Do you have a passion for helping people?
Are you the person whom friends seek out when they need assistance? Do you feel compelled to do work that helps vulnerable and oppressed populations? If so, social work may be the right field for you.
But finding your niche social work requires education and advance planning. Here, Dianna Cooper- Bolinskey, PhD, a social work faculty member with Capella’s School of Public Service Leadership, outlines tips as you pursue a career in social work.
Q. What kind of education is required to become a social worker?
A. Today’s social work careers require formal education. Many social workers earn an undergraduate degree in social work and provide social work services with the degree. However, others come into the social work profession by earning an undergraduate degree that is specifically focused on helping people—a bachelor’s in human services or psychology, for example—but many kinds of backgrounds can serve as a foundation for careers in social work. “You might start by getting a degree in business or journalism or English and then filter into a graduate-level program in social work,” Cooper-Bolinskey says. Either undergraduate pathway can provide preparation to move into graduate level social work studies. Not all jobs in social work require an advanced degree, but many do. A master’s degree is almost necessary if you wish to be considered for specialist or advanced practice positions.
Q. Do all social workers have to be licensed? What does it involve?
A. Many social work roles do not require licensure. But licensure is often preferred, or even required, for certain positions. Licensure requirements vary by state. In addition to passing a comprehensive exam, you may be required to do additional training or complete additional course work in order to work in your desired field.
Q. Once you’re in the field, what are some career paths to consider?
A. Social workers are employed in a wide range of settings, including health care, education, and government.
Related Job Titles to Explore*
- Social worker
- Clinical manager
- Case manager
- Director of social services
- Clinical director
- Program director
- Social services coordinator
- School social worker
- Adjunct or part-time social work faculty
- Full-time social work faculty
“Social workers are also the frontline providers of care for treating chronic addictions—like the opioid epidemic,” Cooper- Bolinskey says.
Q. Where are the greatest opportunities for someone who wants to enter the field?
A. “Social workers can be employed in a variety of settings,” Cooper- Bolinskey says. “Hospitals need social workers—the Affordable Care Act requires nurses and social workers to team up to find ways to reduce emergency room visits. Also, as people age, gerontology will become a bigger and bigger field.”
Find out more about Capella University’s MSW programs.