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Child, family, and school social workers provide social services and assistance to children and their families. Child and family social workers work in the areas of child protective services, adoption, homelessness, domestic violence, or foster care. School social workers work with students, parents, guardians, teachers, and other school officials to help students reach their academic potential and deal with stress or emotional issues.
Medical and public health social workers provide support to people coping with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses in hospitals, nursing facilities, and individual and family service agencies. Gerontological social workers specialize in the aging population and assess, coordinate, and monitor housing, transportation, and long-term care.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers provide group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, and social rehabilitation to people with mental health or substance abuse problems. They work in both outpatient and inpatient treatment facilities, as well as employee assistance programs and private practices.
A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the most common undergraduate degree required to enter the field, but degrees in psychology and sociology may also suffice for entry level positions. A master's degree in social work (MSW) is required for clinical work, school and healthcare positions, and supervisory, administrative, and staff training positions. Social workers must be licensed according to varying requirements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Social work can be emotionally challenging and large caseloads can add to the stress of this occupation. Social workers should be emotionally stable, objective, sensitive to others, and able to handle responsibility and work independently. Those with adequate experience may advance to supervisor, program manager, assistant director, or executive director. Some social workers choose to go into private practice.
Social work opportunities are expected to grow faster than the national average, and will be best for those specializing in the aging population or in rural areas. Visit the National Association of Social Workers website for more information about opportunities in social work, and the Association of Social Work Boards website for information about licensing requirements in each state.
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