What is Social Work?

what-is-social-workSocial work is a hands-on profession that strives to help people and families deal with their different problems. The exact work that social workers perform depends on their specific field. For example, a Child Welfare social worker, or case worker, will spend every day dealing with foster children, bio-parents and the juvenile courts. Specifically, Child Protective Service (CPS) case workers are empowered to remove children from unsafe homes and place them in state custody. They do this because of observable neglect, abuse, threat of harm and safety issues. Many of their clients come from lower socio-economic levels and struggle with poverty, homelessness and substance abuse. On the other hand, Permanency case workers deal with children and teens in permanent foster care. They work to find long-term care providers or people to adopt their client's children.

What Skills Do Social Workers Need?

Social work can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Social workers often have a heavy case load with limited time and resources. Therefore, social workers must be compassionate, yet firm and assertive when dealing with hostile clients. They must have excellent diversity sensitivity and interpersonal skills because they will interact with clients from every imaginable background. In order to effectively service clients, social workers must have top-notch organizational, problem-solving and time-management skills. Finally, social workers must know how to properly take care of themselves in order to avoid burnout and stress fatigue.

How to Become a Social Worker?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the basic educational requirement. This degree prepares the student for service positions, such as being a Child Welfare caseworker or social services assistant. In fact, while most caseworkers work for state Child Welfare departments, many caseworkers are also employed by private, non-profit organizations. These include halfway houses, treatment centers and schools for special needs children. Consequently, most caseworkers that are employed by schools, government agencies or health care organizations have a master's degree in social work (MSW). All MSW programs require the student to complete an internship or practicum.

What are the Licensure Requirements to Become a Social Worker?

Every state has some form of certification requirements for social workers, especially those that work in clinical settings. The basic requirement for social worker certification is an MSW and two years of experience or 3,000 hours of supervised work. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is the governing body that oversees social worker certification in both America and Canada.

ASWB Accreditation

The ASWB offers four types of social worker licensure categories: bachelors, masters, advanced generalist and clinical. As a general rule, most social work regulatory boards require that social worker degree programs are accredited through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). International students can get their degree transferred through the CSWE's International Social Work Degree Recognition and Equivalency Service.

Overall, social work involves everything from helping clients in treatment facilities to placing children for adoption to providing mental health counseling. Although people are sometimes confused about what is social work, there are excellent career opportunities available.