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Exploring Social Work and Counseling Careers

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Help is a 4-Letter Word. Social Workers Swear By It!

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Do you find that people are at ease in your presence or that people are drawn to you for advice? Social workers and counselors are nurturers who are passionate about upholding social justice, human rights, and equality. They sympathize with the emotional, and often physical, needs of others.

Social workers help people cope with problems like mental illness, poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, illness, disability, or inadequate housing. A social worker can also arrange adoptions or find foster children good homes. Alternatively, as a social worker, you could opt to teach the subject in a school setting or be on the research side of things ? working to develop, implement, and improve social programs.

Ultimately, social workers use their talents for empathy to improve social conditions, encourage socioeconomic well-being, and create more opportunities for people to live happy, satisfying lives.

You?ll need at least a bachelor?s degree to enter the field, but a graduate degree is becoming the standard for many positions, especially those in a clinical setting. To teach social work or counseling at the university level, a doctorate is usually required. All states require some kind of license, certification, or registration process to become a licensed clinical social worker, so be sure to check with yours for its specific regulations and procedures.

When considering the counseling aspect of social work, you might find yourself asking, How is a social worker different than a psychologist? Great question! There are three basic differences ? the theories behind the subjects differ, as do the treatment methods and academic requirements. A social worker is more likely to look at how environmental factors and social elements have shaped a person or situation, whereas psychologists are more likely to use diagnostic criteria and look to a person?s childhood and other formative events to understand a patient. Social workers help people through counseling or referral to helpful social programs, while psychologists use talk therapy and behavior modification to treat patients. The last important distinction is that a master?s in social work is the highest degree you would need before being allowed to apply for licensure and start working in the field. A psychologist, on the other hand, must obtain a doctorate degree before seeking licensure and practicing.

You might wonder where you?d work as a social worker. Well, 50 percent of jobs in social work are in health care and human services, and 30 percent work in local or state government agencies. With a degree in social work or counseling, you could work in schools, hospitals and other health care facilities, child or public welfare agencies, within the criminal justice system, or in a private practice.

Regionally, you?ll probably find that jobs in rural areas are easier to come by than in urban locales. However, the social work industry as a whole is expected to grow faster than average between now and 2016. Overall, jobs in social work are supposed to increase by 24 percent over that time period, and positions in medical health social work in particular are projected to grow by 30 percent!


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