The Truth About Social Work

The Truth About Social Work

Megan Malugani, Monster Contributing Writer

What people think they know about social work is often a myth, according to the >National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Contrary to popular belief, social workers are trained professionals who have bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees –- they are not social services employees, caseworkers or volunteers. Only a fraction of social workers are employed in public or child welfare, and social workers are the nation’s largest providers of mental health and therapy services.

More on Social Work

Salary: $32,590 - $48,420
Min. Education: Master's
Related Careers: Psychologist, Rehabilitation Counselor

“The diversity of roles for social workers is enormous,” says Ruth W. Mayden, MSS, former president of the NASW and former dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia.

Social workers practice in a wide variety of settings, and their presence is constantly evolving. According to Mayden, five arenas in which the demand for social workers is growing are:

Aging: As the population of elderly Americans explodes in coming decades, social workers with expertise in gerontology will keep busy. They’ll provide counseling to seniors, help them maintain their independence at home, plan for future care and generally help improve their quality of life.

Human Resources: Businesses hire occupational social workers to help manage on-site workplace conflict and to make workplaces safer and more family-friendly. A growing practice area for occupational social workers is in employee assistance programs.

Schools: Social workers are often part of the interdisciplinary teams that school systems set up to help children with emotional, developmental or educational needs. Some schools now serve as community centers and offer classes and social services for adults, too, which is spurring further demand for school social workers.

Healthcare: Social workers are vital members of the healthcare team in many hospitals and clinics. Licensed clinical social workers provide direct counseling services; other social workers serve as patient advocates by coordinating medical and emotional treatment, managing services a patient may require for recovery and planning for care after hospitalization.

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