Within the social worker job description lies the opportunity to serve various individuals or groups facing different types of problems. As a result, social workers are placed in often tumultuous circumstances and must address the personal and societal causes of challenges clients face. The social worker job description below explains the duties, required skills, and training needed to help people cope with and overcome barriers.
Job Overview: What Does a Social Worker Do?
Social workers aid people and families with managing and overcoming difficult situations. For this reason, they intervene in situations such as juvenile delinquency or neglect, unstable homes, child or elder abuse or poverty. Depending on the qualifications and certification, social workers may also treat those with emotional, mental and behavioral issues or incorporate advocacy in their practice.
Social Worker Job Duties
- Identify people or sectors with challenges such as poverty, homelessness, family dysfunction, and behavioral problems.
- Refer clients to or assist them in accessing services such as food stamps, family or other counseling, disability or other benefits and medical assistance.
- Counsel people in adjusting to life-changing events such as a death in family, unemployment or divorce.
- Respond to or investigate incidents of abuse, suicide attempts and other occurrences of mental illness.
- Initiate or participate in legal proceedings involving juvenile delinquency or neglect, child or elder abuse, adoption, and truancy.
- Assess a client’s strengths, challenges, environment, and available resources to set and plan the achievement of goals.
- Evaluate the success of programs and services offered to a client.
- Administer psychotherapy.
- Advocate for social change and policies in areas related to social services.
Social Worker Job Essential Skills
Communication and Empathy. To understand and address issues, social workers must listen, ask probing questions and empathize with clients and families.
Stress Management. Dealing with crises and people with emotional and other problems is a prominent part of the social worker job description. Clients’ behaviors or situations may be slow to improve. Social workers must manage the stress that comes from often difficult environments and circumstances.
Record-Keeping. To render advice or make reports, social workers must keep accurate and detailed records. Interviews and site visits can reveal important information about a person’s environment, potential dangers or other problems and progress in rehabilitation. Social workers often must refer to prior notes and records.
Organization. Social workers must handle significant caseloads with unique fact scenarios and issues. The organization also involves scheduling appointments and appearances in court or before administrative agencies. Workers may need to keep contact information for clients, law enforcement, hospitals, and other agencies available.
Problem-Solving. This aspect of the Social Worker Job Description requires the ability to analyze the causes of problems. Social workers must draw upon knowledge of resources and program regulations in crafting solutions. In emergency situations, the social worker must decide and execute a course of action quickly.
Becoming a Social Worker Professional
At a minimum, social workers must hold a bachelor’s degree. The level of certification the social worker seeks will define the additional education and experience needed. Those who pursue general or specialist practice must complete a master’s program and a period of training.
Qualifications and Training
A social worker typically earns a bachelor’s degree in social work. Depending on the employer, a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology may also suffice. With a bachelor’s degree, a social worker can work as a caseworker, assistant or other entry-level position.
Generally, social workers must have a license or certification. The levels and requirements vary by state but fall normally into four categories: Bachelors, Masters of Social Work with no post-graduate experience; Advanced Generalist; and Clinical. Advanced Generalist practitioners incorporate policy and social justice principles in their work. Many social workers in this category practice in rural areas, where resources tend to be less available than in urban areas. Clinical social workers have a specialty practice in diagnosis and treatment of emotional, behavioral and mental issues.
The Advanced Generalist and Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree. The social worker job description for this field doesn’t necessarily include a requirement for a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work, but candidates should take economics, political and sociology courses.
The required work experience often depends upon the type of certification or license the social worker seeks. In any case, undergraduates must complete internships or other supervised work. Students in a master’s program participate in internships or practice under the supervision of licensed social workers.
Upon completion of the master’s course of study, social workers seeking a clinical certification generally practice two years in a supervised clinical setting. Those taking the Advanced Generalist route work two years under supervision of a licensed Advanced Generalist.
Generally, social workers keep full-time hours. Those in clinics, schools and government agencies work normal office hours. Conversely, at nursing homes and rehabilitation or treatment centers, social workers may have evening or weekend shifts. This work schedule comes as a result of the fact that these facilities operate on an around the clock basis.
Social workers, especially those working with children, families and the elderly, spend work hours making home visits. Other settings away from the office include courts, conferences and also schools. Social workers may log many hours and miles traveling, especially in rural areas or agencies with small staffs to complete home visits.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earned an average of $57,970 as of May 2015. Those in the Federal Executive Branch had the highest pay, at $72,840. Federal executive agencies and departments such as the Veterans Administration and military hospitals employ social workers.
Local governments fielded the highest number of positions, at 16,370. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly one in three social workers were employed in state or local governments, not counting hospitals or educational institutions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase of 74,800 jobs, or 12 percent, from 2014 to 2024. Employment of social worker in health care, mental health, and substance abuse sectors could grow by 19 percent during this period. In fact, the prevalence of drug abuse, domestic violence, and family discord should spur demand for social workers. In many cases, individuals in court proceedings must complete court-ordered assessments and treatments. Despite high demand, job growth in certain areas could be tempered by government budgetary constraints.
The social worker job description portrays these professionals as advocates, investigators, interventionists and advisors. Social workers enter a variety of settings and serve people with many emotional and other challenges. The discipline requires a grasp of how poverty, mental and emotional disorders, lack of family structure and other factors affect behavior.
With the prevalence of drug use and incidents of abuse and violence, social workers will certainly experience a strong demand for their services. Veterans returning from combat or other tours of duty may need social workers to adapt to civilian life. To conclude, prospects may be strong in rural areas where resources may be scarce. If you are also interested in the caregiver job description and outlook, you can read our article on this profession as well.