Careers in Social Work

Have you ever thought about a career in social work? If you like helping others in need, you might consider the field. Here are a few of the discipline's positions, along with a description of the work and educational requirements.

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social worker with client

Overview of Social Work Careers

In general, social workers are trained professionals who help people overcome obstacles by providing access to resources. Social workers counsel people and assist in times of crisis. Typically, these professionals must hold a bachelor's degree, preferably a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Some positions require a higher degree, such as a Master of Social Work (MSW) or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW). Each state has different licensure requirements, but it should be noted that clinical social workers are required to be licensed in all 50 states. Many social workers work within a specific area. Some of these specializations are described below.

Medical and Public Health Social Worker

These social workers may work with individuals, families or communities in dealing with diseases and illnesses, like HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer's disease. They provide support and assistance to those suffering from these health problems, or they might work with family members, neighbors and caregivers to help ensure that patients' needs are being met. Since they mostly work with sick clients, medical and public health social workers may be part of teams that include healthcare professionals. In addition to government agencies, these social workers can be employed by hospitals and nursing care facilities.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Professionals in this area may work for private hospitals and treatment facilities, or they may open a private practice. These social workers evaluate - and occasionally treat - patients with mental health and substance abuse problems. In addition to dealing directly with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues, these social workers provide counseling and support to family members affected by a loved one's problems.

Child, Family and School Social Worker

The focus in this area of social work is on the mental and physical well being of children and their families. If employed in a school setting, a social worker may act as a liaison between families and school officials, helping to determine and overcome obstacles to student success. These professionals may also serve in a quasi-counseling role for students, guiding them through difficult situations that distract from school work. In addition to schools, these social workers are hired by state and local government agencies.

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