If you're looking for a career with meaning, action, diversity, satisfaction, and an abundance of options, consider social work. Social workers are people who care about people, who want to make things better, who want to relieve suffering, who want their work to make a difference. Social workers help people overcome social and health problems, such as poverty, mental illness, child abuse and neglect, emotional instability, illness, economic uncertainty, domestic violence, homelessness, and drug abuse. They work directly with individuals, couples, families, and groups to identify and overcome these problems. Some social workers also work with communities, organizations, and other systems to improve and deliver services. Social work's approach is unique among the helping professions because it focuses on people's problems in the context of their social environment as well as on social and economic justice and social change. Social workers believe that people are influenced by the strengths and weaknesses of those around them - in their families, communities, workplaces, and organizations. Social workers apply their professional knowledge and skills to help people make the most effective use of their own abilities. When adequate services do not exist in a community, or when social conditions are such that people cannot effectively utilize their skills, social workers promote the development of new programs and instigate social change. -National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
The social work profession has its own body of knowledge, code of ethics, practice standards, credentials, state licensing, and a nationwide system of accredited education programs. These equip the professional social worker to combine the desire to help others with the knowledge, skill, and ethics needed to provide that help.
For sheer variety, few occupations can match social work, which offers the broadest range of opportunities and settings. Social workers are found in public agencies, private businesses, hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, private practices, police departments, courts, and countless other interesting workplaces.
Social workers serve individuals, families, and communities. They are managers, supervisors, and administrators. They serve at all levels of government. They are educators. They are therapists and researchers. More and more, they are also elected political leaders and legislators.
To be a social worker, one must have a degree in social work from a college or university program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The undergraduate degree is the bachelor of social work (BSW). Graduate degrees include the master of social work (MSW) and the doctorate in social work (DSW) or PhD. An MSW is required to provide therapy.
Degree programs involve classroom study as well as practical field experience. The bachelor's degree prepares graduates for generalist entry-level work, whereas the master's degree is for more advanced clinical practice. A DSW or PhD is useful for doing research or teaching at the university level.
Most states require practicing social workers to be licensed, certified, or registered, although standards vary. As of January 1, 2011, under the Title Protection Act, anyone using the title "social worker" is required to be registered with the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers. Legislation was also passed in 2009, barring anyone who does not have a degree or registration from calling himself or herself a social worker and expanding the abilities of the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers to investigate and take action against any misrepresentation or falsification of licensure. This is good news for those who are registered because it preserves the integrity of the social work profession, ensuring that those who call themselves social workers are doing good work. For more information on the Oregon licensing requirements, visit Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers.