Tables of Contents
- What Is Social Work?
- Careers in Social Work
- What Is Forensic Social Work?
- What Is Social Justice in Social Work?
- What Is Case Management in Social Work?
- Social Work as a Calling
We help each other in big and small ways. There’s nothing more human than that. Few of us would consider “people helping people” a job description, but that’s exactly what social workers do.
Social work is both a practice-based profession and an academic discipline. Social workers encourage social change and cultural development to allow all people to feel empowered. Their work is based on concepts of social justice, human rights, and collective responsibility.
Respect for diverse communities and societies is a driving force of social work. Social workers apply social science theory, humanitarian principles, and cultural understanding to help people overcome life’s challenges.
Careers in social work take many paths in the private sector and in government: mental health settings, schools, child welfare, hospitals, human service agencies, community development, and settlement houses. This guide presents the academic and career choices available to social workers. It explains how to pursue a career in social work and points out opportunities that require a bachelor’s or master’s in social work and state licensure.
What Is Social Work?
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) describes social work as “a helping profession.” The mission of social work is to “enhance human well-being and help meet basic and complex needs of all people,” especially the poor, oppressed, and most vulnerable.
Social work encompasses many duties, such as assessing the physical and mental health of clients, providing child protective services, ensuring the safety and well-being of people in need, and supporting victims of abuse and neglect. However, understanding what social work is requires examining how the career reflects society.
In times of upheaval in society, the definition of social work and its foundational underpinnings remain in flux. The systems theory in social work is based on the belief that people have “a desire for equilibrium and maintenance of the social and economic status quo,” according to researchers at the University of Essex.
The theory of macro social work reflects social workers’ concern for addressing discrimination, oppression, human rights violations, and other societal problems that impact individuals, groups, and communities, as described in “Levels of Intervention in Social Work Practice.”
Social work has practical and theoretical components, yet the two are inextricable. An ethos of equality and diversity is embedded in social work theory and practice, as the UK-based social worker site Community Care explains. Yet social work is subject to unconscious bias that could mark certain “dominant ideas and discourses as ‘the truth.’” This hinders both theoretical research in social work and the practical application of the research results.
Empowerment-based perspectives in social work theory and practice broaden both the study and application of multicultural social work. The purpose of social work education is to prepare the next generation of social workers. Since they will be living in an increasingly multicultural world, their education must likewise reflect a multicultural theory of social work.
Resources on Social Work
- The NASW’s Center for Workforce Studies has joined with the Social Work Policy Institute to conduct research on social work workforce challenges, especially serving clients with complex needs.
- “An Introduction to Macro Practice in Social Work” explains that regardless of their focus, all social workers encounter situations that call for macro-level interventions to meet a client’s need or solve a problem.
Social work careers are as varied as the populations and communities who benefit from the knowledge, skills, and expertise of the people who dedicate their work lives to helping others overcome life’s challenges.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that jobs for social workers will increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all jobs.
The median annual salary for social workers as of May 2019 was $50,470, according to BLS figures. Social work salaries may vary based on education, location, and experience.
While many social worker positions require only a bachelor’s degree, the BLS notes that clinical social workers — who are authorized to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders — must hold a master’s degree. They are also required to have at least two years of supervised work experience in a clinical setting, and must pass a state licensing exam. The median annual salary for licensed clinical social workers was $57,960 as of July 2020, according to PayScale.
The social worker career opportunities described below represent the range of positions available to people who wish to pursue a career in the field of social work.
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers coordinate and monitor programs and groups that promote the well-being of the public. The organizations they manage often focus on certain members of the community, such as children, the homeless, or the elderly. They may also emphasize helping people with specific issues, such as drug addiction, chronic hunger, or mental health challenges.
- Median annual salary: $67,150
- Job growth forecast, 2018-2028: 13%
Social and Community Service Manager Duties
The BLS lists the duties of social and community service managers:
- In conjunction with community members and organizations, identify the programs and services that individuals in the community need
- Administer the programs and track their progress to ensure they meet the goals of stakeholders
- Determine the effectiveness of the services offered and suggest ways to improve them
- Promote awareness of the programs by developing and implementing outreach activities
- Locate sources of funding for the social services offered to the community
Social and Community Service Manager Qualifications
Most social and community service manager positions require a bachelor’s degree in social work, public administration, business administration, public health, or a related field, according to the BLS. A master’s degree is a prerequisite to qualify for some positions.
