Social Worker - How to Become a Social Worker

Social Worker

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Social Worker Job Description

 

Social workers are skilled professionals who work with people to help them function at the best of their abilities within the scope of challenges they face in their personal situation or living environment. Social Workers assist individuals, communities and groups to enhance or restore their functional capacity for social interaction. The approach to care is focused on problem-solving and promoting positive social change.

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Responsibilities

 

Professional social workers respond to and prevent crisis situations. They counsel individuals, families, and communities on ways to cope with the stresses of everyday living. Social Workers are frequently found working with people in low socio-economic demographics, including those in severe poverty, the unemployed, or those facing discrimination or inadequate housing.

They also help those with serious illnesses, disabilities or issues with substance abuse. Social Workers also deal with domestic abuse situations and be called in on incidents involving spousal abuse or child abuse and neglect. The Social Worker must work with families suffering serious domestic conflicts.

The various types of Social Workers are generally divided into the following groups:

  • Social Workers who specialize in child, family and school care

  • Medical and Public Health Social Workers

  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

Social Workers will usually specialize in one or more of over 40 varied areas of practice. Some of the popular specialization areas are:

  • Disaster relief

  • Child welfare services

  • Homeless family assistance

  • Gerontology services

Their responsibilities will often overlap with other professionals in the mental health field. LCSWs are specially trained in managing mental illness but the scope of their practice is narrower than for other mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists or psychiatric nurses.

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Skills

 

An effective Social Worker must employ many cognitive, professional, and emotional skills since they work with many destitute, underprivileged, and poverty-stricken people. They have to continuously be able to read situations, solve issues, and meet people on an emotional, yet professional level.

A social worker must: 

  • Have a deep understanding of human development and behavior

  • Practice empathy

  • Active listening

  • Show reason and tolerance

  • Have good analytic and communication skills

  • Pay close attention to detail

They must have an appreciation of the gravity that various social, economic and cultural factors can have on a patient’s life, and an understanding of how these factors interact.

A Social Worker must also have a ton of inner strength. It takes a lot out of a person to see horrible situations day-in and day-out and be able to keep returning to it--and taking it upon yourself to help solve the issues. One must be able to separate personal life from professional life and not get caught in the depression and hardships your clients face. A good Social Worker has to separate themselves from the situation so they can better analyze and attack the problems.  

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Working Conditions

 

A Social worker employed on a full-time basis usually works a standard 40-hour week. Some are required to work evenings and weekends to meet with clients when it is convenient. They may be required to attend community meetings or handle emergencies as they arise. Other social workers work on a part-time basis, especially if they work with a nonprofit agency.

Social workers will usually spend time in a residential facility or in an office setting but may also travel in their local area to visit clients at their homes, meet with various service providers, or to attend meetings and workshops.

Many hospitals and long-term care facilities employ Social Workers as part of their healthcare teams. This places the social worker in a collaborative role with other professionals, such as clinical specialists, Registered Nurses and Health Aides. The work can be satisfying but it can also be emotionally taxing. Many places under staff, which results in large caseloads and adds to the pressure that social workers already experience. 

 


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How to Become a Social Worker:

 

The minimum educational requirement to qualify for most social work jobs is a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW). Some jobs in public or private agencies, as well as clinical positions, may require a Master’s Degree (MSW). Most supervisory, administrative and staff training jobs require an MSW. College and university teaching positions and most research positions require a Doctorate in Social Work (DSW or Ph.D.).

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

An undergraduate social-work program will prepare a graduate for a direct service position, such as a case worker or a home counselor, and generally includes courses in the following areas:

 

  • Values and ethics of social work
  • Methods for dealing with a culturally diverse clientele
  • Dealing with at-risk populations
  • Methods for promoting social and economic justice
  • Interaction of human behavior and the social environment
  • Policies and services of social welfare
  • Social work practices
  • Methods for social research

 

Accredited BSW programs will require a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience.

