Choosing a career can seem a daunting prospect. Many young people find that selecting a degree program is one of the most significant decisions they have made at that stage. For those looking to build a career around helping others, picking a bachelor’s degree in social work is an excellent start to a rewarding career.
Choosing Social Work
Social work can be a gratifying career for those looking to support others through some of the most challenging times in their lives. Some social workers are based in government offices, while others work directly in schools offering to counsel students and faculty.
More recently, businesses across different sectors have started offering counseling at work. Some of these services are delivered by highly qualified, licensed social workers. As a social worker, you may find yourself helping people with the aftermath of traumatic events.
Experts divide social work into micro, mezzo, and macro social work. The day-to-day routines of a social worker largely depend on which of those areas they work in.
- Micro social work focuses on supporting individuals. It can include one-on-one counseling, working in housing services, or delivering treatment for substance abuse.
- Mezzo-level social work is delivered in groups. Rather than dealing with individuals, social workers in this area tend to spend their time with families, communities, or even businesses. Their focus is on broader issues.
- Macro social work takes an even broader approach, looking at entire cities or states. It is how a social work degree can lead to a career in policy advocacy and lobbying.
Becoming a social worker can lead to a highly varied professional life.
Choosing a Degree Program
The straightest path into social work starts with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has accredited Reputable degree programs in the United States.
Completing a bachelor’s degree allows new social workers to apply for various positions right out of college. Those jobs tend to revolve around supporting people in different ways, but a BSW does not yet allow someone to offer counseling, for example. For that reason, many social workers looking to expand their horizons and build long-term careers will choose to continue their education.
Adding a Graduate Degree
Adding a graduate degree in social work on top of a BSW is an excellent way of expanding the scope of a social work career. A master’s in social work (MSW) or a doctoral program can also be an option for anyone with a different undergraduate degree to move into a social position.
Once again, selecting a degree with CSWE certification is essential. Only those programs allow graduates to continue on their journey toward becoming licensed clinical social workers. Hundreds, if not thousands, of graduate social work programs are open to applicants now. Some are campus-based, while others can be completed online.
Choosing the right graduate degree requires research and close consideration of finances. While there are plenty of job openings for social workers, not all of them are highly paid. That could potentially leave those with substantial student loans struggling, although, for many, job security matters more.
The most sought-after social work positions offered both flexibilities and improved earning potential.
To qualify for these positions, social workers must be accredited as a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
Becoming licensed requires a graduate degree in social work, like an MSW, followed by a specific period of supervised work. Exact requirements tend to vary from state to state. If you want to settle and work in a particular part of the United States, it is critical to understand that state’s requirements. Some states, like Illinois and Louisiana, also require aspiring LSWs and LCSWs to sit an exam.
The CSWE also offers a service that assesses and evaluates degrees obtained abroad or outside social work. Once a degree has been approved as equivalent to an MSW, applicants can start working toward their license.
Building a Rewarding Career
A degree in social work can be the starting point of many varied career paths. One of the paths offering a high level of job satisfaction and flexibility is working as a counselor.
Counselors offer their clients a wide range of mental and behavioral health care and support. They help individuals with mental health challenges navigate those issues through one-on-one sessions, group, or family therapy. Most counseling starts by assessing the underlying causes of a person’s problems before developing ways to mitigate and resolve them.
Offering counseling allows licensed clinical social workers to set their hours and decide their workload. Platforms like TrueCare make it easy to connect with potential clients, and back-office support staff takes care of administrative tasks.
Counselors can focus on delivering the highest level of support to their clients. Whether they offer online or in-person services, or a combination of both, working through a nationwide network of experienced professionals is an excellent way of building a successful social work career.