Medical social workers help people deal psychologically with the results of chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. These may include such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or AIDS. They may work with individuals, families, or certain vulnerable populations. They usually work with family caregivers as well as patients, planning for the patient’s needs after they are discharged from the hospital. They may set up services such as meals-on-wheels or oxygen equipment. Some medical social workers work on specific teams that include other specialists. These teams evaluate certain categories of patients, such as geriatric or organ transplant patients. They may work for hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, or local governments.
Those interested in becoming medical social workers should have a number of desirable traits. They need to be very emotionally stable and mature. They must be able to handle a high degree of responsibility. They should have the ability to work on an independent basis without supervision. They need to be able to work well in a team setting and get along with coworkers. And they need to be able to inspire trust and respect in their clients.
In 2002, medical social workers earned a median annual salary of $37,870. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $23,840, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $56,320.
Training and Education
The most common minimum educational requirement to obtain a job as a medical social worker is a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Those who have bachelor’s degrees with majors in psychology, sociology, and other related fields may be able to qualify for entry-level positions. Many positions also require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), particularly positions in health settings and clinical work. Jobs in public and private agencies may also require an advanced degree. There are about 436 BSW programs and 149 MSW programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. (CSWE).
BSW programs require a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience in addition to academic classes. MSW programs last 2 years and include a minimum of 900 hours of supervised field instruction. Part-time programs are available, usually lasting about 4 years. Social workers are required to be licensed in all States and the District of Columbia. They can advance to supervisor, program manager, assistant director, or executive director of a social service agency or department. You can explore more about training for medical social worker careers by clicking on this link for schools offering human services degrees.
In 2002, medical social workers held about 107,000 jobs. About 40% were employed by State and local government agencies.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of medical social workers is expected to increase faster than the average. This will be due to a rapidly aging baby boom generation and a growing elderly population, which will create a much greater demand for the services of social workers. Those specializing in gerontology can expect extremely favorable employment conditions, and many job openings will result from workers who leave the occupation for various reasons.