Social work professionals fill a critical role in our society, helping to mend families, individuals and social groups that can become damaged or broken due to life's circumstances. Depending on your social work education, the demand for your services will grow. For instance, earning a master’s degree in social work is one of the most sought after degrees in the field and can help increase your chances of being hiring by the specific job you’re seeking.
There is a great need for social workers to help people cope with issues in their lives, ranging from emotional and social issues to medical-related problems. Social workers will need to be able to handle a litany of situations, both rewarding and heartbreaking. Being able to control your emotions during your time on the clock can prove to be one the best qualities for a career in social work.
Social workers can be found working in many public and private institutions under a range of job titles. A smaller segment of social workers are trained to diagnose and treat issues stemming from behavioral, emotional and mental problems, or a combination of all three. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a social worker (2014) is $59,100 per year; however, salaries range with experience, facility, and job description.
Most higher-level social work positions require a Master's in Social Work. Schools that grant social work degrees must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Social workers also have licensing boards that they must pass, and may be additionally required to be registered or certified in the state that they work. To determine the requirements in your state, contact the National Association of Social Workers or your state government.
Earning a degree and beginning your social work career may seem daunting at first. It will involve a great deal of time and sacrifice to find time to do your coursework and still manage to balance your life at the same time. However, the work you put in will one day pay off, no matter what specialty focus you chose for your degree. No matter if you picked a focus in the medical field or management field, your career will end up with the same emotional rewards as well as a very competitive salary to go along with it.
Here are some of the range of careers available and the social worker wages that go along with the specialties:
Medical Social Worker
A Medical Social Worker typically works in a hospital or may work in a clinic or physician's office to help patients and families adjust to changing conditions related to their medical health. Some medical social workers assist in critical or crisis situations and may specialize in treating patients with addictions, injuries, and illnesses. The average medical social worker salary is $51,930.
Clinical Social Worker or Social Work Case Manager
A Clinical Social Worker may work within an institution or on their own in private practice. Clinical social workers help individuals and families with social and emotional issues through counseling or psychotherapy. Clinical social workers may also work with children in a school setting or with the elderly in nursing homes. They may also work with a doctor as consultant or partner. Issues that they counsel on may include difficulties relating to peers, physical disabilities, recovery from abuse or addiction, or emotional needs due to stress-induced factors. This job requires a master's degree and clinical field work before hiring. The average clinical social worker or social work case manager salary is $51,417.
Geriatric Medical Social Worker
Geriatric Social Workers specialize in working with the elderly. Similar to the Medical Social Worker they may work in hospitals or clinics, and additionally work in nursing homes and senior adult centers to help senior adults adjust to the results of aging. Geriatric social workers also work with families to assist them in giving their relative a high quality lifestyle in the midst of the effects of aging, such as sight or hearing loss, dementia or Alzheimer's disease, or other health concerns. They may counsel senior adults on how to accept failing health or give up driving as well as help them find new ways to incorporate exercise into their lifestyle. A geriatric social worker’s average salary is $41,228. Salaries may be higher at private institutions than non-profit nursing homes.
Social Work Manager
A Social Work Manager oversees a team of social workers within a facility or a department. This job is generally found inside a larger institution such as a hospital, government facility or rehabilitation center. They are involved in planning and executing programs for patients and assessing patient improvements. Additionally, a manager will manage, support, and mentor the social workers on their team, and be the intermediary between team members and other personnel such as physicians or administrators. This job requires a minimum of five years of experience and the salary varies depending on the size of the team. The social work manager’s average salary is $51,372.
In addition to the institutions and roles listed above, social workers may also work in community organizations, research, political organizations, government facilities including military training and hospitals, employment and occupational counseling and corrections.