Social workers assist individuals, families, groups, and communities with such problems as inadequate housing, unemployment, lack of job skills, domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancy, students misbehavior in class, excessive absences from school, substance abuse, financial mismanagement, juvenile delinquency, loss of a loved one, homelessness, illness or disability, emotional disorders and more. Full time social workers usually work a standard 40-hour workweek; however some occasionally work evenings, and weekends to meet with clients, and attend community meetings, and handle emergencies. About 40% of social workers are employed by state, county, or municipal government agencies. Most of the remaining 60% are employed in the private sector by nonprofit and for-profit firms, institutions and organizations. With the rising healthcare cost hospitals have begun to release patients as soon as possible, therefore social workers are needed to assist the patients at home. The huge baby boom generation Americans born between the end of World War II and the early 1960’s is entering midlife, which comes with a unique set of problems and concerns. Social workers are trained to provide help on all these issues. The growing popularity of employee assistance programs also is expected to spur some demand for private practitioners, some of who provide social work services to corporations on contractual basis.
Some of the basic qualities required of social workers are compassion, sensitivity and responsiveness to others’ problems and needs, and interpersonal skills. You should be driven by your general love of humanity and desire to help people improve their lives. Social workers must have excellent judgement, but they can’t be judgmental. They must also be resourceful and flexible. A bachelor’s degree in social work is the most common minimum requirement to qualify for a job as a social worker; however, majors in psychology, sociology and related fields may be sufficient to qualify for some entry level jobs, especially in small communities. All states and the District of Columbia have licensing certification or registration requirements regarding social work practice and the use of professional titles. A growing number of states have begun to place much emphasis on communication skills, professional ethics, and sensitivity for cultural diversity.
Social workers derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from their jobs. They get to witness the resilience of the human spirit in action, which can be very rewarding.
They are able to watch their clients reach deep into themselves and find the ability to cope with their problems, and not just survive, but thrive. To know that you have contributed to another persons recovering a sense of purpose and self-esteem is very gratifying. A social worker with a bachelor of social work degree can expect to start at a salary of around $25,000 to $30,000. Those with a master’s degree around $40,000 and make an average of approximately $50,000. Those with doctorates command in the area of $75,000 a year. The top 10% of social workers earn this salary or more. The earnings depend on the type of work, geographic factors, and employer. In addition to salaries, most employers offer other benefits such as healthcare insurance, paid vacation days, and sick leave. There may be additional benefits, as well, depending on where you work.
Although helping people is very rewarding, things don’t always work out the way you expect. In spite of your best efforts clients may revert to substance abuse, be forced out of a job, or die of a terminal illness. Those who are employed by school systems, hospitals, the government, or other institutions are often frustrated by bureaucratic red tape. Most of the time these agencies are under staffed and under funded. In addition, even when you can help, it is emotionally draining to confront life’s misfortunes.