A career as a social worker reaches so many different areas, it’s difficult to pin it down into any one. But at its essence, social work takes you out into the community and helps others who need assistance. Usually, a social worker is classified as either a clinical social worker or direct-service social worker, with the former taking place in an office while the other heads out into different neighborhoods in the city. It can be an incredibly tough career, but just as rewarding, too. And because it’s such a wide-open career, the salary for a social worker can also be pretty varied and high.
Get Your Qualifications First
To be a social worker, you’ll first need a three- or four-year degree from an accredited college to prove you’re qualified at a minimum level. Although it’s not always mandatory to get a degree in social work — for example, sociology or psychology may also be acceptable because they’re closely related — it’s always a good idea to check with prospective employers first to see what they’re looking for.
To go further, getting a Master’s degree or PhD is also an option, but the latter will lead you into an almost purely theoretical direction. Some positions are okay with you having only the bachelor’s degree, such as being a caseworker or mental health assistant. Going for those extra letters, though, really opens up a lot more doors — and money — for you.
Don’t Forget about Licenses, Certifications and Registrations
Despite what kind of degree you get, building up clinical hours is a must. This shows employers that not only are you schooled on the theory behind social work, but that you’ve also had real-life experience as well. The number of hours you need to amass depends on the employer, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics requires licensed clinical social workers to have both a Master’s Degree and either two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
In terms of licensing, that varies by state, but it’s a guarantee that just about every state will require you to pass some sort of certification or exam to further prove your worth. Even if you’re interested in becoming a nonclinical social worker, many more states than not will need you to get a license in order to work.
Current Job Openings and Expected Job Growth
The great — fantastic — news is that healthcare social work is going to climb faster than the average for all other social work occupations, and at a rate of 27% between 2012 to 2022. For the really good news, social work in general is expected to climb 19% in the same time period. Now, the not-so-great news is that these figures depending on government funding. If funding continues the way it is now, these figures will stay in place; if not, expect them to drop.
In terms of actual numbers, let’s take a look:
Social Workers: Two years ago, there were 607,300 according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to grow 19% (114,100) to 721,500 by 2022.
Child, Family and School Social Workers: In 2012, there were 285,800. But in eight years, expect to see another 43,100 (15%) to bring the total up to 328,800.
Healthcare Social Workers: From a total of 146,200 in 2012, you can expect to see another 39,200 jobs (27%) opening up by 2022.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: This field will see the second-biggest jump, from 114,200 in 2012 to 140,200 in 2022 (26,000 new jobs, or 23%).
All Other Social Workers: Comprising the miscellaneous category of social workers were 61,200 in 2012, with a near-double digit increase of 9% (5,800) to 67,000 social workers by 2022.
You Will Get Paid This Much
As noble a profession as social work is, people still need to be able to pay their bills with and you will, comfortably. Let’s take a look at all the possible salaries in play here (using the 2012 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):
Bottom 10%: $27,450
Top 10%: $72,980
Plus, the median salaries for the following areas of social worker are:
Miscellaneous social workers: $54,560
Healthcare social workers: $49,830
Child, family and school social workers: $41,530
Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $39,980
For more information on social worker, click here.