 

2. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE)

 

Most graduate programs revolving around forensic science require the GRE for admittance. It's a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

 

The GRE is broken down into six primary sections:

 

1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • ~20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

 

You can find study materials, GRE registration, and your test scores on the GRE website.

 

3. Earn a Master's Degree in Social Work (2 Years)

 

A master's degree is necessary for clinical positions, administrative positions, and for school social work. In a master’s degree program, graduates will work in their selected field and continue to develop the skills they’ll need to perform clinical assessments, manage large caseloads, adapt to supervisory roles, and to explore innovative ways of managing client needs.

MSW programs last for two years and require a minimum of 900 hours of internship, or supervised field instruction. Most MSW programs will offer an advanced standing to students with a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited social work program. For MSW candidates holding a bachelor’s degree in a different field, they need to have completed certain prerequisite courses such as:

  • Psychology

  • Sociology

  • Economics

  • Biology

  • Political Science

  • Social Work

Here is some of the coursework you can expect:

First Year
  • Human Behavior and Environment
  • Professional Policies
  • Social Work Practice
Second Year
  • Specialty Field Instruction
  • 900 Hours Field Work

 * Mastery of a second language is also very helpful

 

4. Earn a Doctoral Degree (Optional)

 

A PhD is totally optional and is really only needed if you want the esteem that comes with having a PhD, or you plan on doing research and teaching at a University. If you work at hospitals MDs will probably take you more seriously with a PhD, but you can get most social work jobs with a Masters. Sometimes having a PhD, if you don't plan on teaching or researching, will over qualify you for many positions you could've landed with a Masters. 

With that being said, continuing education is never a bad thing and if you have a PhD you could impact policy and work on an international level. Most PhD programs take 2 more years, but a ton of intern hours. In some states, they require you to complete 3000 hours of internship before you can get your credentials. And paid internships are rare. If you just want to practice, and not teach or research, get the Masters. 

 

5. Earn the Required License and Certification 

 

Social work practice and the use of professional titles is governed in all states and the District of Columbia by licensing, certification and registration requirements. While licensing standards vary by state, an increasing number of states are placing heavier emphasis on communication skills, professional ethics, and a demonstrated sensitivity to cultural issues. For consideration as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, most states require at least two years of supervised clinical experience.

There are 5 different levels of licensing tests administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Depending on your level of education and experience, you can only take certain tests.  

  • Associate Exam- Community College, (test not required in some states)
  • Bachelor's Exam- BSW Degree w/ complete internship
  • Master's Exam- MSW Degree (Post-Grad clinical experience not necessary)
  • Advanced Generalist Exam- MSW + 2 yrs of supervised clinical work
  • Clinical Exam- MSW + 2 yrs of unsupervised clinical work

* Additionally, candidates will have to pass a 170 question test geared towards their licensing level. 

Credentials are essential in private practice, as some health insurance providers will not reimburse for services by Social Workers without licensing and credentials. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers a voluntary credentialing program. Social Workers who hold an MSW can become certified through the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), the Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW) or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) credential.

 

Total time to become a Social Worker depends on which route you take but can take as little as 4 years, and as much as 11. So use your time wisely and when your ready to find a job visit HospitalCareers.com to find a job that best meets your needs. 

