There are many careers that you can pursue that will allow you to use your skills and talents in order to help improve the lives of others in your community. Furthermore, there are always opportunities for qualified professionals to fill such roles as the need for additional help and resources in communities across the country continues to grow.
If you are hoping to fill a service-based role in your community, you might be considering a job as a police officer, a firefighter, or a first responder. However, if working for emergency services isn’t something that you feel cut out for, you can still work in your community to improve the lives of others. One job that will allow you to do so is that of a social worker.
Social workers serve a great need in society. They work with various age groups and demographics and provide a range of services. For instance, some social workers provide those in their communities who are in need of medical assistance with healthcare professionals. Others offer support to those in crisis or who are victims of abuse.
Depending on your specific training, there are many different ways in which you can use your skills as a social worker in order to improve the lives of others. First, however, you must go through the process of becoming a fully educated and qualified social worker.
The process will take some time and require you to be fully dedicated to learning as much as you can. When it is done, you will be able to make a positive difference in your local community in your role as a social worker.
If you are considering a career as a social worker, here are a few tips that can help you to get the most out of the process so that you can help improve the lives of those in your local community.
Choose the Right Degree Programs
In order to become a qualified social worker, you must first obtain the right level of education. This will start with earning a relevant undergraduate degree from a four-year university. This degree doesn’t have to be in social work specifically, but if your goal is to become a social worker, then such a degree is going to be the option that will best prepare you for your master’s degree program.
When choosing the master’s degree program that will work best for you, there are several factors that you will want to keep in mind. For starters, you want to look at the quality of the program based on the success rates of graduates in regard to placement. Your degree won’t do much to help you start your career unless there is a proven track record of successful placement for students.
To that point, you also want to ensure that the program you go with involves placement services for clinical MSW students. You won’t be able to properly complete your degree and qualify as a trained social worker unless you have obtained firsthand experience through clinicals.
Lastly, consider the style of program that you want to enroll in. It might not be possible for you to attend a full-time program in person in the traditional sense. In such a case, an online degree program can be the right choice. However, if you are the sort of student who thrives in the traditional educational setting, then an in-person degree program would be better for you.
Once you have chosen the right degree program for you, you will need to work as hard as you can in order to develop and strengthen those skills that will prove invaluable to you when you start your career as a social worker.
Develop Essential Skills
No matter what sort of career path you choose, there will be a key set of skills that are good to have for when you are working in the field. A career as a social worker is no different. There are a number of essential skills that you will want to possess so that you can be as effective as possible in your role.
Some of these skills are those that you will learn while in school. Your teachers and instructors will be able to guide you as you develop these skills, and your clinical training will allow you to hone them and gain valuable experience using them.
That being said, there are some skills that simply cannot be taught in the classroom. You might even find yourself working on them throughout the course of your career. Empathy, communication, and patience are all some of the skills that every good social worker has that you will need to develop in and of yourself.
Bear in mind that not everyone is a born communicator or naturally has the ability to practice patience. It is possible, however, to learn such skills and apply them to your professional life as you grow and develop in your role as a social worker.
Field Placement Hours
Once you have the bulk of your formal education completed, you will then need to complete a set number of fieldwork hours. These are hours that you will spend in the clinical setting using the skills you have developed through your degree program. You will be supervised by a licensed social worker and receive constructive feedback about how you are doing and what improvements you need to make going forward.
Your fieldwork hours will be what you make of them. It is a good idea to consider using the opportunity to try working with groups or demographics that you aren’t as familiar with. Even if you ultimately end up not working with such groups professionally, you can still gain worthwhile experience that will be helpful to you when you start your career as a fully licensed social worker.
Obtain Your License
As with many similar careers, the licensing process for social workers varies by state. You will need to consult your state’s requirements in order to establish precisely what you need to do in order to apply for your license.
In addition to your degree from an accredited institution and your supervised clinical hours, you might need to pass a state licensing examination. Some states also have multiple types of social worker licenses, so make sure that you choose the right track for the type of social worker you want to become.
For instance, if you live in the state of Texas, there are four kinds of licenses that are available for social workers:
- Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP)
It is important to make sure that you put yourself on the right track to qualify for the license that you need to practice in the manner that you want to. It is a good idea to speak to an advisor at your school to get the guidance that you need for this part of the process.
Never Stop Learning
There are many successful individuals out there across a wide range of fields who can all attest to the fact that one of the ways in which you build a lasting career for yourself is to adopt a mindset of continuing education. When it comes to a field such as social work, there are always new advances and resources being developed. You will need to keep yourself informed about such things for the entirety of your career.
Moreover, there are certainly going to be several continuing education requirements for you to maintain your license to practice. These tend to be done on a yearly basis but make sure that you consult your state’s licensing board in order to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements that apply to you.
You have several options available to you when it comes to continuing your professional development. There are official events that are organized for the purpose of providing social workers with continuing education hours, but there are also some informal ways of approaching your professional development as well.
For instance, you can choose to write papers or perform independent research on subject matter that is interesting to you. You might even find yourself in a position where you can present any findings that you make to a group of your peers. If it is your goal to do so, you can use this approach to establish yourself as an authority on a specific subject matter in your field.
The road to becoming a qualified social worker is not a short one. You will need to pursue advanced degrees and take certain steps towards qualifying for a state license to practice. Furthermore, you will find yourself continuing to learn more and obtain additional skills throughout the duration of your career. All of this will help you to become an effective social worker so that you can truly make a positive difference in the lives of those within your local community.