|Number of Jobs:||58,200|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#22|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#82|
It's almost absurd how such a generic job name—social worker—could encapsulate the responsibilities of a group of professionals, but it does. In a very basic sense, these are the workers who try to improve the quality of life as it relates to a catch-all of messy social issues. On a granular level, those issues could include abuse, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, illness, and more. Children, family, and school social workers are concerned with the social and psychological functioning of kids and their families. Their daily responsibilities could range from the depressing, like removing a six-year-old from a foster home where she hasn't received proper care, to the joyous, like finalizing the adoption of the same six-year-old with a loving family.
Here's the bad news: Our society is festering with social issues. At the time of the last census, there were 46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line. The U.S. Department of Education has reported that the number of homeless students in this country crested 1 million at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. The nonprofit organization Childhelp reports that every year, there are 3.3 million reports of child abuse in the United States.
The good news, if there is any to cipher from those scary statistics, is that there's ample job opportunity for people who feel a calling to help. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there should be 19.7 percent employment growth for children, family, and school social workers between 2010 and 2020. That translates to approximately 58,200 new social work positions to fill.
The pay is alright, but not terrific, for social workers. The BLS reports that those who concentrate on children and family welfare made a median salary of $40,680 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent in the field earned a little more than $70,000, while the lowest-paid made approximately $26,190. Keep in mind that the school system offers some of the best salaries for this position, but psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals also pay well.
It's becoming increasingly important for those in the profession to obtain a master's degree in social work, particularly if you want to ascend the ranks. But you can begin working as a social worker with a bachelor's degree. Some states require a minimum number of supervised hours to begin working in the field full-time, and all states plus the District of Columbia have licensing requirements to practice.
Mary Pender Greene, a licensed social worker and certified group psychotherapist, has worked in the profession for more than 38 years and interviewed as many as 700 social workers annually to find them placements. Aside from skills, credentials, and proper licensing, there are still other factors Pender Greene says she hopes to see in new hires. "If they tell me that they were in therapy, then that gives them extra brownie points with me," she says, "because in order to be able to help others, you have to be willing and able to look at the things that need work within you and your own family."
Pender Greene also considers personal therapy the first indicator that someone will have longevity in the field. "The second [indicator] is to never be in a job where you aren't being supervised properly," she says. "And the third is self-care. That includes the ability to assess when it's time for lunch, to take a vacation, or even to start a new job."