Hi, Rahsaan L. - You have a fine interest in a wonderfully rewarding field of work.
You are interested in being a social worker but are not able to attend college as of yet. This course of study for a degree and certification as a Licensed Certified Social Worker is about six years of college. The degree and certification will absolutely be necessary to obtain employment as a social worker. Also, you will first need to be familiar with what a social worker does.
Today, Social Workers primarily do psychotherapy. Unless you are completely qualified, you will not be able to do this. On rare occasions, some positions do not lean on the psychotherapy duty - such as most social workers I know that work in nursing homes. But all is not lost. There are many entry level or high school diploma level jobs you can apply for in the social service field.
Some of these positions are noted as case manager, life skills specialist or intake clerk. Case Management is intense and requires you to be involved with the client for a long period of time - for years, perhaps. You will be involved in assessing their needs and interacting with the client, their family and their providers. You will assist the client with all of their needs, meeting with them frequently, in the areas of transportation, medication management, counseling, crisis intervention, substance abuse issues, legal issues, housing, employment and whatever comes up in your client's life. You will provide direct services as well as expedite supportive services for the client.
Life Skills Specialists are people that instruct clients on daily living skills. Intake Clerks work at a provider's office and screen potential clients that come in for services. They evaluate the client's needs and handle documentation needed for admission.
Depending on where you live, there are sometimes social service jobs that are entry level which have a strong recreation component to the work you'd be doing. You may see these jobs as Recreation Coordinator or Recreation Assistant , usually in senior centers or city parks departments, etc.
To be a Social Worker takes time and a lot of course work, an internship, a degree, certification and than once you have practiced for a certain period of time, you can become insurance reimbursable. Since you have the interest now, you should definitely explore financial aide, scholarships and pursue your dream. These should be fairly easy to obtain for your undergraduate degree, a BSW. Don't let financial issues stop you because you seem to have a sincere desire and it would be most beneficial for you to start as soon as possible.
Visit your local college and inquire about programs. If the only college near you is a community college, you can always get an associates degree in sociology or psychology and go on for your Bachelors degree in social work at a different college. Doing it that way may be less expensive also. I highly recommend doing the study at a brick and mortar college and not on line. You will gain enormous benefits from on site interaction in class and meet people that have the same interest as you.
Best wishes to you in your future goals !
Michelle recommends the following next steps:
Congrats on choosing such a rewarding field! Social work is a versatile profession that will provide you with various opportunities to help others improve their lives and also give you a strong sense of accomplishment.
Let's address the financial aspect of schooling first:
You are absolutely correct in that school is pricey. Every year schools increase their tuition in order to remain competitive. Thankfully there are ways to find financial assistance. Here are a few:
- Complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid). This form will allow you to qualify for various government grants and other potential financial options. Be cautious when considering a loan. They can rack up quickly. (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out)
- Research scholarships and grants at the schools that you would like to attend. I would suggest attending a local, state school, as those tend to cost less. You can start your research with this site https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships
- If possible, pursue employment at an organization that offers tuition assistance. The most obvious places that offer tuition assistance are local colleges and universities. Additionally, several companies offer tuition assistance for those looking to attend school while employed.
All of these opportunities will provide you financial assistance to pursue your social work aspirations.
Regarding gaining experience in the Social Work field, there are several patient and client centered positions that you can pursue as you work to find finances for your degree.
- Direct Care- If you are willing, providing direct care to the elderly and individuals with disabilities will provide you with adequate experience in the Human Services field. In this profession, you will be assisting clients with daily care skills such as eating, bathing and self care. Working in this field will get your foot in the door at a Nonprofit, Hospital or other Human Services Institution where you can work directly with social workers who are responsible for the services your clients are receiving. With that being said, you can observe the field first hand and gain more information about how you will fit into the field after receiving your degree.
- Nonprofit/ Medical Administration- If you want to work on the logistics side, obtaining an administrative or office position at a Nonprofit or Medical Institution will put you on the front lines of the Human Service field. In a position like this you can learn the logistical and administrative aspects of working in social work and case management. This is another "foot in the door" position that will allow you to build rapport and relationships with co workers who can help you advance in the Human Services field without yet having a social work degree.
- Nonprofit/Medical Volunteer- Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience in the Human Services field without a degree. Several institutions welcome passionate volunteers who want to share their time with those in need. Check out local areas where you can volunteer, as well as this link which provides national groups who are always looking for volunteers. https://www.socialworkdegreecenter.com/10-places-volunteer-youre-interested-career-social-work/
I hope these suggestions were helpful and I wish you the absolute best in your pursuit of this fulfilling career!
Nichole recommends the following next steps: