There are many careers I have taken an interest in throughout my life, but the one that I have been interested in for the longest is social work. I have several family members who are social workers, and I really admire the work that they do. I am passionate about helping people in my community and helping people who are struggling, especially women and children in difficult situations. When researching social work, I investigated the steps I have to take to become a social worker, the different kinds of social work, the different kinds of job environments a social worker might find themselves in, and the specific types of work that social workers perform. I found this information through the National Association of Social Workers, Social Work Licensure, NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On the website Social Work Licensure, I found a series of guides on the different ways you can go about becoming a social worker. The most important thing you have to do in order to become a social worker is to get an accredited social work degree from the Council on Social Work Education. You can get a BA in social work or an MSW (Master’s) in social work, but not all states allow BA students to work without further education (though many do). The next decision you have to make, of course, is which school to go to. This might depend a lot upon which type of social work you want to do. For instance, those interested in clinical social work must choose a program with an option to concentrate on clinical social work. However, they do say it is possible to switch concentrations later on in your career. After graduating, novice social workers usually work under supervision for their first two or three years on the job. (SocialWorkLicensure.org)
On the website for the National Association of Social Workers, I found a description of the different areas of social work you can choose from. These include: Substance Misuse and Addictions, Aging, Child Welfare, Public Welfare, School Social Work, Justice/Corrections, Developmental Disabilities, Employment/Occupational Social Work, Health Care, Mental Health/Clinical Social Work, Community Organization, International Social Work, Management/Administration, Policy and Planning, Politics, and Research. Incidentally, the organization also gives an approximation of the annual income of most social workers, which is $40,000 and up. It also talks about the benefits of joining the National Association of Social Workers, which include legal help and other community resources. (NASW)
Though all of the different kinds of social work sound very interesting to me, I am most interested in Clinical social work. Therefore, when looking for an example of the types of classes I might take as a social work student, I chose NYU’s Silver School of Social Work as an example. Their traditional program for an MSW in Clinical Social Work consists of two years of coursework. The first year’s curriculum is described as the “Professional Foundation,” and includes courses in human behavior and diversity, the basics of how the systems of social work function, and field research as well as clinical group practice. The second year’s curriculum is primarily field instruction, as well as elective classes and advanced classes in social work practice and policy. (NYU)
Finally, I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find some general statistics on the social work profession. I found that in 2014, there were about 650,000 jobs for social workers in the market. The job outlook (how fast the number of jobs will grow) for social work for 2014-2024 is 12%, which the Bureau states is “faster than average”. They also confirm the NASW’s approximation of an average social worker’s salary at a little over $40,000 a year. Additionally, they provide a breakdown of the average social worker’s job environment. According to their statistics from 2014, about 30% of social workers work for state and local government (excluding education and hospitals), about 20% work in individual and family services, 20% work in medical fields, and 10% work in nursing and residential care facilities. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
After looking at the field of social work and considering my options, I’ve decided that if I was to pursue social work it would probably be clinical. My family members who are social workers work in hospitals, and I can see how much they help patients on a day-to-day basis. Medicine is something I’ve always been interested in, but I don’t think I would be able to handle the extensive education being a doctor or a nurse provides. I am more interested in the human side of medicine. The patients of a hospital need a great deal of help beyond medical care, and social workers are the ones who are there to provide it for them. The annual salary of a social worker is very good for a starting salary, and as most social workers receive larger salaries over time, I should be able to make back the money I spend on education/repay any loans I take out in a relatively short time. Thanks to the information provided by NYU, the National Association of Social Workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other resources, I now have a clearer picture of what it will take to become a social worker, the type of education I need to acquire, and what my future occupation will hold in store for me.
- “Choices – Careers in Social Work.” Choices – Careers in Social Work. NASW, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
- “Two-Year.” Two-Year. NYU, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
- “Social Work Licensure Requirements.” Social Work Licensure Requirements. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
- “Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.