Why social work is an attractive career choice
Social work can have a significant impact on people’s lives. It is a profession dedicated to helping vulnerable people and communities. Social workers practice in various settings, improving the lives of their clients. They promote cohesion, social change and the empowerment of people. By studying for a master’s degree, social workers are able to specialize in different areas, becoming experts in their chosen fields. Social work involves selecting the best approaches and interventions to meet the needs of their service users.
Social workers help people of all ages and backgrounds across communities. They believe in social justice and human dignity and have a worthwhile job where they can make a difference. Social workers advocate for marginalized people and use their knowledge to change systems. Social work is a dynamic profession, and social workers must be informed of new practice techniques and research to serve their clients better.
A master’s degree prepares students for leadership roles in various fields, including family and youth services, community outreach, addiction and substance abuse, mental health, and more. Keuka College offers an online master’s in social work, which teaches the knowledge, skills and strategies required to become a licensed social worker. There is a traditional track for students with bachelor’s degrees in other subjects and an advanced track for students with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Read Keuka College’s blog to find out more and get answers to the question, what is a social worker?
Online study can suit people who work or have other responsibilities. Online courses offer flexibility, and studying can take place at a convenient time. Students interact through virtual communication, and it is possible to connect with others who work in diverse settings and in different geographical areas. This brings a multitude of perspectives and experiences to the learning group. Studying while working as a social worker can be beneficial as the learning can be applied in the workplace.
Social workers play an important role in society, and they are in high demand by employers. Many diverse populations rely on their help to cope with everyday problems. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many challenges, such as job loss, isolation and illness, and social workers are needed to help with the repercussions still being felt today. Overall employment of social workers is forecast to increase 9% from 2021 to 2031, more than the average growth for all occupations. About 75,000 job openings are projected on average each year.
Social work entails engaging with people with diverse needs, and working in this field requires a strong set of skills. Social workers need emotional intelligence to ask the right questions and understand their clients’ needs. They identify clients’ issues and find solutions such as relocation, therapy and employment assistance. They must be open to learning about new cultures to support clients in dealing with cultural barriers and connect them with appropriate resources.
The pandemic disrupted usual practices, and innovative working methods were introduced that are still used today. Social workers used IT for messaging, checking in and video meetings. There were some advantages to IT communication, including some clients feeling comfortable with video meetings, new clients taking part who had refused in-person meetings, and messaging and document sharing between meetings. Social workers select methods depending on client preference. The pandemic highlighted inequities in areas such as economic, social and healthcare. Social workers understand the impact of these issues on vulnerable clients. They are well-positioned to advocate for equality and social justice.
Social workers are found in every facet of community life, and there are numerous specializations in which professionals can work. Pursuing a social work specialty gives professionals more knowledge and experience in their field of interest. These focus areas allow for developing expertise in a particular topic or population. This expertise helps to give quality service to clients. Specialization can also mean being qualified for specific jobs and career advancement. Below, we outline some of the areas of specialization in the field.
Community social worker
The community social worker’s mission is to improve conditions in their community by supporting individuals and families in accessing appropriate social services. They also work to improve social services and increase availability. The social worker role has grown over recent years and now includes crisis management and advocacy. Social workers’ efforts can transform lives at the individual level while also having an effect at the community level. Community social workers assess needs, refer people to services, plan or administer programs, and more.
A lot of community social work involves direct interaction with people in need. The field of community social work consists of different specializations. Some community social workers work with entire communities, while others work with specific groups, such as the unemployed or LGBTQ+ youths. Responsibilities can vary depending on the location and size of the community. Social workers can be located at different sites, including government offices, substance use treatment centers, shelters, immigration services, and nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations.
They campaign to address systematic issues such as racial injustice and income inequality. Community social work can have an extensive effect across communities. Community social workers work abroad in underserved villages, cities and countries. When there are wars and internal displacement, social workers are in demand. Some of these professionals work with particular ethnic groups, helping immigrants find services and complete documentation. In doing this, they assist people in finding their identities in new countries.
Community social workers also have the responsibility for managing other social workers.
Mental health social worker
Mental health social workers work to improve mental health and wellbeing in society. They work in various settings, including community health, medical, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals. They work with clients to prevent and treat emotional, behavioral and mental issues. They conduct therapy for individuals, families and groups. Some of their clients’ conditions include substance abuse disorders, depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorders. They can offer support for finding employment and housing. Mental health social workers support clients with counseling services, giving them tools and techniques to manage their condition.
Mental health social workers will typically have an initial meeting with clients to assess their weaknesses, strengths and goals. They provide education on mental health, such as the importance of a healthy diet. When clients have serious mental health issues, they refer them to psychologists, therapists and other professionals. Social workers may offer support with everyday needs, such as shopping for food or paying bills. When a mentally ill client experiences discrimination, the social worker might advocate for them during legal proceedings. Social workers monitor clients to ensure that they follow the treatment plan and offer extra support if needed.
Social workers build relationships with individuals and communities. They start by identifying those needing assistance and assessing those needs. Assessments involve looking at the client’s situation and discussing their priorities and desired outcomes. They then give guidance to set goals and plan the means to recovery. Social workers teach their clients coping strategies to help them deal with life challenges such as sickness and disease, unemployment and divorce. Social workers support their clients when there is a crisis. They help address urgent needs, follow up with support and monitor recovery.
Child and family social worker
Child and family social workers do important work in communities by putting families in need in touch with services and overseeing the welfare of vulnerable children. Social workers interview and assess children and families. They use family assessment tools to assess the needs of children who require assistance. When the assessment has been completed, the social worker connects the child and family to referral agencies and appropriate resources. These would relate to the needs identified in the assessment, including prenatal care, childcare, parenting classes, psychiatric help, substance abuse treatment, and more.
Social workers assist in neglect and abuse inquiries and place children somewhere safe. They arrange adoption and fostering placements for children, monitor the process, and support families adopting or fostering. Child and family social workers work in various organizations, such as child welfare agencies, adoption agencies, government child and family services, and nonprofits that advocate for children. They also travel around the area to visit clients at home. Home visits are used to check on children’s and families’ wellbeing in addition to office appointments. Social workers use these meetings to identify any social, behavioral or academic issues their clients have and take the steps necessary to improve these problems sustainably.
Child, family and school social workers work at schools to identify vulnerable children. They look at reports by teachers and connect with students and families needing assistance. They work with teachers to apply methods to help the student in need. They provide counseling services to help students deal with various issues, such as bullying or family crises such as grief, divorce or homelessness. These problems may manifest in anger at school, truancy or not completing schoolwork.
Gerontological social worker
Gerontological social work is a specialist area of practice that involves maintaining and enhancing the quality of life and wellbeing of older people and promoting dignity, autonomy and independence. Social workers know that older adults have specific characteristics that differ from earlier stages of adulthood. Gerontological social workers work in different settings, such as hospices, hospitals, residential healthcare facilities, outpatient clinics and community health clinics.
Gerontologcal social workers often start by carrying out a biopsychosocial assessment. They gather details about the client’s current situation, such as their mental and emotional health, cognitive abilities, and family relationships and support systems. In addition to this evaluation, they work closely with the client, their caregivers and their healthcare providers to fully understand their needs. They can create an individualized care plan, including services such as counseling, interventions and benefit applications.
Social workers in gerontology must be informed about the social programs, legislation and policies that affect older adults. They must also be knowledgeable about the aging process and the issues that older adults and their carers face. They must be adept at accessing resources and be strong advocates for their clients. With the growth of the older population, there will be greater demand for social workers in this field. When people age, they face numerous challenges, including declining health, decreased financial resources, loss of family and friends, and more. Social workers can help by providing therapy, connecting clients to medical care teams, and advising families on supporting aging relatives.
Social workers in geriatric care are trained to recognize mistreatment threatening a client’s wellbeing. They aim to identify any reasons that may prevent clients from accessing essential resources. Social workers in gerontology have the knowledge and skills required for serving older adults, including assessment of needs and functional capacity, expertise on physical and mental issues, case management, elder abuse, long-term care, quality-of-life issues, service planning and advanced care planning.
Gerontological social workers use their knowledge and skills to improve the lives of senior citizens. They have a worthwhile job that positively impacts the older people in the community.
Substance abuse social worker
Social workers play a vital role in helping those with substance use disorders and those with mental health disorders. Their job involves diagnosing clinical disorders, identifying client goals and creating a treatment plan to reach those goals. They also connect their clients to appropriate resources. They arrange psychiatric services, support group meetings and 12-step programs. They may also help their clients find housing with recovery houses or halfway houses. They can support their clients with legal difficulties caused by breaking parole terms or the conditions of probation.
Social workers use psychosocial assessments, provide ongoing counseling, and monitor their clients’ progress. They work in substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery phases.
These professionals work in detoxification centers, education settings, medical and psychiatric hospitals, and forensic settings (prisons, police departments, courts, etc.). Many American adults have both substance use disorders and mental health disorders. Teenagers with mental health disorders are in the highest-risk category for drug use and addiction. Many people need treatment for substance use disorders but are not receiving it.
Substance abuse affects society as a whole. Social workers contribute to the ongoing efforts to improve this situation. They empower their clients with the tools they need to recover from addiction. They support their clients on their journey to stability and sobriety. Social workers help people who want to stop using substances for good and those who are in recovery but need help stabilizing their lives. Social workers can help those with substance use disorders recover and become productive members of society.
Military social worker
Military social workers have the responsibility for supporting military personnel, retired military members, veterans and their families. They support military members to meet their professional responsibilities while having healthy personal lives, and support veterans transitioning to civilian life. They have specialized training to help clients reclaim control of their lives. Military social workers work in military bases, support centers, units, private practices and veterans’ health centers. They combine supporting individuals and families in the military with developing programs to reach more personnel.
Military social workers connect service members and their families with resources to improve their mental health and wellbeing. These include therapeutic services, crisis intervention, critical event debriefing and clinical counseling. These services can help with emotional and psychological disorders, including addiction and family crises. Social workers help members of the armed forces transition into civilian life after injury, deployment or personal crises. They connect them with services such as childcare, housing opportunities and employment resources. Social workers advocate for those who have experienced child abuse, domestic violence and spousal abuse, referring them to the legal and protective services they need. They also help veterans with injuries access counseling, benefits and other rehabilitative support.
Social workers advocate for disadvantaged military members and their families. They work with active military service members and veterans experiencing mental health issues such as depression, sleep disorders, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. They help them to connect to resources and develop resilience against mental health issues. Social workers can engage with advocacy organizations and nonprofit groups on issues that military members and veterans face. They can support vulnerable military staff who need community and government support.
Social workers are vital in supporting active-duty members, veterans and their families. They aim to help their clients deal with stressful conditions and have more life stability.
Social workers have a worthwhile job that does much to help individuals, families and communities. They ensure that the most vulnerable people have support and guidance in dealing with difficult life issues and building more stable and productive lives. Earning a master’s degree in social work can lead to specialty and leadership roles. Skilled professionals can apply their knowledge and training to help diverse clients. For the right person, this can be a rewarding career with plenty of opportunities for advancement.