A Quick Guide to Careers in Social Work

A Quick Guide to Careers in Social Work was originally published on Vault.

A career in social work is one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of life of people around you. And the need for social workers is always on the rise. So if you have the desire to do something for the betterment of humanity, the field of social work might be exactly what you're looking for.

What is social work?

Social work is important for the betterment of people's lives, as social workers are determined to relieve the suffering of others. Every person and family faces difficulties, be it unemployment, disability, poverty, mental illness, addiction, and so on, and social workers are always waiting to help.

Being ready to help doesn't mean social workers are going to do it all on their own. Instead, they'll work extensively with their clients to discover new and meaningful ways to cope with and resolve their issues. In this way, social workers are able to give individuals and families the empowerment, skills, and knowledge they need to improve their overall lives.

What are the various roles of social workers?

It's worth noting that social work is not restrictive in any way. Social workers take on varying roles depending on the requirements of the communities they serve. They can work for grassroots organizations, nonprofits, or social services agencies. Common titles held by individuals dedicated to social work are as follows:

Researcher: For community development and transformation, social workers will need to do their homework to find the primary reasons why their community is suffering. Based on their research, they'll be able to work towards advocating for policy changes and developing community programs to help families and individuals they server.

Project Manager: Social workers can become project managers to make sure projects are taken care of effectively. Since social workers understand the requirements of individuals and groups from communities, they'll know exactly how to motivate them. Basically, social workers are uniquely qualified to create and manage projects.

Community Organizer: Social workers organize communities to fight against their various social issues, while aligning community resources to solve the most pressing issues. Community organizers empower individuals to take on bigger roles in the development and improvement of their respective communities.

Caseworker: Communities can only prosper if the individuals and families within them are successful, vibrant, and healthy. Caseworkers identify and solve the needs of individuals and families to benefit the community one step at a time

What are the requirements to become a social workers?

For starters, you'll need a bachelor's, master’s, or doctoral degree in social service or social work. For reference, here's a full list of social work programs. You'll need to complete supervised fieldwork hours, after which you'll be able to serve in corporations, public agencies, private agencies, schools, hospitals, prisons, the military, and any other place where people are in need of help and guidance.

How do social workers work with individuals?

When it comes to working with individuals, social workers play various roles and assist people from all walks of life. Some social workers help individuals understand and navigate the social services available to them, providing advice to make it possible for people to live better lives. For this reason, social workers are equipped with the necessary information regarding programs like financial assistance, job training, job counseling, etc.

Many social workers make it easier for individuals to access alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs. Social workers might also help people find mental health counseling. In addition, they might be dispatched to help and protect children, and work with patients and their families to cater to their needs and requirements.

In general, social workers serve as motivators to help people become emotionally and financially stable. Along with informing individuals about relevant programs, they also aid in the application process to these programs.

How do social workers impact communities?

Social work revolves around developing healthy, vibrant, and strong communities. This is an essential tenet of the profession. Social workers give voice to the communities they serve and assist communities overcome obstacles, acting as advocates, counselors, organizers, and facilitators. They also provide the necessary energy required for transformation, empowering members of the community by providing them with valuable resources, knowledge, and capacity to self-govern and self-direct their circumstances and lives.

Community development is all about taking action to solve problems, and community success depends on people coming together. When people come together, they're able to improve the quality of their lives and of those around them. They're also able to address issues such as poor health, crime, poverty, underperforming schools, lowering property values, etc.

Not just any group of people work towards community development; social workers are largely responsible for leading the charge to generate community development projects and improvement programs to encourage local citizens to contribute to their community in any way possible. While some social workers work directly with individuals, others evaluate community needs by looking at the bigger picture. They might strategize and administer programs that help people with their immediate predicaments, and even those that offer tremendous benefits to the community as a whole.

For the efforts put forth by social workers in communities, success is commonly measured by looking at statistics and figures in the following categories:

Family Issues: the percentage of young parents, participation rates in preschool, etc.

School Success: academic standings, graduation/dropout rates, student mobility, etc.

Economic Concerns: cost of living, unemployment, job availability, poverty, etc.

Health Issues: senior care, immunizations, birth weight, prenatal care, etc.

Final thoughts

Although some of the above might sound simple, social work requires a lot of hard work and sacrifices. For that reason, social work is suited to people who want to make a big difference in the world—and to those who don't prioritize money first. To ensure that social work is the right field for you, you need to do your homework, which includes speaking to social workers to get a feel for what to expect in the field. Of course, the more questions you ask social workers, the better. Once you're convinced that the rewarding field of social work is a good for fit for you, then jump in!

Judy Robinson is a passionate health and lifestyle blogger. She loves to write about healthy lifestyles, fitness 101, and tech-related topics. Follow @judyrobinson for more updates.