History of Social Work
Charity is a concept which dates back to Biblical times, when helping the poor was something that rich people basically did to make themselves feel good. Social work has its roots in charity, as it originally began around the time of the industrial revolution when there were many poor people and society was seeking a way of dealing with the poor and the problems with which they were faced. Although social work began as charity work, it has expanded a lot and needs to be seen in a completely different light.
Modern-day social work deals not only with poverty and the subsequent problems, but also with the problems arising from various types of “social phobias” and bigotry such as sexism, homophobia, racism, and bigotry based on an individual’s age, mental or physical abilities. Social workers deal with the consequences of these discriminations as well as those that arise from sexual abuse, drug abuse, and various other problems.
The social worker career has evolved from being a scientific-based career which originally concentrated on the control and reform of individuals to one which is more holistic in its approach. This has meant that the idea of how to be a social worker has changed from being a career which advocated social control to one which now mainly advocates social empowerment. There are still sectors of being a social worker which call for control, such as those who practice statutory child protection, but most other types of social work is focused on empowerment.
The Social Worker Career
The Social Worker Career is a career like no other, and comes with its own practice standards, code of ethics, credentials, body of knowledge, state licensing, and it also has a nationwide system of accredited education programs. All of the above work together to provide the professional social worker with the means to combine their altruistic nature with the ethics, skills and knowledge to provide vital assistance where it is most needed.
When one decides to become a social worker one needs to understand the scope of the work that is undertaken and that it is not necessarily a cushy 9am – 5pm office-job. Those involved in a social worker career will tell you that it is a very rewarding career, but one that can be very stressful and even dangerous at times. It is for this reason that one needs to realize that becoming a social worker is a very specific choice, as it is a career and not just a job.
The social worker performs a critical function within his or her community by providing those in need with assistance and support in various ways. Social workers work with, for and on behalf of individuals who are experiencing problems as a result of illness, poverty, substance abuse, or unemployment amongst other issues. There are various social worker careers, depending on one’s field of interest; you can choose to specialize and get certified in mental health, medical and public health, family and school, or substance abuse.
Social workers work in a variety of fields and in various institutions such as schools, healthcare facilities, public agencies, police departments, courts, private businesses, clinics, nursing homes and hospitals. A social worker serves communities, individuals, and families; they are supervisors, managers, and administrators. Social workers serve at all levels of government, and are very often elected legislators and political leaders.
A social worker may focus on a certain group such as children, the elderly, families, or students. Social workers deal with a number of psychological and social issues such as individuals with terminal illnesses such as AIDS or Cancer, or those dealing with problems of substance abuse. The social worker job description include preparing case reports, interviewing clients, providing counseling services, assessing client needs, and sometimes working in collaboration with others who provide treatment.
The Role of the Professional Social Worker
The career of a social worker include a variety of services to those in need of assistance in understanding, accepting and making the best of their current situations. These services are performed in various ways and utilizing different methods, depending on the type of service being provided.
The services provided include:
- Case Management
- Human Services Management
- Social Welfare Policy Analysis
- Policy and Practice Development
- Community Organizing
- International, Social Community Development
- Teaching – in Schools of Social Work
- Social, Political Research
Personality Requirements for Becoming a Social Worker
Being a Social Worker is not for everyone as it is hard work, can be very pressurized, depressing and stressful, and can also require that one work overtime or weekends. It is for this reason that there are very specific personality traits and abilities that anyone thinking of becoming a Social Worker needs to have. Schools will look for these traits when individuals apply to do a social workers course, as will prospective employers.
Social Worker Candidates will need the following traits:
- They must be able to handle responsibility.
- They must be emotionally mature.
- A Social Worker needs to be resilient.
- Being a Social Worker means being sensitive to people and their problems.
- Social Worker Information gleaned about clients is confidential.
- A Social Worker must be able to work independently.
- They need to be able to maintain good working relationships with co-workers and clients.
- Objectivity and being non-judgmental is vitally important.
- A Social Worker needs to be patient and must be able to remain cal m in crises.
- Becoming a Social Worker means that you need to show evidence of flexibility and being able to adapt and adjust to new rules, tasks and situations easily.
- As a social worker you need to show initiative.
- You need to have the capacity to easily absorb procedural/legal information.
- Social workers need to have the ability to mediate/negotiate/interpret on behalf of clients.
