Social workers provide children, adults and families with tools and assistance to help improve their lives. There are many types of social worker careers within various settings and industries. Learning how to find a position as a social worker can help you develop the skills and experience necessary to begin your career successfully.
In this article, we describe what social workers do, including where they typically work, list the career requirements for social workers, explain how to find social worker jobs and provide a list of tips to help you obtain a position.
What do social workers do?
Social workers help people overcome challenging situations in their life. They often provide guidance for those who need additional support to people and families who need it. They can work in a wide variety of scenarios including helping people who are sick, working with homeless people and helping people work through substance abuse challenges.
Related: Top 8 Pros and Cons of Being a Clinical Social Worker (With Tips)
Where do social workers work?
Many social workers can work in a wide variety of settings and the specific location you work depends on the type of social work you pursue. Some locations they work include:
What are career requirements for social workers?
Social workers are employees who help children, couples, adults and families overcome challenging situations. There are several career requirements for social workers, including:
To become a social worker, employers typically require candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Usually, candidates earn a degree in social work or pursue a related area of study, such as public service. A bachelor’s in social work teaches students the fundamentals of social work and it qualifies them to start their careers upon graduation. While earning your degree, you may take classes in case management, behavior theory or ethics in social work. You might also complete courses in psychology and sociology.
Most social worker careers require candidates to have specific soft skills. Successful social workers are typically empathetic and have active listening and communication skills. These skills help social workers assist adults, children and families overcome challenging social or personal issues. Other skills that social workers often possess include problem-solving and analytical thinking. These skills can help them evaluate a situation and help clients solve problems effectively. To develop these skills, consider participating in workshops offered by professional organizations or enrolling in online or in-person classes.
Licensure or certification is typically a requirement to become a social worker, though this may vary depending on the state. Consider researching your state’s social work requirements to determine if you need a license to become a social worker. You may be able to earn a license from the same accredited college or university where you earn your bachelor’s degree.
Even if your state doesn’t require licensure, you can still earn one to increase your qualifications and differentiate yourself from other candidates during the hiring process. To earn a license, apply to take a social work licensure exam. After passing the exam, you receive your license. Below are some of the licenses a social worker can earn:
Licensed Social Work Associate (LSW)
Certified Advanced Practice Social worker (CAPSW)
Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW)
Certified Independent Practice Social Worker (CIPSW)
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
How to find social worker jobs
Consider following these five steps to learn how to find social worker jobs:
1. Prepare application materials
Regardless of what specialty you choose or where you apply, most social worker jobs require candidates to provide application materials such as a resume and cover letter. In your resume, you can briefly highlight your relevant skills, education and professional experience. If you’re new to the field, consider including internship or volunteer experience to show any skills you may have that apply to a social worker position.
In your cover letter, you can describe your qualifications in-depth and explain why you’d like to work at a particular company. To ensure your application materials make a professional impression, remember to revise and update all of your documents before sending them to a hiring manager.
2. Network at events
Meeting employees in your industry can help you find job opportunities. At networking events, you may have the opportunity to talk to people who are currently social workers or employees in related positions. Networking events can also help you connect with mentors in your industry and recruiters. A mentor may give you guidance, answer your questions and help you find job openings. Recruiters may ask about your qualifications, then suggest companies to which you can apply.
Consider joining a professional organization related to social work to learn about networking events in your field. For example, you can attend the organization’s seminars, webinars, conferences or workshops.
3. Find job listings
Searching for job postings can help you find available social work positions. You can do this by searching online job boards and reviewing the websites of companies to which you’re interested in applying. Since some companies may not post open positions online, you can also contact a company and ask if it’s hiring. Additionally, attending networking events may offer you the opportunity to ask employees about open jobs at the company they work for or available positions in the industry.
4. Customize your job search
Once you start searching for open positions, try to customize your job search by applying for jobs that match your qualifications and preferences. For example, if you enjoy working with families, consider applying only to social worker positions that involve families. You can also search for jobs based on the specific qualifications you have by reviewing job descriptions before applying. This can help you obtain your target position since you have the credentials that the employer is seeking.
Additionally, you can search for jobs based on other aspects that suit your needs. For example, if you’re interested in working for a small company near your home, you might consider the size and location of the company during your job search.
5. Consider entry-level jobs
If you’re a recent graduate or just entering the field, consider applying for entry-level jobs. Entry-level jobs can help you develop professional connections in the industry and improve your qualifications over time. An entry-level job can also help you gain the experience as a social worker necessary to advance your career. Some examples of entry-level jobs include:
Family services coordinator
Mental health technician
Group home manager
Home health aide
4 tips for finding social worker jobs
If you’re interested in finding a social worker job, you can use these tips to help you:
1. Use keywords
When creating your resume and cover letter, try including keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that employers often use in job postings to indicate what qualifications they’re seeking. Using these words on your resume and cover letter can help you show hiring managers that you’re the right fit for the position. For example, if the job posting uses the keywords “motivated” and “caring,” consider incorporating them into your application materials when writing about your skills. You can also add keywords to your professional summary. Below is an example professional summary:
Example: Experienced and caring social worker that’s motivated to find employment in the health care field to support patients and families manage their chronic illness or disease.
You can engage in volunteer opportunities that relate to being a social worker, then add the experience to your resume to help hiring managers recognize your relevant qualifications. For example, if you want to work with children, then you can volunteer at a school or company that specializes in social work for children. This can help you gain experience that’s directly related to your chosen field. It can also help you meet employees in your field who might be able to help you find a job.
3. Join a professional association
Try joining a professional social worker association to meet other social workers and find open jobs. These groups often host events, which can help you develop your professional network and provide you with relevant information about the industry. Through an association, you may also be able to volunteer or find open jobs. Becoming an official member of an association is also something you can add to your resume and talk about in an interview.
Consider joining a professional association that focuses on your specific field of study. For example, if you specialize in health care, you may wish to join the American Pain Society or Associated Clinicians for the Underserved. If you want to find a position in the mental health sector, you can join the American Counseling Association, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America or the National Eating Disorder Association.
4. Consider further education
Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for social workers, gaining additional education may accelerate your job search. You can take additional classes, earn a certificate or get your master’s degree in social work. Enhancing your educational qualifications can help you find a job as a social worker and may improve your career prospects. While earning a degree or participating in a class, you can also network to meet more employees, which may help you find a job in your chosen field.