A social worker helps people solve problems and learn to cope with everyday life challenges in a variety of situations. They work with those dealing with disabilities, serious illnesses or addictions, as well as helping vulnerable children and their families. Social workers help connect those in need with the community resources available.
Watch a video to learn what a social worker does.
How to Become a Social Worker
Social workers are required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in sociology or psychology; however this usually only allows them to be eligible for entry-level positions. Many social workers go on to earn a Masters degree. These programs usually offer leadership and managerial skills that one does not earn at the undergraduate programs. They also include an internship in a social work field under the supervision of a licensed professional. Many states also require social workers to get licensed or certified to practice. Check out your state’s regulations and laws on the Association of Social Work Boards website (link opens in new tab). Read an interview with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Interview with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Social Worker: Haley N, LCSW
Online Therapist & Clinical Director
How did you become a therapist?
I became a therapist by attending graduate school at Columbia University in social work. After grad school, I went on to Yale to work on the clinical faculty of the Yale Child Study Center where I received my post-masters clinical training and passed my clinical licensure exam. After being a therapist in clinics for several years, I decided to open up an online private practice and now I work with an amazing company called ThriveTalk.com.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I get to help people make positive changes in their lives every day. It’s incredibly rewarding to have the training and skillset to sit with people during some of their darkest moments in life. I get the honor of not only supporting people during their hard times, but helping to give them new perspectives and skills to transform their life by rising above their circumstances.
What aspect of your career surprised you?
I wasn’t prepared for how emotionally taxing it can be to provide therapy to other people. Therapists need to be in therapy in order to manage their emotions and energy around the work that we do. It’s important to practice what you preach.
What advise would you give others who may be interested in becoming a therapist?
If you’d like to become a therapist and help others, the best thing to do is to go to therapy yourself and also do some volunteer work with people who have mental illness or are in a difficult life situation. After 6 months of doing both of these things, you will know for certain whether the mental health profession is for you.
Interview with a Non-Clinical Social Worker
What does a typical day in your profession look like?
Mostly in the office, approached many times during the day by five social workers who want to discuss their clients and their case management of clients. I give advice and feedback and my own point of view and make suggestions. I record and find data I review their work. I answer phone calls from stressed clients, hoping to get some sort of assistance. I speak to people from the community about government services availability.
What do you enjoy most about social work?
I enjoy the ability to assist people who are in need. I enjoy using my influence to get social workers to see things differently. I am able to form long term associations and friendships with coworkers. Good hours, decent environment, good benefits.
What do you find challenging about social work?
There is not a lot of creativity. It is a bit repetitive.
What personal characteristics do successful people in your career field possess?
They are organized, intelligent, able to empathize, and nonjudgemental.
5. What advice would you give others who are interested in pursuing your profession?
To get a master’s degree in social work after they are sure they like the field and then to read and stay educated about the field.
Job Description of a Social Worker
A social worker’s job is to identify those in need, assess their situation and develop ways to improve their lives and adjust to life’s challenges. This may include, unemployment, illness, divorce and mental disorders. A social worker would refer a client to community resources, like, health care, child care or food stamps. He or she would work with government agencies to help a person receive entitled benefits, like, medicare.
They would set up programs to protect children, such as, child abuse cases. Their job would include continuing to evaluate provided services and make any necessary changes to the program to ensure the well-being of their clients. They would follow-up on each case to determine if the improvement is being made and create accurate records on each client. A social worker should have compassionate qualities, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and be a problem solver.
Social Worker Career Video Transcript
In an ideal world, every family would be stable and supportive, and every child’s needs would be met. But in reality, families who live in poverty, with mental illness, chemical abuse, or other issues, may need the help of child, family, and school social workers to find their way. An important role of these social workers is to help clients understand the range of services available to them, connect them to organizations and programs that will help them, and teach them how to advocate for themselves in the future. Good record keeping of conversations and activity is critical.
Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families function more effectively. They often connect families with housing, child care, and welfare assistance. They may promote better parenting skills, coordinate adoptions, and find foster homes for abandoned or abused children. School social workers deal with problems like bullying, truancy, and teenage pregnancy, and they may also advise teachers. Some travel to multiple schools in a school district. Child, family, and school social workers work for government agencies, non-profits, school systems, and in residential facilities.
A bachelor’s degree in social work is the most common requirement to enter the field, though many also earn a master’s in social work. While the work can be emotionally taxing, child, family, and school social workers help lighten the load for struggling children and families, and give them hope for a brighter future.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 21-1021.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.