Choosing between social worker positions can be a difficult task, because positions are available working with so many different kinds of people and in so many different environments. In order to make a decision about which position is best for you, it is important to consider your priorities relating to client population, treatment setting, salary requirements and area of focus. But first, you need to determine if your own qualifications match the needs of a prospective employer.
The minimum requirement for entry-level social worker positions is usually a Bachelor of Social Work degree. In the United States, a Master of Social Work degree is considered the terminal degree, which means that it indicates the highest level of competency for professional practice. A Doctorate of Social Work degree is fairly rare in the U.S., and individuals who pursue a PhD in social work typically work in academic or research-oriented positions. A master's degree is required for most positions in school, health care or clinical settings.
In the United States, there also also licensing requirements for some forms of social work. Policies vary from state to state, but some jurisdictions offer licensing at the bachelor, master, advanced generalist and clinical levels. Some employers might hire only a licensed clinical social worker for some positions, particularly in the mental health field. Salary also usually increases with an advanced license, so this is another point to consider when planning a career in social work.
After determining what kinds of qualifications you have, it is important to identify your desired client population. Social workers provide treatment to people of all ages, ethnicities and religions. You might want to work with children with autism or adults who are hearing impaired, or you might want provide services to the elderly Jewish population. Many different populations benefit from social work.
Social worker positions are available in a variety of treatment settings. For example, you could work in a school, a Department of Social Services, a substance abuse treatment center or a long-term care facility. Depending on the setting, a social worker might even spend part of the day traveling to clients’ homes. When deciding between social worker positions, you should think about where you would like to work and how much you would be willing to travel.
You likely will factor in your salary requirement when choosing between social worker positions. In the United States in 2008, child, family and school social workers made a median salary of $39,530 US Dollars. Medical and public health social workers made $46,650 US Dollars, and social workers in mental health and substance abuse treatment made $36,210 US Dollars. Remember that your degree and license, if you have one, will have an effect on the salary you could make.
Above all else, when considering social worker positions, you should keep your main area of focus or passion in mind. Consider what prompted you to enter the social work field in the first place. Social work can be a stressful, demanding and emotionally draining profession. If you are doing something you feel strongly or passionately about, it will make your job easier and more enjoyable.