What to Expect From a Career in Social Work

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Social work is a challenging but rewarding profession that involves advocating on behalf of society’s most compromised individuals. Social workers take great pride in their ability to shape lives. They also enjoy the varied nature of their work, in which no two days are exactly the same.

What to Expect From a Career in Social Work

A Range of Job Duties

Job duties for social workers can vary considerably based on the environment in which they work and the needs of their clients. In general, however, social workers help clients identify and cope with everyday problems. Many of these clients face incredibly stressful life situations, including job loss, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence. Social workers can help struggling individuals and families find and utilize the resources they need to work their way out of difficult situations and circumstances.

The bulk of social workers’ time involves meeting with clients and fellow professionals, as well as developing effective strategies for those in crisis. However, many social workers also make great efforts to influence policymakers and other influential individuals, who are in a position to push through legislation that can make a difference not only for their clients, but also for the community at large.

Long Hours and Varied Settings

Social workers are employed in a wide array of health settings. Many work in hospitals and clinics, but the reality of the United States’ aging population is such that more and more are needed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Other common settings include:

  • Mental health facilities
  • Sobriety centers
  • Prisons
  • Corporations
  • Public schools
  • Colleges and universities

Although many social workers are able to work standard 9-to-5 schedules at a single facility, an increasing number work part-time or rotate between facilities. Others conduct regular house calls. Some work evenings, weekends, and on occasion, holidays in order to accommodate their clients.

Job Outlook and Earnings

The job outlook for social workers is very promising, especially as aging Baby Boomers require more support. In 2014, 649,300 were employed in the United States, and experts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipate the addition of 74,800 social work jobs between 2014 and 2024. This job outlook of 12 percent is significantly better than the 7 percent anticipated across all industries. As of 2015, the median income for social workers was $45,900. However, income varies significantly based on region and work setting as those who worked in hospitals in 2015 earned median wages of $56,650.

The future is bright for social workers who, through hard work and effective strategizing, can improve the lives of millions of Americans. Social work is rarely easy or particularly profitable, but it is one of the most rewarding fields — and it offers aspiring professionals a myriad of opportunities to make the world a better place. To learn more, visit Case Western Reserve University Online MSSA.


12 Challenges


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