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
Must be licensed as a social worker. Minimum 2 year experience as Medical Social Work.
12.05.2016
- Bachelor's Degree - Social Work - Minimum of 1 year The Supportive Care Social Worker assists in the management of complex patients with life limiting illnesses, as well as provides psychosocial support to these patients and their...
12.05.2016
SOCIAL WORKER II
12.05.2016
SOCIAL WORKER II
12.05.2016
Bachelor's degree required; Master's degree preferred. Current license in social work in Ohio Current licenses, as applicable, in Ohio Position Summary: Employee works under the supervision of the Director of Care Management. Social...
12.05.2016
Provides direct social work services to patients, extending services to family members in need of identified social worker services, providing them with psychosocial and environmental support. Makes available a full range of treatment...
12.05.2016
Under clinical supervision, responsible for psychosocial screening, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up for patients and families in assigned patient population. Collaborates with physicians, nurses, internal and external case...
12.05.2016
Job Summary: The Social Worker intervenes with patients who have complex psychosocial needs, require assistance with eligibility determination for social programs and funding sources and qualify for community assistance from a variety of...
12.07.2016
DescriptionRole Purpose:Interview patients and family members referred to the department by their family physician and obtain information about home environment, family relationships, health history, and patient's personality traits. Counsel...
12.05.2016
The Medical Social Worker is responsible for providing comprehensive social work services which assist patients, clients and their families to find practical ways of overcoming social, emotional and environmental barriers to optimum functioning...
12.05.2016
The Social Worker in Geriatrics serves as a liaison between the Senior Care interdisciplinary team, the patient, family members and community agencies in the creation and implementation of a plan of care. The Geriatrics Social Worker coordinates...
12.05.2016
Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or treatments and discharge planning to patients and families to assist...
12.05.2016
Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or treatments and discharge planning to patients and families to assist...
12.05.2016
***THIS POSITON IS LOCATED IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT*** Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or...
12.05.2016
***THIS POSITON IS LOCATED IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT*** Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or...
  1. Social Worker Elkin, NC Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital
    Must be licensed as a social worker. Minimum 2 year experience as Medical Social Work.
  2. Social Worker Anderson, SC AnMed Health
    - Bachelor's Degree - Social Work - Minimum of 1 year The Supportive Care Social Worker assists in the management of complex patients with life limiting illnesses, as well as provides psychosocial support to these patients and their...
  3. SOCIAL WORKER II Cincinnati, OH TriHealth
    SOCIAL WORKER II
  4. SOCIAL WORKER II Cincinnati, OH TriHealth
    SOCIAL WORKER II
  5. Social Worker Gallipolis, OH Holzer
    Bachelor's degree required; Master's degree preferred. Current license in social work in Ohio Current licenses, as applicable, in Ohio Position Summary: Employee works under the supervision of the Director of Care Management. Social...
  6. Social Worker St. Louis Park, MN Park Nicollet Health Services
    Provides direct social work services to patients, extending services to family members in need of identified social worker services, providing them with psychosocial and environmental support. Makes available a full range of treatment...
  7. Social Worker Boston, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
    Under clinical supervision, responsible for psychosocial screening, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up for patients and families in assigned patient population. Collaborates with physicians, nurses, internal and external case...
  8. SOCIAL WORKER Tifton, GA Tift Regional Medical Center
    Job Summary: The Social Worker intervenes with patients who have complex psychosocial needs, require assistance with eligibility determination for social programs and funding sources and qualify for community assistance from a variety of...
  9. Social Worker Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionRole Purpose:Interview patients and family members referred to the department by their family physician and obtain information about home environment, family relationships, health history, and patient's personality traits. Counsel...
  10. Medical Social Worker Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
    The Medical Social Worker is responsible for providing comprehensive social work services which assist patients, clients and their families to find practical ways of overcoming social, emotional and environmental barriers to optimum functioning...
  11. Social Worker - Geriatrics Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
    The Social Worker in Geriatrics serves as a liaison between the Senior Care interdisciplinary team, the patient, family members and community agencies in the creation and implementation of a plan of care. The Geriatrics Social Worker coordinates...
  12. CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER-MASTERS Roanoke, VA Carilion Clinic
    Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or treatments and discharge planning to patients and families to assist...
  13. CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER-MASTERS Roanoke, VA Carilion Clinic
    Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or treatments and discharge planning to patients and families to assist...
  14. CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER-MASTERS Roanoke, VA Carilion Clinic
    ***THIS POSITON IS LOCATED IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT*** Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or...
  15. CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER-MASTERS Roanoke, VA Carilion Clinic
    ***THIS POSITON IS LOCATED IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT*** Supports Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. The clinical social worker provides psychosocial assessments, interviews, and/or...