How High School Students can prepare for Social Work Careers

High school students interested in social work careers can prepare by enrolling in particular coursework. An individual employed as a social worker must have excellent critical thinking skills to deal with complex problems with clients. Knowledge of effective writing is also necessary to communicate with private and government agencies. Social work often involves understanding financial documents such as client budgets and bank statements that require mathematical calculations. On a daily basis, many clients that arrive in a social worker’s office do not speak English as a primary language. Universities encourage students to enroll in foreign language, English, mathematics, psychology and sociology courses while in high school.

Volunteer Opportunities before Entering College

University admittance counselors are looking for well-rounded high students with an understanding of social work career choices. Finding ways to work with people in a volunteer position while in high school teaches students about real-world situations. High school students can volunteer with agencies that help people deal with homelessness or food shortages. A student with higher grades is more likely to receive acceptance to several university programs. In the first year of college, students enroll in a variety of classes to build general knowledge. A student will continue to study generalized coursework such as communication.

Entry-Level Careers for Bachelor’s Degree Social Work Graduates

Individuals enrolled as social work students will also begin intense study of specialized coursework. As a social work student progresses at a university, more classes will focus on this particular topic. A bachelor’s degree is typically required for an entry-level job as a social worker. Bachelor’s degree programs in social work normally require four years of attendance for two semesters a year. However, several universities offer fast-track programs that allow students to attend classes in the summer reducing the duration to three years. As students progress in the bachelor’s degree program, universities will arrange practical training in various work environments. Many graduates of a bachelor’s degree social work program begin working as caseworkers. Caseworkers work for governmental and private agencies to assist clients with issues such as poverty, substance abuse or homelessness.

Careers for Social Work Graduates with Master’s Degrees

Students have the option of continuing their education to receive a master’s degree in social work. A master’s degree is usually a full-time program that lasts two years with in-depth study of social work topics including understanding social policy and human development. A university may accept an individual with a bachelor’s degree in a closely related major such as psychology or education. Occasionally, an individual works for several years at an entry-level job before beginning a master’s degree in social work program. Universities will require additional practicums, field experiences and internships in various agencies as part of a master’s degree student’s curriculum. Students frequently specialized in particular areas of social work including working with the elderly or children in residential or health care facilities.

Advanced Opportunities for Doctoral Degree Graduates

Several universities also offer doctoral degrees in social work for advanced learning opportunities. Individuals interested in working as professors or researchers are typically required to have a doctoral degree. Administrative and management jobs that provide services to the disadvantaged, elderly and children frequently require the expertise of an individual with a doctoral degree in social work. A student studying in a doctoral degree program attends advanced social work classes to learn detailed information. Doctoral degree students frequently also teach social work classes designed for university freshman and sophomore students. In addition, students may work as assistants for professors who are engaged in research concerning the field of social work. Doctoral degree students typically must write a dissertation or thesis on a selected topic before graduating. Extended internships for approximately one year are also a requirement in doctoral degree programs.

Diverse Job Opportunities for Graduates of Social Work Programs

Graduates of university social work programs have diverse job opportunities. Jobs are available for social workers in substance abuse and mental health care facilities. Many social workers work at health care facilities such as nursing homes or hospitals. Private and public schools hire social workers to assist students with behavioral problems. A social worker can work in clinics or private practices that assist families with issues such as abuse, foster care, adoption, divorce and other situations. Social workers can work in solo, private or group practices with other social workers, psychologists or health care professionals.