Work experience as a social worker, substance abuse counselor, or similar job is necessary for people who have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a position as a social and community service manager. These are among the attributes employers seek in filling these positions:
- Analytical skills to evaluate the effectiveness of social programs
- Managerial skills to administer budgets and oversee the work of employees
- Communication skills to write reports, make oral presentations, and speak in public
- Problem-solving skills to address issues related to clients, employees, and agencies
- Time-management skills to ensure the most important tasks are addressed first
Social and Community Service Manager Job Growth
According to BLS figures, the number of jobs for social and community service managers will increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. The increase is due in part to an aging population, as well as to more people seeking assistance with substance abuse and mental health problems.
Social and Community Service Manager Salary
The BLS calculates that as of May 2019, the median annual salary for social and community service managers was $67,150. However, those working in local government, excluding hospitals and education, earned a median annual salary of $85,550, while social and community service managers employed by community and vocational rehabilitation centers had median annual wages of $60,180.
Behavioral Disorder Counselor
Behavioral disorder counselors are sometimes referred to as addiction counselors, as the BLS notes. Their work is similar to that done by substance abuse counselors and mental health counselors, all of whom focus on treating drug addictions, alcoholism, eating disorders, and other behavioral conditions. They teach their clients strategies for addressing self-destructive behavior.
- Median annual salary: $46,240
- Job growth forecast, 2018-2028: 22%
Behavioral Disorder Counselor Duties
These are among the typical responsibilities of behavioral disorder counselors:
- Assess the mental and physical health of clients to identify addictions and problematic behaviors, and whether clients are prepared for treatment
- Establish treatment plans and goals in conjunction with clients and their families
- Help clients to identify the behaviors and situations that may interfere with their recovery, and to develop strategies for overcoming problems and avoiding setbacks
- Assist clients in finding resources and services in the community that contribute to their treatment
- Interact with people and community groups to help them spot indications of addiction or problematic behaviors
Behavioral Disorder Counselor Qualifications
A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for most behavioral disorder counselor positions. However, a master’s degree in clinical social work, psychology, mental health counseling, or a similar field allows counselors to provide more services to their clients with less direct supervision.
All states require that behavioral disorder counselors who work in private practice be licensed by the state. Licensing requirements vary by state but typically include a master’s degree and between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of supervised clinical work experience. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) provides information on each state’s board certification requirements and procedures.
Behavioral Disorder Counselor Job Growth
The BLS forecasts that employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will increase by 22% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average increase projected for all job categories. The growth will be driven primarily by more people seeking assistance with substance abuse and mental health counseling.
In particular, courts are now more likely to require sentenced drug offenders to complete addiction counseling rather than face jail time. This approach has been shown to reduce recidivism.
Behavioral Disorder Counselor Salary
The median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $46,240 as of May 2019, according to BLS research. Those working in government agencies earned a median annual salary of $52,720, while those employed by residential substance abuse and treatment facilities were paid a median annual salary of $39,690.
Child Welfare Practice
The role of social workers involved in child welfare practice is to protect vulnerable children and assist families in need. They often work for government child protective service (CPS) agencies, where they intervene on behalf of children in peril due to neglect or abuse. They may also help to arrange adoptions, find foster families, and reunite families.
- Median annual salary: $47,390
- Job growth forecast, 2018-2028: 7%
Child Welfare Practice Duties
The BLS describes the responsibilities of social workers in child welfare practice:
- Identify children and families in need of assistance, and determine the best approaches to address those needs
- Help families adjust to illness, unemployment, divorce, and other challenges in their lives
- Assist families in finding community resources that will improve the safety, health, and well-being of children
- Respond to incidents of child abuse and neglect by reaching out to healthcare and other support services
- Follow up with clients to ensure they are no longer in danger and are making progress toward recovery
Child Welfare Practice Qualifications
Most entry-level social worker positions, including child welfare practice, require a bachelor’s degree in social work. For clinical social worker jobs in child welfare practice, a master’s degree in social work is a prerequisite, as well as two years of supervised work experience after earning the master’s degree.
