Start a School Social Work Career
What Is School Social Work?
The majority of schools in this country consist of a mix of all different types of students who come from all sorts of racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students in these schools also have all different personalities and learning abilities as well. Although this type of diversity is often considered to be good for the students during these formative years, they can cause problems at time.
Children that attend school from an early age also learn many of their behaviors and habits in these institutions as well, either from other students or from their own experiences.
Today, more and more schools and parents are putting pressure on students to excel, in both academic settings and extracurricular activities. Students today typically need to juggle activities such as homework, practices, studying for important tests, preparing for college, and problems at home. Needless to say, this type of pressure and responsibility placed on children can be very overwhelming for their young minds.
School social work is an area of social work that focuses on creating a safe and efficient school environment. Professionals in this field concentrate on helping students cope with the problems and pressures that they may face every day, both at home and in school. The main goal of a school social worker is to help each student succeed in school to the best of their abilities.
There are a number of problems that a school social worker might help a student cope with or work through. The main type of problems that these social workers try to help students with are the problems that they may face in school. For instance, students that may seem to be struggling academically or socially may be approached by school social workers. Severe behavior problems might also be addressed by school social workers.
In some instances, the problems that students experience at school may be directly linked to their experiences at home. Because of this, school social workers are trained to recognize when students are possibly experiencing problems, such as abuse or poverty, at home.
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Why Do We Need School Social Workers?
Our school years are supposed to be the best years of our lives. These are the years when we begin to learn independence – along with reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic – and begin to make friends and form relationships. Unfortunately, for some students, their school years are anything but their best years.
These students may encounter any number of problems that might inhibit their learning experiences or social interaction. Problems in these areas will often lead to more serious problems and complications later on in life. The problems that students may experience during their school years can have a strong influence on their adult years.
School social workers, however, can help address these problems early in a student’s life. Helping a student learn to cope with and deal with these problems can make the difference between that student become successful or not.
What does a school social worker do?
On any given day, a school social worker might have a number of different duties. First of all, a school social worker tries to identify students that may be having all sorts of problems. Identifying these students might occur during direct observation on the social worker’s part, or when other school faculty members, like teachers or guidance counselors, report that a student may be having a problem.
Students might experience a number of different problems during their years in school. Academic problems, social problems, behavioral problems, and problems at home are typically the most common types of problems students will encounter. In many instances, these problems may be directly related to each other.
- Failing grades
- Low test scores
- Attendance problems, resulting in incomplete work
- Learning problems
- Being a victim of bullying
- Not being able to make friends
- Not “fitting in”
- Peer pressure
- Dismissing school policies
- Substance abuse
- Not getting along with teachers
Problems at Home
- Substance Abuse
Once a school social worker identifies a problem, he will then typically try to determine the cause of the problem. This might be done by observing, interviewing, or testing the student. If a school social worker suspects a problem at home, such as neglect or poverty, the social worker might also visit the student’s home.A school social worker will then put together a plan to help a student cope with and overcome his problems and obstacles. This plan typically requires action on the parts of the students, teachers, and families. Here are a few examples….
- A school social worker that discovers a student struggling with a learning disability will arrange for that student to enroll in special classes or receive extra tutelage. The social worker will also educate the parents on what the learning disability is, and how to help the student at home.
- A school social worker might create a school wide bullying prevention program.
- A school social worker might also attempt to counsel a student or teacher that don’t “see eye to eye”.
- A school social worker that discovers problems at home will often work with the family to help them overcome their issues in order to help their child succeed academically. If abuse is suspected in a student’s home, a school social worker might also bring in child welfare social workers.
Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders are becoming more and more prevalent in our nation’s schools, particularly because the students are pressured more than ever to succeed. A school social worker will work with and counsel students who are suffering from these types of disorders. Students with more severe mental disorders are typically referred to other mental health specialists, such as licensed counselors or psychologists.
Some school social workers are also called upon to help create or update school policies and outreach programs. These may include such things as behavior policies, discipline policies, and prevention programs.
Where Do School Social Workers Find Employment?
As their name suggests, school social workers work in schools. They may be hired by pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, as well as some colleges. Both public and private schools typically hire school social workers.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a School Social Worker?
|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|
Individuals pursuing school social work careers will typically start by earning bachelor’s degrees in social work. Many areas also require that school social workers hold master’s degrees in social work and are licensed.
Licensure typically involves completing the required degree program and completing several hours of supervised fieldwork. Depending on your state, you may be required to have roughly 3,000 hours of supervised school social work experience.
What Is the Salary of School Social Workers?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics divides social workers into four categories. One of those categories is child, family and school social workers, which are all lumped together for salary data. With that in mind, according to the BLS, as of May 2014, the average annual salary of a school social worker was $46,810. The salary will depend on education and location. For example, New York and California are two states that pay its school social workers more than $50,000 on average in part because of higher costs of living. States like Illinois and Pennsylvania will have lower salaries to correspond with the lower cost of living.