Social workers help people solve their problems and even cope with their problems. What you, specifically, will be doing as a social worker depends entirely on the field within the job that you are interested in. Some social workers have clinical experience and can help diagnose and even treat various mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.
All social workers have either achieved their BSW, or better yet, have achieved a BSW to MSW online to fully qualify them in social and clinical settings.
Understanding the types of social workers
There are many types of social workers. The most commonly known are the child and family social workers, who work with children and families. This includes finding housing, services, and benefits. Some go on to become child protective services caseworkers to help the most extreme cases that require immediate action for the safety of the children involved.
That isn’t the only place where social workers can be found, however. School social workers help students on an individual basis to improve their academic performance and their social skills. Their skillset is more widely applied than what a school counselor can provide.
Finally, you can find social workers in healthcare settings. They can be found in hospitals or in clinics. The work they do will depend entirely on their qualifications. In hospitals, for example, they can help people understand and accept their diagnosis. They can also help organize and help patients adapt to their new lifestyle, housing, or healthcare needs. They may even organize support groups to help patients manage their new condition or illness. Their purpose is to help care for the emotional and mental fallout that living with a condition or disease can cause.
They can also work more directly in clinics. You will commonly see social workers helping those with mental illnesses or even addictions. They run and manage the clinics and typically manage 12-step programs and support groups.
What Does Social Work Involve?
As a social worker, you will be working with very vulnerable people. Your job is to guide them through their difficult period, either through support work like organizing for benefits or new accommodation, all the way to helping recovering addicts stay sober. The work is therefore very diverse, and it can be extremely mentally (and emotionally) taxing. Social workers typically earn around $60,000, but with growing needs, the industry is growing. Projected employment for social workers is 13% by 2029.
Interested in Social Work?
Social workers have an innate desire to help those around them. They either had someone support them when they needed it, or they alternatively want to be the support that they didn’t have. You don’t need to have a difficult upbringing or need to have gone through hardship, however. If you want to help others, then social work is one of the best, human-facing ways to do it.
The Traits You Need
Social work is both clinical and emotive. You aren’t just solving a problem. You are helping people, and because of that, there are a few key traits that all great social workers have:
One of the most important traits to have is empathy. You need to not just understand that the people you will be working with aren’t at their best, but also understand that the way that they react isn’t always indicative of what they think. Emotions are very chemical in nature, so things like addiction can mean that even someone who, sober, is the nicest person you have ever met can become entirely different when going through withdrawal.
You need to understand why and how people feel, but to help them better, you need to also understand where they are coming from. The things people say and do can hurt you, but if you understand why they did what they did and can even empathize with that reaction, you can protect yourself and offer better services.
Understanding and listening aren’t enough, either. Great communication is how you also can get through to your clients. You don’t need to have perfected this, however. You’ll be taught key communication strategies in your BSW or in your BSW to MSW online degree. You will also learn as you go and improve the communication strategies that you use. After all, it is still you communicating. There will be certain tactics and approaches that work well for you, individually, and it takes time to parse these strategies out.
In an ideal world, you will be helping one client or patient at a time, but in reality, you’ll have several people all at once. You need to be very organized in order to handle it all and to keep on top of what has been done and what needs to be done.
Being empathetic means you understand, but being patient means that you can wait through bad moods, outbreaks, yelling, insults, and more. It also means being patient while you wait for a client to come out of their shell so that you can help them. People need time to adjust and to start meeting you halfway, and patience is what will help you two get there.
Above all else, you need to be good at caring for yourself. This applies when you earn your BSW, when you go on to earn a BSW to MSW online, when you start work, when you progress, and throughout your life. Social work can be stressful, but so can any other job that directly works with people, including retail work. By knowing and being able to consistently put your health and wellbeing first, you can carve out a healthier work/life balance that allows you to be fit, healthy, and well.
That is the person who is in the best situation to help others and help you deal with an influx of workload, especially if you are also working towards your BSW to MSW online.
The Education You Need
You need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). If you want to work your way into a clinical position, however, then you will need to earn a BSW to MSW online. These can be completed online, so you can guarantee to get access to top-quality schools regardless of where you are located.