All states require that clinical social workers be licensed, and most also have made licensing a requirement for nonclinical social work positions. Licensing typically requires a master’s degree in social work and two years of supervised clinical work experience after graduation.
Child Welfare Practice Job Growth
According to the BLS, the number of jobs for child, family, and school social workers will increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. Demand for child welfare practice social workers will be driven by the need to strengthen parenting skills, prevent child abuse, and find homes for children who are unable to live with their biological families.
Child Welfare Practice Salary
The BLS calculates that the median annual salary for child, family, and school social workers as of May 2019 was $47,390. The median annual salary for social workers employed by local government, excluding education and hospitals, was $55,500, and for those working in state government, excluding education and hospitals, was $49,100.
K-12 School Social Worker
Social workers employed by K-12 schools join with teachers, parents, and school administrators to devise and implement goals and strategies for students’ academic success and social development. Students are often referred to school social workers by teachers and families due to the student’s aggressive behavior, bullying, or absenteeism.
- Median annual salary: $47,390
- Job growth forecast, 2018-2028: 7%
K-12 School Social Worker Duties
The responsibilities of K-12 school social workers are similar to those of other social workers, according to the BLS:
- Assess students’ needs in terms of academic performance and social skills, and determine whether they have an adequate support network
- Help students adjust to challenges in their lives, such as divorce or a parent’s unemployment
- Address incidents of child abuse and respond to students’ mental health emergencies
- Track students’ progress in achieving their academic and social goals
- Assist students and their families in identifying resources and services in the community that will help them overcome the health-related, social, and economic challenges they face
K-12 School Social Worker Qualifications
As with other social worker positions, employers of K-12 school social workers require at least a bachelor’s degree in social work for most open positions. The BLS reports that as of 2017, 21% of child, family, and school social worker jobs required a master’s degree, 23% required a state-issued license, and 65% required prior work experience.
Among the skills required to qualify for K-12 school social worker positions are the following:
- Communication skills to listen to and understand the needs of students and their families
- Emotional skills to help students cope with stressful and challenging situations by expressing empathy and compassion
- Interpersonal skills to promote healthy and productive relationships among people from diverse backgrounds
- Organizational skills to manage the progress of multiple clients, including completing all required paperwork
- Problem-solving skills to devise practical and innovative solutions to students’ difficulties
K-12 School Social Worker Job Growth
The BLS forecasts that employment of child, family, and school social workers will increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. The increase is due in part to rising student population figures, although the number of available jobs may be constrained by reduced federal, state, and local government budgets.
K-12 School Social Worker Salary
The median annual salary for child, family, and school social workers as of May 2019 was $47,390, according to BLS statistics. This compares to a median annual salary of $50,470 for all categories of social workers and $46,650 for mental health and substance abuse social workers.
College and University Social Worker
One of the most effective ways to address income inequality is by earning a college degree. Yet not all groups have equal access to post-secondary education. For example, students of color and students from low-income households face unique challenges in pursuing a college degree, as Social Work Today points out. Social workers at colleges and universities help students prepare for the challenges of higher education and respond to problems they encounter while pursuing a post-secondary degree.
- Median annual salary: $47,390
- Job growth forecast: 7%
College and University Social Worker Duties
While many of the responsibilities of college and university social workers are similar to those of K-12 school social workers, the college students served by social workers in post-secondary education have unique needs that social workers help to address. Students who college and university social workers serve include the following:
- Those who face mental health challenges
- Those with learning disabilities and differences
- Immigrants and refugees
- Undocumented students
- Students of color
- English language learners
- Those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and communities
College and University Social Worker Qualifications
The requirements for social workers employed by colleges and universities, or those who work with college students in private practice, are similar to those for K-12 school social workers. A bachelor’s in social work is typically required for entry-level positions in social work, such as case worker or mental health assistant.
For clinical social work positions, a master’s in social work is a prerequisite, as well as a state-issued license; most states also require a license or certification for nonclinical social work. Two years of supervised clinical experience after earning a master’s degree is also required for state certification.
College and University Social Worker Job Growth
The BLS forecasts that employment of child, family, and school social workers will grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. Growth for all social work employment in the period is projected at 11%, which is much faster than the average projected for all jobs.
College and University Social Worker Salary
The median annual salary for child, family, and school social workers as of May 2019 was $47,390, according to BLS figures. For all social workers, the median annual salary was $50,470.
