requisites.