- General administrative skills such as report-writing and good intrapersonal and communication skills are also key traits.
Apart from the above traits and abilities, part of how to be a Social Worker means a genuine desire to improve the quality of the less fortunate and those who are faced with what seems, to them, to be insurmountable problems caused by their circumstances. Empathy and the ability to think on your feet combined with the ability to make difficult decisions under pressure are vital to those intending on entering social worker careers.
Social Worker Careers – Nature of the Work
The underlying desire of social workers is to help those in need and improve their lives by assisting them to cope with their circumstances. Social workers help families who have life-threatening diseases, are disabled, or have social problems such as substance abuse, inadequate housing, or unemployment. A social worker sometimes has to assist families with serious domestic problems which often result in physical conflicts and child or spousal abuse. Social workers sometimes conduct research, or become involved in policy development and/or planning, or conduct research. Social workers perform their duties in a variety of ways and in various settings:
Child, Family, And School Social Workers
Child, family, and School Social Workers are also known as Family Services Social Workers, Child Protective Services Social Workers, and Child Welfare Social Workers. They work for State or local governments, individual and family services agencies or schools.
Their duties include:
- Providing assistance and social services to children and their families in an attempt to improve their social and psychological functioning.
- Assessing a client’s needs and assisting them to improve their situation.
- Co-coordinating various available services to assist a child or a whole family.
- Sourcing foster homes for abandoned, abused or neglected minors.
- Assisting single parents to find affordable day care, or to arrange adoptions.
- Addressing social problems such as truancy, misbehavior, teenage pregnancies, and alcohol and drug abuse.
- Many social workers in this field prefer to specialize and work within a particular field such as adoption, foster care, homelessness, domestic violence, or child protective services. Some of them also only work in a particular setting or population.
- Advising teachers on how to deal with problem-students is also the mandate of the School Social Worker.
- Social Workers in this field often have to assist students to cope with and deal with emotional problems or stress.
School social workers generally serve as a link between the school and the students’ families. They work with teachers and school officials, guardians, parents and foster-parents to ensure that students reach their personal and academic potential.
Many school social workers deal one-on-one with disabled children and their families, assisting them with various problems. They also teach workshops on subjects like conflict resolution to entire classes of students at a time.
Medical and Public Health Social Workers
Medical and Public Health Social Workers, who may also be referred to as Gerontological Social Workers, generally work for individual and family services agencies, hospitals, local governments or nursing and personal care facilities.
Their duties include:
- Providing psychosocial support to families, individuals, or vulnerable populations, assisting them to cope with acute, chronic, or terminal illnesses such as Cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Medical and Public Health Social Workers counsel patients, help a family to plan for their relative’s needs after their discharge from hospital and advise family caregivers.
- Some of the Medical and Public Health Social Workers are members of interdisciplinary teams that evaluate geriatric patients or those who have had organ transplants.
- Gerontological Social Workers specialize in services for senior citizens and their families.
- They arrange for home-services such as home-care, and meals-on-wheels.
Medical and Public Health Social Workers may organize and run support-groups for children of aging parents. Assessing, monitoring and coordinating housing, long-term care and transportation also fall within the scope of Medical and Public Health Social Workers.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
As the designation suggests, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers specialize in assessing and treating individuals who suffer from mental illness or have a substance abuse problem. They work in inpatient programs where their clients are patients who reside at a facility or in outpatient facilities, where their clients come in for treatment and then go home again.
Their duties include:
- Outreach, crisis intervention, individual and group therapy, social rehabilitation, and the teaching of skills which are required for everyday life.
- Planning for supportive services for patients returning from in-patient facilities to the community.
- Rendering assistance to family members of those who suffer from mental health issues or an addiction.
- Some Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers are employed by the client.
- Some of the social workers who specialize in Mental Health and Substance Abuse work in employee-assistance programs where they assist the individual to cope with personal problems or work-related pressures which affect the quality of their work.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers may also be referred to as Occupational Social Workers, Clinical Social Workers, or Substance Abuse Social Workers.
Other Types of Social Workers
There are also other categories of social workers including researchers, social work administrators, and planners and policymakers. This category of social workers includes those who develop and implement programs in order to address issues such as poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, child abuse, and violence. They research and analyze programs, policies and regulations. They also identify social problems and put forward legislative and other solutions. They may also write grants and help to fundraise to support the programs.