How to Get Started in Your Career
Ready to get started? These steps will help you plan out and progress through your career.
Get Started with a BSW
The best place to start is with a bachelor’s degree in social work. This degree is a very useful degree and is actually essential to get started as a social worker. Though you will not be able to start or work in a clinical role, you can get started in the industry. A BSW is an essential requirement for entry-level administrative positions, though some employers do offer a bit of wiggle room for these roles. You may, for example, be able to apply if you already have a bachelor’s in psychology or sociology. To complete your BSW, you will need to either complete a period of supervised fieldwork or, alternatively, an internship.
Get Your First Job
The jobs you will be able to apply for with either a BSW or, alternatively, a related field will be entry-level. You will not be working directly with clients in clinical settings. Instead, you will be able to work as a caseworker or even a mental health assistant. The BSW is by far the better choice if you are committed to becoming a social worker, as it works to teach you about diverse populations, all the way to human behavior, social welfare policy, and of course, ethics.
Earn Your MSW
If you want to work in a clinical setting, then you absolutely must earn a BSW to MSW online. A BSW to MSW online degree takes between 2 to 3 years to complete, depending on how intensive the course is, and it works to teach students clinical assessment and, of course, time and organizational management. You don’t always need a BSW to earn an MSW. If you have a relevant degree, for example, in psychology, you can often apply for an MSW degree and be accepted. However, having a BSW can put you one step ahead with knowledge.
Complete 2 Years of Supervised Experience
After you have your MSW, you will need to then start work at a teaching clinic. These clinics supervise you for two years, minimum. During this time, you will not just learn but reaffirm what you were taught in your BSW to MSW online. Real-world application is an absolute must, and never be afraid to go back to your educators to ask questions or bring up a concern that you have. You are now part of their alumni community. Not only can you continue to stay in touch with your educators, but you can also benefit from mentorships and your alumni community itself.
The great thing about specific degrees like the BSW to MSW online is that everyone who took it before you was likely aiming to become a clinical social worker. This makes it easy to get relevant advice, and even job offers, just by engaging with your alumni community.
Earning Certification and Licensure
Every state requires their clinical social workers to have a license. Most states, however, also require non-clinical social workers to either have a certificate or a license. Check what your state requires, and know that you cannot start to work without that license. The only time you won’t need this licensure is if you are currently completing your clinical placement. After you are finished, you will then be expected to take the state exam to become licensed.
Ways to Progress Your Career Further
Becoming certified to work as a clinical social worker is not the end. There are many great ways for you to progress your career further from a BSW to MSW online degree. You can go on to earn a Ph.D., and then use that academic expertise to become a policymaker. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to open up your own clinic or take your work privately and take on your own choice of clients.
What is important to remember when progressing your career is that you put your health and your energy first. It is hard to complete a BSW. It’s harder to work while earning a BSW to MSW online.
Caring for Your Health and Wellbeing
Self-care is one of the most important traits for any social worker to be more successful, but how exactly do you get around doing that? Every stage of becoming and working as a social worker can be full of stress, long nights, and bad periods. It’s definitely a more demanding job than most have, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stay healthy and well. With these simple tips, you can fortify your health and your mental wellbeing so that you can continue to succeed throughout your degrees and so that you can give your best every day at work.
There are a few cornerstones to your health that you absolutely must focus on. The first one is sleep. Getting either eight or nine hours a night (whichever works best for you) makes the biggest, most significant difference for your health. A good night’s rest is better than ten cups of coffee because it doesn’t just help you stay awake; it can actually help you manage stress better.
Improving your diet to eat more nutrient-rich foods and cut down on processed alternatives is another great way to fortify your mind and improve your health. Make switches to accommodate your specific lifestyle. From snacks to your meals, and remember that prepping your meals is a great way to eat well for lunch throughout the week.
You need a support network. It’s critical. Not only do you need a support network, but you also need to have your own personal strategies to help you manage stress, from picking up a work/break routine that works for you to finding healthy and helpful hobbies that allow you to unwind. As for when you work, remember that compartmentalizing can be a great way to leave the stress of work at work.