On the Job
Social workers help people solve social, financial, and health problems.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, most people believe that social workers do a very important job, yet don't believe they'll ever need the services of a social worker. However, statistics show that this isn't the case. Social workers work in a variety of settings, from schools to hospitals to clinics, all places where people regularly go.Social workers often specialize in treating certain types of clients. Regardless of their specialty, social workers have common tasks. When they get new clients, social workers ask them questions to identify their problems, concerns, and needs. They collect any other information, such as employment or medical records, they will need. For some clients, social workers arrange for medical or psychiatric tests. Once they have enough information, social workers create plans for helping clients. They monitor clients' progress towards solving their problems and revise plans as needed.
In hospitals, medical and psychiatric social workers coordinate plans for the care and rehabilitation of patients. They help seriously ill patients and their families locate the help they will need when they leave the hospital. Social workers also lead support groups to help families and patients deal with illnesses such as AIDS or cancer. In addition, they manage substance abuse and mental health programs.
Child welfare social workers work to ensure the safety and health of children. They make sure low-income children and pregnant mothers receive enough food. They check out reports of child abuse. Sometimes they place children in foster care. Social workers also evaluate the quality of foster and adoptive homes. They may determine whether clients are eligible for assistance, funds, and services. Social workers provide information to clients about how to apply for assistance. They also ensure clients make proper use of the services available to them.
Clinical social workers provide counseling. They work for public agencies and clinics and in private practice. Social workers lead support groups or counseling sessions to provide support for problems such as depression, stress, or drug dependency.
Some social workers provide help to older people and their families. Elderly people need more assistance doing things they normally would do for themselves. Social workers not only help them get the services they need, but also help families and individuals adjust to changes in their lives.
In schools, social workers identify students' problems and work to find help for them. Problems may include misbehavior in class, too many absences, or teen pregnancy. They confer with teachers, parents, and other counselors to determine the causes of problems. School social workers help students with disabilities fit into the general student population.
Social workers work closely with other health care and social service providers. They supervise social and human service assistants. In addition, social workers keep detailed records of test results, conversations with clients, and treatment plans. They prepare reports for schools, courts, and other agencies.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Interview client and family members to determine needs.
- Collect information from school records, medical tests, or employment records.
- Prepare a treatment plan for care, rehabilitation, or treatment of client.
- Counsel client and family members.
- Monitor progress toward goals set in a treatment plan.
- Modify treatment plan if necessary.
- Refer client or family members to community services.
- Maintain case records and write reports.
- Lead support groups for clients and family members.
- Manage substance abuse programs in the community.
- Investigate reports of child abuse.
- Assess foster and adoptive homes for children.
- Consult with other health professionals.
- Supervise social and human service assistants.
- Conduct social research.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Assist and care for others.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Document and record information.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Work with the public.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Think creatively.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Develop and build teams.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Use computers.
- Process information.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high degree of social interaction. They work with clients, families, and other social workers.
- Communicate with coworkers and clients daily by telephone or in person.
- Write letters and memos on a daily basis.
- Are often placed in conflict situations with clients or their family members.
- Often deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous people.
- Sometimes deal with physical aggression of violent clients or their family members.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of clients.
- Are responsible for the work outcomes of those they supervise.
- Communicate with coworkers and clients weekly by e-mail.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Mostly work indoors in offices, but sometimes work outdoors when visiting clients.
- Are sometimes exposed to diseases from clients.
- Are often exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable.
- Work in a vehicle when traveling to visit clients.
- Work near other people, but usually have a few feet of space separating them from others.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors or omissions could endanger the health and safety of clients or others.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact clients and their families. They rarely consult with a supervisor or coworkers before making decisions.
- Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with coworkers or a supervisor.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a weekly basis.
- Repeat the same mental tasks.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- Usually work 40 hours per week.
- May drive across town or farther to visit clients.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit when meeting with clients and writing reports.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.