How to Become a Social Worker
Becoming a social worker is a very selfless choice, as social worker careers take very special people. Being a social worker entails providing direct therapy or services to clients and working for change in order to improve the social and living conditions of those less fortunate. The social worker sets him or herself apart from other professionals who do similar work by providing the services to their clients in the environment in which they live. Many individuals cannot get out of the environment in which they find themselves, and this is where a social worker can do the most good. They not only help their clients to deal with how they feel about the situation in which they find themselves, but also assist them with ideas as to what they can do about it.
Education Requirements for Social Workers
Although there are many certificate and associate social worker degree programs in social work, they will not be sufficient to get work in many of the social worker disciplines. A bachelor’s degree is normally required for the positions of mental health assistant, caseworker, group home worker, and residential counselor.
Positions in education, social service, healthcare and administrative positions require a master’s degree, and research and post-secondary positions require a doctoral degree. State regulators generally require that these programs be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or another accrediting agency which is nationally recognized.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
If you are interested in becoming a social worker, then you should have at least a Bachelor’s degree, although some aspiring social workers may be able to find employment if they have majors in psychology, sociology and other similar fields. A baccalaureate is usually obtained en route to earning a master’s degree.
Baccalaureate programs include social coursework and general education requirements, and includes studying family science, sociology and psychology. The end-goal of these programs is to equip graduates with valuable basic skills which can be utilized to ensure that individuals get the help that they need in order to function optimally. Candidates are taught to work with diverse demographics such as families, small groups, communities and organizations.
The program coursework consists of learning theory, observation, and participating in fieldwork.
Courses in the curriculum include:
- Group psychology
- Principles of Counseling
- Social Welfare Policy
- Popular Career Options
Not all positions are open to those with Bachelor’s degrees, but there are a few for which a Bachelor’s is adequate:
- Counseling Assistant
- Drug Counselor
- Group Home Worker
- Mental Health Assistant
- Residential Counselor
Master’s Degree in Social Work
A Master’s degree program builds on what was taught in the Bachelor’s degree program as well as introducing new and advanced field techniques. Most graduates of the Master’s degree manage to find employment as social workers as they are eminently qualified to perform clinical assessments, tackle large caseloads and accept leadership roles.
Most candidates of Master’s degree programs specialize in specific areas of social work such as drug counseling, child and family counseling, occupational therapy, medical and public health social work or mental health. Most Master’s programs take about two years and some of them offer advanced training in research. There are also some online Master’s programs.
In order to apply to do a Master’s degree program in social work one must be in possession of a bachelor’s degree.
Some schools insist that applicants have a bachelor’s degree in social work. Others schools are open to bachelor’s degrees in other related fields such as psychology, sociology, or social work.
Master’s degree programs in social work focus on advanced, original research and specialized study. The course curriculum includes:
- Advanced family dynamics
- Applied psychology
- Drug abuse counseling techniques
- Field research
- Patient treatment ethics
Doctorate Degree in Social Work
A Ph.D. in social work is eminently suited to social workers who have significant social work experience who want to pursue a university teaching career. Doctorate programs place great emphasis on substantial individual research and specialized study. Doctorate programs culminate in a book-length work of original research, called a dissertation. This is overseen by an advisory committee
Many of the PhD programs train delegates in research techniques which include advanced statistics and large-scale psychological study which are of great use in the field. Many students also take courses on the principles and methods of instruction in order to be able to teach. A Doctorate program takes 3-5 years to complete if done on a full-time basis.
In order to apply to do a doctorate in social work one needs at least a baccalaureate. Many programs insist that applicants have either a Master’s degree or a lot of work experience as a social worker. You may also be required to submit college transcripts, standardized test scores, resumes and letters of recommendation.
Many of the doctorate programs bring experts in to discuss advanced social work techniques and principles. The curriculum includes:
- Data Interpretation
- Drug Addiction Physiology
- Extreme Behavioral Problems
- Family Dysfunction
- Statistical Polling And Analysis
Social Worker Licensing Requirements
Most states and the District of Columbia require social workers to be licensed. The licensing requirements vary slightly from state to state, but in general those who have obtained a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree, or Advanced Generalist and Clinical social workers can be certified by the National Association of Social Workers upon completion of the required amount of hours.
I trust that the Social Worker Information that has been provided in the article will help those of you who are still trying to decide whether a Social Worker Career is the right career for you or not.