Whether you work as a clinical social worker and counsel people with problems or as a direct-service social worker that people rely on to find resources to solve their problems, you are in the business of helping. The rewards are both internal and external. You can find meaningful work in a variety of arenas and know that your efforts are appreciated while you earn a decent living.
Social workers find jobs in schools, mental health facilities, government agencies, nursing homes, hospitals and military installations, most of which provide full benefits packages. Social workers also can hang a shingle and work in private practice. The opportunities are unlimited as job growth is predicted to swell an average of 25 percent a year, at least through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, the median income for social workers was $42,480.
Both clinical and direct-service social workers help people solve challenging problems. They assist people with everyday issues ranging from homelessness and domestic abuse to adoption and living with disabilities. The career can be fulfilling knowing that you make a real, tangible difference in the lives of children and adults struggling with various issues. The kinds of issues you deal with on a daily basis are serious and often overwhelming for clients who turn to social workers for guidance and assistance.
Social work differs from other helping professions because you seek tangible results for your clients. Whether you place a lonely child with a loving family or find a stable home environment for a displaced veteran, you are results-oriented. At the same time, social workers often participate in advocacy for their clients and can create sweeping social changes. For example, after working with victims of domestic violence, you may open a safe house for women and children, or you may set up a neighborhood watch program after working with elderly crime victims.
You can get into the profession with just a four-year degree. A Bachelor in Social Work is the only criteria needed to become a direct-service social worker. Clinical social workers, who provide counseling services to families and individuals, need to earn a master’s degree and get a state license. Non-clinical social workers do not need to be licensed but you can increase your job prospects and increase your professional image with a voluntary license from the Association of Social Work Boards.