Hospital Social Worker
Hospital social workers are also called healthcare social workers. When patients receive a diagnosis, hospital social workers help them to understand the implications for their health and well-being. Social workers in healthcare settings explain the changes patients may need to make in their lifestyle, housing, or employment.
- Median annual salary: $56,750
- Job growth forecast: 17%
Hospital Social Worker Duties
These are among the responsibilities of hospital social workers:
- Inform patients about the support services that are available via their healthcare provider and community resources
- Ensure patients are following the instructions of their healthcare providers and making progress toward their recovery
- Assist patients in managing the long-term or chronic conditions that are associated with their illness
- Communicate to doctors and other healthcare providers the impact of diseases and illnesses on the patient’s mental and emotional well-being
Hospital Social Worker Qualifications
Most hospital social worker positions require at least a bachelor’s in social work. For clinical social work jobs, candidates must hold a master’s degree in social work or a related field, plus have two years of supervised clinical work experience.
Clinical hospital social workers are required to have a state-issued license, and most states also necessitate licensing for nonclinical social work positions. Licensing requires a master’s degree in social work, two years of supervised clinical work experience after earning the degree, and a passing score on the state licensing exam.
Hospital Social Worker Job Growth
The BLS estimates that the number of jobs for healthcare social workers will increase by 17% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average projected for all occupations. Demand for hospital social workers will be driven by the need to help the growing number of older adults and their families make the lifestyle adjustments necessitated by their treatments and medications.
Hospital Social Worker Salary
The median annual salary for healthcare social workers as of May 2019 was $56,750, according to statistics compiled by the BLS. For healthcare social workers employed by ambulatory healthcare services, the median annual salary was $51,290.
Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors help individuals, couples, families, and groups deal with mental illness and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, grief, and low self-esteem. Many mental health counselors specialize in treating specific populations, including older adults, children, and college students. Other specialties include crisis intervention, anger management, and stress management.
- Median annual salary: $46,240
- Job growth forecast: 22%
Mental Health Counselor Duties
Among the responsibilities and tasks of mental health counselors are the following:
- Assess the mental and physical health of clients, and identify potential problematic behaviors
- Determine the client’s readiness for treatment, and devise and implement a treatment plan in conjunction with the client, the client’s family, and other healthcare providers
- Help clients learn behaviors and practices that encourage positive mental health
- Assist clients in identifying situations and behaviors that may cause problems and learning coping skills to mitigate the potential for conflicts
- Point clients toward resources and services in the community that can assist their recovery
Mental Health Counselor Qualifications
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most mental health counseling positions. However, counselors who hold a master’s degree in social work or a related field are able to offer their clients a wider range of services and require less direct supervision. All states require that mental health counselors be licensed.
To qualify for a license, candidates must complete a period of post-degree supervised clinical work experience that varies by state. The NBCC lists the licensing requirements for mental health counselors in each state.
Mental Health Counselor Job Growth
According to BLS forecasts, the number of jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will increase by 22% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average projected for all occupations. One reason for the job growth is the trend of states seeking treatment and counseling for drug offenders and others for whom incarceration will be less effective in reducing recidivism than treatment.
Mental Health Counselor Salary
The median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors as of May 2019 was $46,240, according to the BLS. Those working for government agencies earned a median annual salary of $52,720, while those working in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities had a median annual wage of $39,690.
Private Practice Social Worker
The NASW defines private practice social workers as licensed clinical social workers who work in a solo or group practice. They typically help clients deal with relationship problems, depression and other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, antisocial behavior, and chronic mental health conditions.
- Median annual salary: $50,470
- Job growth forecast: 11%
Private Practice Social Worker Duties
The responsibilities of private practice social workers are similar to those of other licensed clinical social workers:
- Determine the needs of clients in terms of their social and financial situations, capabilities, and support networks
- Assist clients as they adapt to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, unemployment, or divorce
- Point clients toward resources and services available to them in the community that will help them improve their living situation
- Help victims of child abuse, those experiencing a mental health emergency, and others in crisis
- Track the progress of clients in reaching their social, economic, and health goals
Private Practice Social Worker Qualifications
All states require that clinical social workers be licensed. To become licensed, a candidate must hold a master’s degree in social work, have two years of supervised clinical experience after graduating, and pass the state’s licensing exam.
