Social workers support vulnerable individuals and groups through challenging issues. They supervise the wellbeing of children and adults who are undergoing difficult situations like abuse, drug addiction or divorce. Social workers aim to improve outcomes in people’s lives by providing counselling, teaching emotional skills and referring them to community resources.
Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioural and emotional disorders by providing therapy and treatment plans.
- Research and identify individuals or groups that need help
- Determine solutions by evaluating the client’s needs, situation, history, strengths and weaknesses
- Assist clients in coping with difficulties or trauma in their lives
- Research and refer clients to community resources
- Respond and attend to crisis and emergency situations
- Follow up with and check on clients to assess their progress
- Keep up with paperwork, casefiles and records
- Develop programmes and treatment plans that will help the client
- Provide or refer client to therapy, medical or educational services
- Diagnose and treat mental, behavioural and emotional disorders
- Encourage clients to discuss emotions
- Provide emotional support during difficult times
- Conduct interviews with clients and family members
- Write assessments and reports on performance
Skills and qualities
With experience, you can progress into new sectors whether it be in schools, hospitals or military bases, or you can go on to support new specialty areas such as young offenders, the homeless or people with mental health conditions.
You could even move into a juvenile court liaison, health educator or human resources coordinator position, while there is also the prospect of going into management and moving away from frontline work. Social workers can climb the corporate ladder by becoming senior practitioners, service managers or team leaders.
With the right amount of experience, passion and budget, social workers might move on to open their own private practice.
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Although social workers work in an office, they also spend a lot of time visiting clients in homes, schools or hospitals. They will also work with therapists, doctors, police, legal services and teachers.
Being a social worker can be emotionally challenging as you deal with vulnerable individuals. You may have clients that are rebellious and uncooperative, and you must be prepared to handle cases of abuse, poverty and addiction.
Caseloads and paperwork can be heavy, and there's an obligation to understand the system, the client’s culture and ethical principles.
Social work can be rewarding when a positive improvement in a client’s life is made. It also gives you the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
To become a social worker, you must obtain a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, which typically takes four years to complete, where you will gain supervised work experience by practising in real-life settings or via an internship. Some employers will also consider applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a similar field such as psychology or sociology.
If you are interested in enhancing your career in social work or if you aim to become a clinical social worker, you must gain a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. This takes around two years to complete (sometimes a year if you hold a BSW). Clinical social workers must also complete two years of supervised training and experience before entering the role.
Clinical workers must be licensed in their state. After gaining an MSW and having a background of two years of supervised clinical experience, a clinical exam must be passed before becoming a licensed clinical worker.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022