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Career Profile: Social Worker

Why Is Social Work a Job of Tomorrow?
The demand for social workers is growing as more people in the United States struggle with financial, psychological and physical problems. Employment opportunities for social workers are expected to increase 22 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Social worker salaries vary depending on the worker’s field of specialty. For example, mental health and substance abuse social workers earn an average of $35,410 annually, whereas medical and public health social workers earn an average of $43,040 annually.

What Does a Social Worker Do?
There are several specialties that social workers can choose to work in, including child, family and school work; medical and public health work; and mental health and substance abuse work. Child, family and school social workers are responsible for ensuring that kids are receiving proper academic and emotional support. These social workers may deal with cases of child abuse or neglect, where they must remove the child from a hostile environment. They may also work with single parents to improve their situation, or work with couples who are looking to adopt a child. They also act as a link between schools and families to ensure that students who perform poorly or skip class are addressed. Medical and public health social workers assist those coping with severe illnesses, as well as providing support to the loved ones of diagnosed patients. They work in hospitals and personal care facilities to help the ill. Mental health and substance abuse social workers work in rehabilitation centers to reach out to those suffering from mental illnesses or alcohol, tobacco or drug addiction. They work in treatment centers to guide patients through a recovery or rehabilitation program.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Social Worker?
Social workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, though many institutions are now seeking those who hold a graduate degree. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to earn, a master’s degree takes an additional two to three years and a doctoral degree takes an additional four years. The social work degree program covers such subjects as administration and sociology. Social workers must be licensed, but the requirements vary among states.

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