Becoming a Case Worker: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a case worker? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a case worker is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Case Worker

Case workers are social workers who represent the interests of individuals who depend on governmental, nonprofit and other forms of institutional support. See the list of pros and cons below to decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Career as a Case Worker
Strong employment outlook (the national employment of social workers, in general, is expected to grow 12%, faster than the average national growth for American occupations from 2014-2024)*
Option to work with little supervision (case workers typically work by themselves, rather than under the supervision of a superior)**
Good benefits (paid holiday and vacations, retirement plans and sick leave)**
Emotionally satisfying*

Cons of a Career as a Case Worker
Large workloads*
Unconventional hours (evenings and weekends might be required)*
Hazardous work environment (might be required to go into dangerous neighborhoods to meet with clients)*
Some positions might require a master's degree to advance or go into clinical work*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **State of Michigan.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Your duties as a case worker might vary depending on your employer and the individuals you're assigned to work with. Some general duties that most case workers share, regardless of their employer and clients, include conducting evaluations of client needs and statuses, attending to clients during personal crises and emergencies, assisting clients with applying for government aid and benefits and creating personal development plans. Case workers might also be required to deal with sensitive legal issues, such as physical abuse and child endangerment.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the employment opportunities for all social workers to grow by 12% from 2014-2024. This growth will be fueled, in part, by a growing demand across the country for social services. In May 2014, the mean annual wage for all social workers was $58,410 (www.bls.gov).

Career Paths and Specializations

Case workers work in a variety of professional settings, serving a range of clients. Some are employed by schools and child welfare agencies, such as foster care services, where they work primarily with children and families. Others are employed by clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, where they might work with clients such as the elderly, disabled and mentally challenged. They might even work with inmates in correctional facilities.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education Requirements

Case workers are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a similar field, such as sociology, behavioral science or psychology. Students in these degree programs study a variety of disciplines and concepts, such as family systems, social welfare policy and economics. As part of the requirements to graduate, students in these programs typically need to complete either an internship or a sufficient amount of supervised fieldwork.

Case workers employed in schools and healthcare organizations or those who work as clinical social workers are required to obtain a master's degree in social work. Students in this program, which typically takes two years to complete, learn the skills necessary to conduct clinical evaluations and supervise personnel, among other tasks.

Licensing

In addition to these formal education requirements, you might also need to acquire the requisite state licensure or certification, the requirements of which vary by state. While licensing may be optional for most nonclinical social workers, it is definitely a requirement for clinical social workers.

Useful Skills

You'll need to rely on a number of hard and soft skills to successfully complete your professional tasks. These might include the ability to:

  • Elicit compassion for people in difficult circumstances
  • Actively and constructively listen
  • Apply creative solutions to your clients' problems
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Resolve conflicts through effective negotiation as well as other means

Job Postings from Real Employers

A May 2012 search on Careerbuilder.com discovered a range of job openings for case workers or social workers, in general. All of them required applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree and some experience in the field. Specific requirements varied by employer. Here is a list of three actual openings obtained from that search:

  • A Rhode Island nonprofit organization advertised for a mental health social worker who holds at least a master's degree in counseling, social work, clinical psychology or a related field. The successful applicant would also have at least two years of management experience and at least one year of community support experience.
  • An Idaho healthcare services company advertised for a clinical social worker with at least a master's degree in social work, a license to independently practice anywhere in the country, sufficient professional certification, at least two years of clinical experience in mental health social work and sufficient experience working for the government.
  • A Texas health services company sought a licensed social worker with at least two years of experiencing working in a long-term care facility or hospital and a bachelor's degree.

How to Stand out

As a case worker, one of the most effective ways to gain a competitive edge might be to join a professional association, such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) or the Center for Clinical Social Work (CCSW). These organizations often provide members with a range of continuing education, certification and professional networking opportunities.

Continuing Education

Associations such as the NASW and the CCSW provide members with many opportunities to enhance their professional expertise. These can include conferences, webinars, practice sessions and access to extensive professional literature. In addition, completion of the master's degree program in social work might increase your prospects for advancement. Students in this program might study and conduct research in a variety of areas, such as human behavior, social policy and social practice.

Get Certified

In addition to continuing education options, you might also consider obtaining formal credentials from these organizations. You can obtain professional credentials in a range of specialties, such as gerontology, healthcare, palliative care, youth and family, case management and addictions.

Other Careers to Consider

If you don't think a career as a case worker is for you, but still want an occupation with similar functions and responsibilities, you might consider becoming either a rehabilitation counselor or a health educator. Like case workers, rehab counselors help individuals living with some form of dependency live full, healthy, meaningful lives. However, unlike case workers, rehab counselors work specifically with disabled individuals in a range of duties, such as preparing treatment plans, facilitating counseling sessions and tracking patient progress. The BLS estimated that in 2011, the median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $34,000.

Health educators, like case workers, are also responsible for helping individuals adjust to their environments. Educators have a range of socially valuable professional duties, such as developing health information events in communities, conducting program evaluations and analyzing data. Unlike case workers, however, health educators typically work with the general population, instead of a group of individuals. In 2011, according to the BLS, the median annual wage for health educators was $48,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Human Services
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      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
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      • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
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      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Adult Gerontology Practitioner Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Human Services
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  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Human Services - Human Services Counseling
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  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
    Master's
      • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Liberal Studies
    Associate's
      • AA: Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice - Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Human Services
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
  • Certificate in Human Services

Which subject are you interested in?

Post University

  • B.S. in Human Services
  • B.S. in Human Services / Counseling
  • B.S. in Child Studies

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Regent University

  • M.A. in Human Services - Human Services Counseling
  • M.A. in Human Services - Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - HR Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
  • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Liberal Studies
  • AA: Liberal Arts

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Liberal Arts

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Criminal Justice - Human Services

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Human Services

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