Private Practice Social Worker Job Growth
Employment for all categories of social workers will increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. For mental health and substance abuse counselors, the number of jobs is expected to grow by 18% in the period. Demand for their services will be driven by a forecast increase in people seeking help with mental illness and substance abuse, as well as by diversion of drug offenders to treatment programs rather than jail.
Private Practice Social Worker Salary
The BLS estimates that the median annual salary for social workers as of May 2019 was $50,470. Mental health and substance abuse counselors earned a median annual salary of $46,650, and social workers providing individual and family services had a median annual wage of $43,030.
Resources on Careers in Social Work
- The NASW provides occupational profiles of 11 social work specialties as well as salary reports by ethnicity and gender, a comparison of state licensing requirements, and credentials and certifications that enhance state licenses.
- The BLS’s Career Outlook describes the outlook, pay, and requirements for various careers in social work. Information includes the education, experience, and training required for social work specialties such as child, family, and school social workers and healthcare social workers.
The National Organization of Forensic Social Work (NOFSW) defines forensic social work as “the application of social work to questions and issues relating to law and legal systems.” However, explaining what forensic social work is requires an understanding of the growing importance of social workers to people whose lives have been impacted by criminal and civil legal proceedings.
Forensic social workers assist law enforcement and court officials, healthcare workers, and others to evaluate the impact of legal cases on the participants and make recommendations as consultants and/or advocates. Social Work Today points out that people who are struggling with mental health problems, who are victims of abuse, who face criminal charges, or whose family relationships are in upheaval are at particular risk of being victims of the legal process.
Consultative, Education, and Training Roles of Forensic Social Workers
The roles played by forensic social workers encompass criminal justice and correctional services, lawmaking bodies, courts, law enforcement agencies, and attorney offices.
- Protect the welfare of children whose families are involved in legal proceedings
- Assist defendants with mental illness who are charged with criminal offenses
- Testify in court and in depositions on their evaluations of children and parents
Much of the work done by forensic social workers involves consulting with law enforcement and legal professionals to educate them about the implications of legal proceedings on the social, economic, and mental and physical health of the people touched by the case. In this role they work with various groups:
- Criminal justice, juvenile justice, and corrections officials
- Law enforcement officials
- Attorneys, law students, and paralegals
- Public citizens
Diagnostic, Treatment, and Recommendation Roles of Forensic Social Workers
These are among the duties and responsibilities of forensic social workers.
- Diagnose and treat people in the criminal and juvenile justice populations
- Analyze the mental status of these individuals
- Advocate for children and for people with disabilities who are involved in legal cases
- Serve as an expert witness in court cases
- Evaluate and treat people who work in law enforcement and the criminal justice system
Other Functions of Forensic Social Workers
Forensic social workers are involved in a range of roles beyond serving people affected by specific legal proceedings.
- Develop policies and programs to ensure the health and well-being of people impacted by civil and criminal cases
- Participate in mediation, advocacy, and arbitration of legal matters
- Teach, train, and supervise others involved in forensic social work
- Conduct behavioral science research and analysis intended to address the needs of people whose lives have been affected by legal matters
Resources on Forensic Social Work
- The Journal of Social Work Education explains the increasingly important role of forensic social workers in death penalty mitigation to explain the impact of mental illness and trauma, substance abuse, and other social problems on the defendants.
- The NASW has created a specialty practice section for social work and the courts that describes the role of forensic social work in making custody and guardianship recommendations, providing mediation and parent coordination, and giving expert testimony in civil and criminal matters.
The growing awareness of systemic racism in social, economic, and government institutions has put social workers at the forefront of the struggle to ensure equality in all aspects of our lives. Many people are reconsidering what role social justice plays in social work. One of the main challenges for social workers is to mediate the conflicting priorities in society as they work on the front lines in defending human rights.
Social workers play an important role in efforts to prevent voter suppression and protect the ability of citizens to exercise their right to vote. The NASW’s 2020 Election Initiative challenges social workers to assist in maximizing voter participation by mobilizing, engaging, and registering voters. The association has joined with the nonpartisan Voting Is Social Work organization to ensure that all people and communities are able to have their voices heard on Election Day.
