Start a Public Health Social Worker

Public Health Official Meeting with Shop OwnerWhat Is Public Health Social Work?

A person can often only be as healthy as his environment. Also, the well-being of a community is directly affected by the well-being of the majority of its citizens.

Public social work is a type of social work that concentrates of the general well-being of communities and their inhabitants. Social workers in this field might deal with small communities, medium communities, and large communities. This may include villages, boroughs, cities, states, and nations.

A public health social worker’s job is to make sure that these types of communities and the individuals in them are as healthy as possible. This goal may be achieved by implementing community-wide programs, or helping individuals suffering from prevalent problems in the communities.

There are typically a number of different types of problems that can plague a community. Some of these problems may include joblessness, poverty, homelessness, poor education, teen pregnancies, crime, and addiction.

Why Do We Need Public Health Social Work?

As mentioned above, a community’s people are only as healthy as their community as a whole. When a community is plagued with problems, whether they are health related or not, the individuals in that community are typically plagued with the same problems.

A healthy community helps create a good quality of living for the individuals in that community. Public health social workers can help solve many of the problems that plague the residents of most communities, large and small. By helping solve these problems, public health social workers can help create a better quality of life for communities and their residents.

What Does a Public Health Social Worker Do?

The first thing that a public health social worker will do when trying to help a community is to examine that community closely. This may include studying community statistics, interviewing community members, and meeting with community leaders.

Examining a community in this way can help the social worker determine what major problems plague the community, as well as what might possibly cause these problems. Recognizing and defining these problems can then help a public social figure out how to fix them and improve the general well-being of the community.

After defining some problems that are prevalent in a community, a public social worker will then often develop a plan to solve or prevent these problems. Depending on the severity and type of problems that these social workers encounter, they might try to fix the problems at the community level or the individual level.

Community outreach and prevention programs are common tactics that public health social workers might use to help solve some community health issues. If a high number of community members suffer from a certain problem or ailment, for instance, a public health social worker might create outreach and prevention programs informing community members of these problems and how to prevent them. One example of this is the United States’ battle against childhood obesity.

A public health social worker will also usually help community members get the individual help that they need. They might help set up clinics that offer free or affordable healthcare, for instance, or they may counsel community members on where to find such care or how to afford it.

Where Do Public Health Social Workers Find Employment?

A large percentage of public health social workers are hired by government agencies, either at the local, state, or federal levels. They might also be able to find employment in facilities such as public and community health centers.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Public Health Social Worker?

Social Work Licenses
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
LBSW (License Bachelor's Social Work) Bachelor's  4 Years Online or Campus
LMSW (Licensed Master's Social Worker) Master's  6 Years Online or Campus
LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) Master's +3200 Clinical Hours 7-8 Years Online or Campus

In general, the majority of public health social workers will start their public health social work careers with bachelor’s degrees in social work. Although some graduates will be able to find entry level positions with these degrees, most of them will go on to earn master’s degrees in areas such as social work or public affairs.

In addition to earning advanced degrees, aspiring public health social workers are also usually required to become licensed social workers as well. This typically involves completing 1,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised fieldwork. The social work licensure requirements may differ from state to state, however, so it’s a good idea to check the licensure requirements in your state.

What Is the Salary of a Public Health Social Worker?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics splits social workers into four categories. One of those categories is healthcare social workers. According to the BLS, as of May 2014, the average annual salary of a healthcare social worker was $53,590 with the top 10 percent of child social workers earning roughly $76,940 and the bottom 10 percent earning roughly $32,060. The salary will depend on education and location. For example, California pays its healthcare social workers more than $60,000 in salary on average while Pennsylvania's annual average salary for the profession is just $47,860.