Aspiring case workers must, at minimum, complete a bachelor's degree, usually in the field of social work. Supervisory positions and employment in healthcare facilities generally require a master's degree. Both programs of study require completion of on-the-job training through supervised counseling and internships. Case worker training begins with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Those positions requiring additional training usually necessitate a Master in Social Work (MSW).
Bachelor of Social Work
The BSW curriculum encompasses topics such as social justice, welfare services and policies, at-risk clienteles, diversity issues and ethics. These programs train individuals to work in different organizations both in the public and private sector. Skills in communication, case management and crisis intervention are emphasized. Additionally, students study social policy and cultural diversity. Some common coursework might include:
- Intro to social work
- Beginning general practice
- Social work research and evaluation
- Advocacy for policy change
- Social justice practice
Master of Social Work
Applicants are required to have already completed a bachelor's degree to apply for this program. Graduate programs usually require two additional years of study and incorporate didactic training and internships. Students of MSW programs generally choose to specialize in a specific area, such as family, child, and school services; substance abuse and mental health; or public health and medical services. These programs may be found online. Some of the course topics might include:
- Human behavior social environment
- Individual and family
- Group process
- Social work research
- Policies and strategies for community intervention
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, healthcare social workers make a median annual wage of $52,380 as of May 2015. From 2014-2024, the job outlook for social workers is expected to grow 12%, which is faster than average compared to all other occupations.
After completing case worker training at the undergraduate or graduate levels, candidates must obtain a license to practice. Licensure guidelines vary by state, but candidates generally accumulate a specified amount of practical experience and pass a civil service examination. Separate professional credentials are available through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Certifications are available in hospice and palliative care; gerontology; children, youth and family services; school social work; healthcare; and case management.
Many educational opportunities are available for case workers through schools of social work, healthcare facilities and government agencies. Additionally, numerous programs are offered through the NASW and other professional agencies focused upon a specific area of the practice. Employers also offer regular training opportunities in order to ensure workers are current in work policies and government regulations.
Case workers may join the NASW to obtain career support, continuing education and professional development opportunities. Members must adhere to a code of ethics. Licensed social workers must fulfill varying continuing education requirements as determined by state regulations.
Case workers help clients address different problems affecting them at home or in the workplace; these professionals will need either a bachelor's or master's degree and state licensure in order to find employment. After completing these degrees, case workers can earn certification in different specializations and attend extra courses to stay current on their education.