$A career in social work can cover a broad range of occupations within a variety of work settings. Basically, any job that revolves around fixing social issues in our society can be considered social work. Social workers most often work with children and families, those with disabilities, those with substance abuse or criminal issues or those receiving medical care. Social workers are most often employed by government agencies, schools, police departments and medical facilities.

Required Education and Skills

Those interested in a career in social work in any setting can get a degree focused on social work. There are associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate options. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. Field-work positions usually require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in addition to a number of supervised hours under a senior social worker. Associate’s degrees usually open up only very basic entry-level positions revolving around office work and clerical tasks at a government. It is highly recommended to enter the field with a bachelor’s degree.

Employers are also looking for other skills, including a desire to help others and improve their lives. Unsurprisingly, social skills and charisma are important, as is conflict resolution and problem solving. Social workers often deal with very difficult clients and situations, and they must be able to handle both accordingly. Social workers are not expected to be lawyers, but they should have some working knowledge of applicable laws and regulations. They are usually held to strict regulatory practices, and will often be appearing in court for various cases.

Social worker positions can sometimes be attained by those without a degree in social work, but with a degree in a similar field. Similar fields often include education, criminal justice, or counseling. The appropriate degree in this case can vary depending on the location and type of services needed.

Career Settings

Where social workers are employed is about as broad as the institutions that employ them. State institutes that handle cases of abuse or foster care are prime employers of social workers. Unfortunately, these jobs are usually the lowest paying options.

School districts are the next largest employer of social workers. Social workers are often needed to handle Special Education cases. They also work with children currently in State care to ensure they get the necessary educational services. These social workers are often a bridge between a child’s home and educational life. They are also guidance counselors who assist youth with graduation, college entry and career goals.

Hospitals are the third largest employer of social workers. Each hospital has at least one social worker. These individuals help patients realize their care goals and help them with insurance paperwork and other tasks to complete the legal or clerical side of their visit. In cases where long-term care or additional out-patients services are needed, the social worker will help patients and families set up the necessary care situation. They may provide information or contact various other institutions or providers on the patient’s behalf.

Those with a doctorate degree in social work often graduate from field work and are employed by government agencies as analysts or by universities as professors. These positions are often much easier than field work and generally have higher pay. However, the demand for these positions is very low compared to that involving field work. Those with a doctorate level of education may find themselves frustratingly overqualified for field work positions but unable to find a position on-level with their education. The majority of social workers hold master’s degrees.

Salary Range

The pay for social work is neither poor nor excellent. The median annual salary in 2011 was $40,680. The top 10 percent earned $70,000 on average. The bottom 25 percent earned $32,520.

The highest paying positions existed in the education system and in hospital settings. A higher level degree often results in higher pay, but not necessarily. Salary is much more dependent on the location of employment and the employing institution. Seniority also plays a major role.

Other Benefits of Social Work

Social work positions are often very secure, considering the high turnover of most positions. Social work is a demanding career choice. Many social workers burn out after only a few years. Those with proper self-help and coping strategies, however, can last in the field and experience the many joys of helping people attain success and stability in their lives. Social work positions are often full-time and come with the usual benefits. Senior social workers are also allowed to keep more flexible or self-directed schedules. They will often choose when and how they attend to their caseload and will often be free to work independently of direct supervision