careerpathThe career of a social worker can branch out into many different directions, aiding people with disabilities and other social problems involving substance abuse, housing problems, domestic conflicts, spousal abuse, or advocating for the variety of social situations that work in and around communities to improve the livelihoods of disenfranchised groups or individuals. The social workers has one of the most flexible titles in public service; whereas police officers and firemen had designated areas of law and public good to attend to, the social worker is the most pliable able-bodied member of a community’s workforce, trained in a host of environments and protocols to better help them become a social chameleon capable of blending their empathy, devotion and understanding into a variety of emotional colors and economic classes.

Schools, businesses and other public and private organizations often employ social workers to act as intermediaries in helping to solve internal dysfunction. Medical social workers are employed by medical practices to provide psychological support to the sick. A host of part time, full time and volunteer work awaits qualified social workers, but most social workers begin their practice at the bottom of the social rung by working for charity outfits, non-profits and other entry-level practices. Social workers retain half a million jobs in the United States alone, but with so many community and social problems that need addressing, the hierarchy that keeps amateur social workers from the positions of more experiences workers remains intact and crucial in allocating the social worker’s experience and skill with a fitting match.

The typical social worker career begins with an annual salary of $30,000, and tops out at roughly $100,000 for qualified and capable private practice ventures. Social workers with masters degrees will find themselves choosing between the mental health field, medical, substance abuse, child welfare and school social worker, but that’s jumping ahead the career track — a social worker’s professional foundation is laid in their education and accreditations.

The kind of education and training a person has to go through to become such an accomplished cog in the community varies with state specific certifications, regulations and the licensure that allows social workers to deal with their multitude of fields. Licensures in particular are changing their focus into sensitivity, professional ethics and communication skills, while the professional reputation of social workers will rest on their own emotional stability, work ethic and success rates in handling the responsibility of their work.

The lowest social worker positions require a bachelor’s degree, but it’s difficult to rise and impossible to open up a private practice. Most positions will advance the educational requirements to a master’s degree. Clinical and medical fields will require more stringent resumes. Social worker teaching positions require a doctorate in social work, while majors in sociology, psychology and in-between fields are uniformly relevant and indicative of a useful skill set.

A master’s degrees in social work will be the golden ticket as far as opening as many doors as possible, but a social worker’s resume truly begins when they get their field education and experience. Accredited programs will almost always require a minimum of several hundred hours of supervised experience. Students studying to become social workers can find reputable outreach programs within their schools and teaching faculty to help them gain experience in a non-paid volunteer capacity before graduation or master’s certification is required. Jobs are likely to hire students for entry-level experiential positions, although medical fields have more regulations than others and may require better referrals in order to secure even a volunteer position. Social work is a popular but competitive field, and it’s recommended that students get a jump on their competition by volunteering their time with any relevant organization they can during their university years.

Private practices are not uncommon in the social work field, but they are hampered by their inability to attach themselves to larger organizations or charities that are able to reach out to more people and strategize effective entry points in which to help those that need the service. Private practice social work has a checkered history, although that’s not a criticism of the private social worker — as with professional qualifications, social workers will need a master’s degree to found any legitimate private practice in the shield. It’s recommended that social workers who are considering private practice do it in a part time capacity for the first year, retaining their work outside with professional organizations, charities and communities and building their social network.

The career track of a social worker is open-ended, but there isn’t as much professional mobility as there seems to be. Most social workers will have accreditation that qualifies them for specific fields of work like medical, addiction or child care services, and they should devote themselves to their qualified fields and rise in rank within that professional subsection. Some social workers have found success in generalizing their services, but the most potent social work is the ‘pinpoint’: the suited field for a given worker’s experience, education and element.