Solid Steps on the Ground Floor: Consider Entry-Level Social Work Jobs

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Overview

Calling all good Samaritans: have you ever considered a job in social work? If you’re interested in getting in on the ground floor, know that entry-level social work jobs are suited for driven jobseekers of high conviction.

Social workers work at the nexus of medicine, psychology, government, and society, often concentrating on the most vulnerable communities in America. With this in mind, the International Federation of Social Workers calls social work “an interrelated system of values, theory and practice.” Big-picture thinking is highly valued here. Social work demands a macro understanding of micro problems, and an ability to combine and contextualize society, psychology, politics, and economy while operating on a highly interpersonal level.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Read on for more information about your prospects in the field.

What It Takes

The key factor in a successful social worker is a strong drive to help people. Social work demands high levels of dedication and perseverance, and workers are rewarded with fulfillment and the feeling of having made a difference.

The key characteristics of a successful social worker include the following:

  • empathy
  • insight
  • understanding
  • patience
  • judgment
  • keen sense of right and wrong
  • strength in effectiveness
  • thick skin

Perhaps that list looks daunting. Then again, perhaps not!

If you’re still interested in jobs in social work after that introduction, we have good news: social work has actually been growing since 2012, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests there are no signs of slowing in this industry. In fact, employment trends for social workers show skyrocketing figures, with an 11% job growth rate by 2028 that is classified as “much faster than average.”

There is a general demand for more social workers in America, and a huge diversity of specialties that allows workers to pursue their interests in a dynamic and growing field. Mental health and substance abuse jobs are growing at the fastest rate, with a shocking 18% growth forecast by 2028, and other fields are still growing at a slightly slower rate. And while jobs in social work get a bad rap from popular TV shows and police procedurals, their income is actually quite modest for workers in similar fields. Healthcare social workers tend to make the highest salaries. 

Enter COVID-19

Like pretty much every other industry, the social work sector has seen quite a strong effect from the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, there have been both positive and negative developments as a direct result of the pandemic. 

During the height of the national lockdowns in the United States during the spring of 2020, social workers were deemed “essential workers.”

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Social workers provide myriad services to those in need. By definition, social work includes identifying and addressing challenges in areas such as home life, finances, employment, and relationships. COVID-19 has impacted them all…Social workers may have also helped arrange childcare support for those sickened by COVID-19. And of course, social workers may have helped coordinate care for patients recovering from COVID-19.

On the positive front, the jobs of social workers were secure during a time of great economic insecurity. In addition, the pandemic has accelerated strides in technological changes such as an increased use of telecommunication. Which is not to say that social workers haven’t suffered as a result of the pandemic. In general, social work programs have suffered due to lack of funding, and problems related to personal care have been complicated by lockdowns, housing instability, stress, and similar issues.

In all, considering that the lingering effects of the pandemic will remain long after COVID-19 has lost pandemic status, the social work job market is still predicted to keep growing:

 Overall, job prospects indicate a demand for social workers, but projected growth rates depend on the specialization area. Healthcare social workers should see a 17% employment growth from 2018-28, and mental health and substance abuse social work positions should increase by 18% in the same timeframe.

Best States for Social Workers

Here are some of the best states to consider when seeking jobs in social work in 2020:

Of all 50 states, those five have the best concentrations of available jobs and the highest median salaries. 

Most Sought Jobs for Social Workers

There are certainly plenty of opportunities for people with BAs and higher in social work. 

Here are a few entry-level social work jobs to consider:

Group Home Workers

Group home workers help residents handle the challenges of daily life and overcome obstacles unique to their personal needs. Group homes have various specialties, meaning entry-level group home workers could potentially serve a wide range of individuals, including those in substance abuse recovery, those facing intellectual or physical challenges, the elderly, and so forth. 

Social Work Case Manager

In social work, case managers work directly with clients to help them coordinate their support systems and receive the full benefit of their services. Case managers will often make sure that clients understand their options and help them make decisions that will give them the greatest benefits. 

Substance Abuse Counselor

These counselors help clients set both short-term and long-term goals in order to overcome addiction, primarily to drugs and alcohol. In addition, they may work with family members, friends, and loved ones of the client in order to ensure a positive outcome.

Habilitation Specialist

A habilitation specialist helps individuals increase in the skills they need to thrive in their daily lives. Generally, these social workers will be working with people who have intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairments. The goal is to help each individual move toward independent living. 

Healthcare Screener

While some medical facilities may require some form of certification for a healthcare screener position, many others make this an entry-level position and provide on-the-job training. In general, healthcare screeners greet patients and provide very basic health checks via simple steps like blood pressure and temperature checks.   

All Things Considered

All things considered, with the job market for health care workers continuing strong despite the shake-up of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with entry-level jobs always available, the time might be right to consider a career in social work.

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