The call to being a social worker is a noble task. It is not for the faint of heart, and it’s for those who have a passion for promoting change and healthy growth among the most vulnerable in society. Social workers believe that we can make a difference by empowering marginalized communities, making connections with them, and lobbying for change to improve their circumstances.
If you are interested in helping disadvantaged youth and families, elders, LGBTQ+ communities, people with mental health needs, individuals experiencing homelessness, refugees, and other underserved communities, here are some steps you can take to become the most effective social worker you can be.
Get the necessary degrees and license
While you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in social work to become a social worker, you need to have additional degrees or certificates in the area if you want to become a full-time social worker. Consider opting for an Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) online—check the ETEEAP requirements and see if you qualify. While any related bachelor’s degree will help you find social work jobs, having additional degrees will help you find a more stable career in the field.
After you’ve obtained the necessary degrees and requirements, you would need to earn your license. The requirements vary from state to state, but you need to take a standardized exam, and you would need to renew your license every few years.
Choose a specific area of work
Here are the institutions you can find employment in:
- International non-profit organizations that help vulnerable communities
- Local colleges or universities
- Social service organizations
- Medical facilities
Moreover, here are the most common types of social workers:
- Program directors help non-profits secure funding.
- Medical social workers help patients and their families deal with prolonged illnesses.
- School social workers help elementary and secondary students deal with many factors that can affect their social life and scholastic progress.
- Licensed clinical social workers provide therapy and counseling services in healthcare settings like private practices or rehabilitation centers.
- Case managers help various people—from those struggling with alcohol or substance abuse to elderly or sick patients to ex-convicts—transition back into the real world and, specifically, in the workforce.
- Child and family social workers are akin to counselors in that they help clients cope with day-to-day problems and a host of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems.
- Social services directors oversee client admissions and transfers, bigger organizational projects, and everyone in the social services staff.
If you already have a specific community in mind that you want to help, it’s only a matter of finding which institutions or channels you wish to offer your services to reach these people.
Here are some additional tips for being an effective social worker:
- Have a keen understanding of your skill set. Not all social workers may be good at counseling, but you might find you have a talent for project management and fundraising. Observe where you find yourself thriving and allow yourself to grow in that area. Cultivate the parts of you that already have a natural talent for a specific skill instead of forcing yourself into one area of social work that you don’t have a knack for.
- Never stop learning. As society and circumstances change, so do the people we are trying to help. Keep up with the latest on the community you want to help, such as laws and other external factors that may affect them and their improvement.
- When looking for a job, use the proper industry terminology and lingo. This will help interviewers know that you have the knowledge needed to succeed in the field.
- When thinking of joining a specific organization or institution, make sure you know them like the back of your hand. Research is key to this. Interviewers are always impressed by candidates who took time out of their lives to understand where they want to work, so make sure to flex that knowledge on your interview.
- Maximize your internship. Social workers need to complete an internship as part of educational requirements. Don’t just think of it as a requirement, though; take this time to gain a deeper understanding of your chosen career as you experience hands-on training for the first time.
Social work is a noble calling. If it is where your passion and skill set meet, don’t hesitate to pursue this career. Study and work hard, and you will achieve your dream of helping people for a living.