Another critical role for social workers is to help identify inequities in the economic system and attempt to improve opportunities for those who live in poverty. Investopedia defines economic justice as the belief that economies are more successful when they are fair, and that prosperity and justice combined lead to greater economic opportunities.
Social workers promote economic justice by supporting such concepts as a universal basic income, income equality by race and gender, and equal opportunity in employment and credit. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all citizens have the chance to reach their full potential.
Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Social workers help to protect the legal rights of children and historically oppressed populations. The Campaign for Youth Justice points out that the separation of juvenile courts was driven by the principles of social work. The National Juvenile Defender Center recommends that social workers be included on public defender teams to “ensure holistic representation.”
The role of social workers in criminal justice is expanding as courts rely increasingly on diversion programs that recommend treatment for offenders who have substance abuse, mental health, or other mitigating circumstances, as NASW News explains. So-called problem-solving courts address issues that include drug use, family, youth specialty, hybrid DUI/drug offenses, domestic violence, veterans, and tribal matters.
Social workers advocate for and assist immigrants seeking a better life and/or attempting to escape repression in their home nations. This role is heightened by recent efforts of the federal government to limit the legal rights and social benefits due to immigrant children and families, as the Scholars Strategy Network explains.
The NASW Code of Ethics states that social workers must challenge social injustice and work continuously on enhancing their professional expertise. This requires that social workers learn new strategies for protecting this vulnerable population in light of recent policy changes that put immigrant families and children at grave risk.
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity is protecting the environment. Social workers are at the forefront of this battle because environmental change will have the most serious impact on children, older adults, women, people with low incomes, indigenous populations, and people from ethnic and racial minorities, as Social Work Today explains.
Social workers must balance the demands of a growing population with the need to conserve resources and prepare for the impact of climate change. This includes the predicted increase in extreme weather events, prolonged heat waves, drought, more infectious disease outbreaks, and the resulting increase in emotional and mental stress.
Resources on Social Justice in Social Work
- The NASW’s Social Justice resources describe the organization’s five social justice priorities: voting rights, criminal justice/juvenile justice, environmental justice, immigration, and economic justice.
- The Council on Social Work Education’s Center for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice explains the organization’s dual educational policy and accreditation standards for diversity and justice: to engage diversity and difference in practice and to advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
What Is Case Management in Social Work?
A key skill for nearly all social workers is case management, yet it can be difficult to understand what case management in social work entails. The NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management include 12 separate standards:
- Ethics and values
- Cultural and linguistic competence
- Service planning, implementation, and monitoring
- Advocacy and leadership
- Interdisciplinary and interorganizational collaboration
- Practice evaluation and improvement
- Record keeping
- Workload sustainability
- Professional development and competence
Ethics and Values of Case Management
All decisions made during case management must be guided by the NASW Code of Ethics. The case management standards are intended to ensure social workers are aware of the values, knowledge, techniques, and abilities required for competent case management. They promote the role of social workers in advocating for their clients’ rights to self-determination, confidentiality, access to support services, and inclusion in the decisions that affect their well-being.
The Specialized Knowledge Case Workers Need
The case management standards promote a greater understanding of current social work theory, the sociohistorical context of the people they serve, and case evaluation methods. This is especially important in light of the increasing diversity and growing vulnerability of the people whose needs social workers help to address, as well as in the new environments and situations in which social workers practice.
Professional Development and Competence in Case Management
Licensing and continuing education requirements for social workers related to case management are designed to improve the quality of case management services by introducing social workers to new methods and strategies for effective case management. Social workers and their employers must seek out continuing education materials and programs as the domain of social work practice continues to expand and evolve.
Resources for Case Management in Social Work
- Social Solutions explains the four key components of successful case management: intake, needs assessment, service planning, and monitoring and evaluation.
- Social Work Today describes the intersection of social work case management and healthcare, which requires a “holistic, person-centered approach” to address both the physical and the behavioral health of the client.
Each social worker travels a unique path to the profession, yet all social workers have two things in common: a desire to help others, and a calling to improve the world. Though the challenges they face in their work are formidable, they are driven by a compulsion to address structural societal problems that prevent some of the people in their communities from having the opportunity to live a better life.
The work of a social worker can be daunting, but the rewards of the profession in the tremendous impact they make in the lives of individuals in need and in their communities make it all worthwhile.