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Social work is all about improving the quality of life for families and individuals in the community as well as instigating change to ensure social justice where necessary. It’s a noble profession, and those who take it on are helping people in need to overcome obstacles and periods of difficulty. A social worker is not only focused on helping with their internal issues and struggles but also helping people to build more positive relationships with their family, partner, community, and the social justice system to help them to overcome their challenges. If social work sounds like a career path that might interest you, this guide will help you to understand how you might launch your career in social work.

Social Workers: What Do They Do? 

A social worker will assess what strengths, skills, and resources an individual have which can help them thrive. They can work with people of all ages and backgrounds, couples, families, groups, organizations, and communities, including schools, hospitals, and prisons. They may help people living in poverty, the unemployed, people struggling after a traumatic event or with addiction or mental illness or struggling with mental or physical disabilities. Social workers help by connecting their clients with the services and resources they need to build a better quality of life. Some social workers will focus on working with communities, organizations or governments to address systemic social problems and advocate for the most vulnerable in society by seeking legislative reform. 

Why Become a Social Worker? 

There are numerous reasons why people are attracted to a career in social work. Many people have been helped by a social worker in the past and feel they want to help others in the same way. Others may have a particular interest in supporting people who are tackling a specific issue such as addiction, mental illness, or overcoming trauma. They may be interested in working with the elderly, children or prison inmates who want to turn their lives around. The common motivation for a social work career is the desire to help people in need and to make the world a more positive place. 

How to Find Out More About Social Work 

The most effective way to learn more about a career in social work is to volunteer in the local community. By helping out in schools, hospitals, and other community groups or organizations, you should be able to get hands-on experience of the kind of work social workers are involved in. You may also be able to meet social workers to ask them about their career paths and experiences. 

How to Become a Social Worker 

While not every person’s career path is the same, there are some common steps that most will follow when training to become a social worker. 

1. Obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work 

Many people begin their education by completing a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited university or college. This qualifies you to practice as a general social worker through classroom education and professional work placements. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in any field, you may be able to progress straight onto a master’s in social work degree. This is a more advanced training program that enables you to focus on a particular area of social work rather than the generalized program offered by a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree can also open up roles with more responsibility and higher salaries. It’s also worth noting that you can complete a social work degree online, which would enable you to study from home on a schedule that suits your lifestyle and other commitments. 

People who have not yet completed a bachelor’s degree in any field but are pursuing a career in social work should begin by completing a bachelor’s degree in social work. You can then move on to a master’s afterward if you want to specialize or progress through your career at a faster pace. If you already have bachelor’s degree in any field (whether related to social work or not), you can apply to a master’s program. 

For clinical social work, you will need a master’s and will then need to be licensed in your area. 

2. Learn as much as you can during your training 

You should try and take in as much knowledge and get as much experience as you can during your training to enable you to decide which area of social work you would like to specialize in. For example, clinical social workers require more specific training in clinical issues. When on your professional placements, be sure to build a network of other social work professionals who may be able to support and endorse you when you are looking for employment. Working hard and being willing to go the extra mile will make you a valued member of any team, and should an opportunity come up, you may find yourself top of the list. You should also start looking for your first job before you graduate as many employers begin their recruitment in the spring. 

3. Consider getting a license 

Social work is a very well regulated sector given the nature of the work, and each state often requires you to have a professional license in addition to your degree. These licenses will vary by state in terms of their requirements; for example, whether you need a bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist or clinical experience. 

4. Finding a job 

Finding a job in social work is much like finding any other job in that it will require internet research. You can register with general job sites, but you may find more relevant roles by focusing on job sites and search engines that target the social work and health care sector. Some organizations, such as hospitals, schools, and government agencies, may also advertise opportunities on their own websites. In addition, consider looking at starting yourown private practice as this would enable you to work with a variety of organizations and individuals. Professional networking events may also help when trying to find opportunities and establish connections in the industry.