How can I develop my career in social care?
The main purpose of social care is to help vulnerable individuals to live independently, with a core focus on improving their well-being. Social care workers assist people and communities who are facing physical, societal or psychological challenges. This article covers the criteria that are essential to develop your career in social care.
How do I start a career in social care?
Step 1: Obtain an educational qualification in social care – Completing a bachelor’s degree in social care is considered the minimum educational requirement for an entry-level position. It prepares a candidate for social care jobs such as mental health assistants or caseworkers. In order to become a licensed social worker, it is recommended to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Although any undergraduate major is acceptable to enter an MSW programme, a bachelor’s degree in social and community work is encouraged. Educational programmes provide students with practice in clinical work including coursework modules that prepare them to work social care jobs.
Step 2: Acquire the skills required to have a successful career – If you have already chosen a social work specialty, your next step is to get a good grasp of skills required to become a successful social worker. To interact with clients and the community, you will need to possess certain social work skills necessary to excel in this field. It is important for students to develop the following skills in the following areas during the course of their degree:
- Time management;
- Critical and creative thinking.
Step 3: Work as an intern within the community – There are numerous internship opportunities in social work, which includes working for a local non-profit organisation, clinics or hospitals. An internship allows students to participate in fieldwork giving them an opportunity to:
- Interact with all types of people (without any specific focus on the demographic);
- Cater to families in need of assistance;
- Take care of elderly clients and their families;
- Work closely with parents and teachers to ensure students are receiving proper education;
- Reserving the rights of patients and keep their families informed.
Step 4: Apply for a job – It is recommended that a student begins their search for jobs well before graduation in order to make the most out of placements and internship experiences. Taking advantage of these opportunities will help you gain new skills, therefore increasing your chances for future employment. You can apply through job boards of local communities, membership organisations, schools, local and state government agencies and hospitals. Social workers are in demand in several professional settings and are not only confined to these institutions. You can also put your skills to use by working in non-traditional job settings such as:
- Small non-profit organisations;
- Advocacy organisations;
- Private practice.
Step 5: Earn a social work license – Licensing is a crucial prerequisite for entering the social care field. Hence, it is essential that you acquire a progressive licence to advance your career. Students can choose to obtain a social work license prior to the completion of their degree. Social workers holding a licence are recognised for their leadership, competence and dedication to the field of social and community work. Possessing any of these certifications or voluntary credentials will demonstrate your knowledge, experience and ability to meet clients’ expectations. The social work licensing credentials include:
- Licensed Social Worker (LSW);
- Certified Social Worker (CSW);
- Social Work Associate (SWA);
- Certified Advanced/Independent Practice Social Worker (CAPSW/CIPSW);
- The Independent Social Worker (ISW);
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW);
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW);
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW);
- The Licensed Independent Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LISW-AP);
- Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM);
- The Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA);
- The Licensed Social Associate & Advanced (LSWAA).
How to be a successful social worker:
1) Volunteering – This is often considered as additional work experience that can help you gain an insight into the field of social work. Volunteering is a great way to learn more about your profession, which enables you to see whether a career is a right fit for you. Taking up a voluntary position at any organisation is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to social work.
2) Tools and technology for social workers – Technological applications are essential for social workers who are employed at an institution (clinic or hospital), as well as for those who have a private practice. Using the right technology can help ensure that the finances of an organisation are managed on a daily basis. Some common software programmes used by social workers include:
- Case management software:
o Enables social workers to handle scheduling, organising notes, tracking intake, saving and reviewing patient information;
o Managing day-to-day tasks related to the organisation effectively.
- Billing software:
o Managing a social worker’s practice;
o Handling insurance and documentation;
o Keeping records of patient bill reminders and taxes.
3) Continuing education courses – You should try to continue your education even after achieving a social work license as it helps you stay up-to-date on the best practices of social care. Further education requires a specific number of hours of studying or learning certain topics such as social work ethics. Higher education courses are offered online as well as taught within communities. You can provide a certificate as proof while applying for your social work license renewal.
4) Gaining additional experience – You can take up part-time or temporary social work positions to gain additional hands-on experience. Committing to such work schedules can help you demonstrate your professional strengths. These opportunities can help you expand your work experience and skills and may even lead to a full-time position. Furthermore, it is a great way to build a strong professional network.
It is important to maintain the right attitude and utilise every learning opportunity that comes your way, while you are employed as a social worker. If you are passionate about serving people in need and possess good interpersonal skills, take a look at the HND Social and Community Work programme offered by St Patrick’s London. This course can help you find social care jobs that are exactly in line with your interest.
This article was written by Deblina Dam and edited by Amelia Hayward-Cole.
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