Medical Social Workers
Training and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Master's|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||140,000|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.9%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||8,740|
What's needed: Most medical social workers have a master's degree in social work, known as an MSW. Students who have earned a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) may be able to gain entry-level jobs or internships in larger medical facilities.
What you study:
As a social work student, you are likely to study all of the following:
- Social Work Praxis
- Medical and Social Work Ethics
- Public Health Policy
- Human Behavior
- The Law and Social Work
Briefly overviews the medical social worker career. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a medical social worker, you'll spend your time ensuring that your clients are well taken care of and receive the treatment that they need from medical professionals. On most days, you'll arrive at your office in the morning and look over the cases you'll be handling during the day. It's likely that you'll spend time with clients you already know, but you will also have the pleasure of getting to know new clients. Depending on your personal preferences and training, you may work with a certain demographic such as women, children or immigrants.
After you've settled in for the morning and have caught up with other social workers in your facility, you'll begin seeing clients. If you work in a large health care center or hospital, a receptionist will help your clients fill out basic paperwork and will introduce you to new clients. However, you may want to work in a smaller clinical setting where you have contact with your clients from the moment they walk in the door. You'll help your clients fill out any paperwork needed for your facility so that you can offer them immediate help.
Your primary duty throughout the day will simply be to talk to your patients and listen to their health care concerns. Maybe you will work with the parents of kids who are seriously ill and will help ensure that their children receive life-saving treatments. Perhaps you will work with adults who have chronic diseases such as HIV and AIDS. No matter who you work with, your first priority every day will be to understand their medical needs and evaluate whether or not they are getting timely, compassionate and affordable treatment. You will help clients apply for special aid programs and understand how these programs will benefit them.
One of the most exciting aspects of being a medical social worker is that no two days will be alike. On some days, you may be asked to see walk-in clients who are in dire need of assistance. You'll get to be the hero for that individual for the day as you advocate on their behalf. You may be called upon to work with children who hospital staff suspect have been abused or to comfort families who have just learned that a loved one is seriously ill. Though being a medical social worker does involve a lot of paperwork, people are at the heart of your everyday duties.
Certifications and Licensing
Licensing requirements for social workers vary from state to state. Most states require that social workers complete a supervised internship and pass a background check in order to become licensed in the field.
As a medical social worker, you will likely work in a medical facility. If you work in a rural community or for a public health program, you may travel to different job sites to serve your clients.
You don't need to be bilingual to be a social worker, but individuals who can speak other languages fluently are in demand in many urban areas.
Here are a few websites that we have found to be excellent resources for researching careers in medical social work:
- The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook: This website provides information about career prospects, training and salary ranges for social workers practicing in all areas of the field. Because the information is generalized to all social workers and tends to be data oriented, it is important to explore sites that offer a balanced look at life as a medical social worker.
- Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care: The SSWLHC website provides information for both new and experienced social workers who are employed in health care settings. It offers a comprehensive reference library that is ideal for social workers who are working to complete continuing education units (CEUs). This site is a great reference point for students who are ready to make the transition from school to employment.
- The American Clinical Social Work Association: The ACSWA provides a wealth of information for patients, social work students and licensed social workers. While the site is designed primarily for clinical social workers, it offers good information for medical and public health care social workers who want to continue their training and enter the clinical field.
- National Association of Social Workers: The NASW website provides up-to-date information about jobs in all areas of social work. The website offers information about medical social work and other specific practice areas within this discipline. Students who are just beginning to explore careers in social work will find useful career information on the NASW site.