Depending on the career path a future professional is interested in taking, there are a number of different paths to take in becoming a social worker. In any position, social workers are able to provide expertise, empathy, and knowledge of resources in order to help people in all types of situations.
Overview of a Social Work Position
Social workers are able to provide a range of support for individuals who may be dealing with a stressful or new situation, mental or behavioral disorder, or crisis situations. Social workers often have positions in hospitals, long term care facilities, schools, community centers, churches, government agencies, and hospice organizations.
To be a social work professional, individuals must be prepared to assess, evaluate, and analyze individuals, behaviors, and circumstances to develop courses of action most appropriate to take. Social workers also coordinate services and resources to best help clients cope with whatever situation comes up from financial to emotional to quality of life.
Undergraduate Degree Options
In order to become a social worker, the minimum degree requirement is most likely to be a bachelor’s degree in social work or a closely related field. A major in social work includes courses in family behaviors, mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice systems, addictions and rehabilitation, and aging education. Many undergraduate degree programs also offer opportunities to specialize in a specific area of social work, such as working with youth or with the elderly.
Some professionals might also begin by completing a degree in another field, such as a bachelor’s in psychology or liberal arts, and then move on to complete a master’s degree to become a social worker.
Graduate Degree Options
Some organizations will require social workers to have a graduate degree in order to qualify for a position. Advanced course work in social work includes courses such as social work research, clinical social work practices, social environments and human behavior, social welfare policy, and individual clinical practice. Internships also help future graduates to gain practical experience in applying these concepts.
Specializations are also a key part of master’s degree programs in working toward beginning or furthering a career in social work. Examples of concentrations include medical and psychiatry, education, veterans issues, and policy.
Additional Licensing and Certification
In addition to a degree in social work, many states require licensing for certain positions in the field, most often those that are associated with health care or criminal justice programs. For positions in which a state license is not required, earning a professional designation can help to distinguish a candidate as being highly skilled in social work in general as well as in specialized areas such as health care. Additional information on professional certifications can be found at the National Association of Social Workers website at https://www.socialworkers.org/credentials/default.aspx.
The right combination of skills, qualities, experience, and licensing or certification builds a foundation for entering into the field of social work in all types of organizations from hospitals to community centers. For individuals considering a career that offers opportunities to help people in all communities, becoming a social worker is an option to be considered.