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What is a Typical Day for a Social Worker?

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When it comes to dealing with challenges, obstacles, bureaucracy, and just about all aspects of human nature, today’s social workers definitely have one of the most demanding and emotionally exhausting occupations. By the same token, social workers also have the opportunity to change an individual’s life and, in some cases, to even change the entire landscape of a society.

A person considering a degree in social work may want to know, “What is a typical day for a social worker?” Knowing about the usual daily activities and routine job duties of a social worker could help a person decide if this is the right career path for them. This knowledge could also help a person choose an industry of employment or a specialty within the field of social work.

Assess Client Needs

One of the primary duties of a social worker is to make individual assessments for clients or family groups. By identifying who is in need of help and what type of help the individual or family group needs, the social worker is able to help someone improve their living situation. The assessments may include the client’s material needs, such as utility services, shelter, clothing, school supplies, medical care and food. It may also include setting up a social or support network for the client.

Make Referrals to Community, Governmental and Private Resources

Social workers have a vast network of contacts for referring their clients. The social worker might refer a client to a place that offers guidance on how to apply for a job, get through a job interview, write a resume and choose references. As a part of that, they might refer the individual to a clothing closet where the person can get appropriate attire for the interview process. Social workers also make referrals for victims of domestic violence who need shelter and legal assistance. The social worker may link families who are food-insecure with local food pantries until their supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits are in place. The social worker also maintains case files of what they did for the client.

Respond to Crisis Situations

Many social workers respond to some type of a crisis every day. They might have to respond to the scene of a crime and help a child whose parent was the victim. They may have to accompany a child to a police interview or act as a witness in court. If an individual presents a threat to themselves or to others, the social worker may be the one to coordinate an inpatient hospital bed, transportation and follow-up services upon the person’s release from a mental health facility. After they respond to the crisis, they document what they did.

Provide Personal Counseling or Therapy

A social worker may also spend some of their day providing counseling or therapy to individuals, families or groups, explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They might do this in a private office setting by appointment. They may also do this through a health clinic, mental health facility, hospital, doctor’s office or a community setting. For example, a social worker might lead a support group for grieving parents or for parents of children with special needs.

How long has social work been around?

While many people think that social work is a relatively modern concept, the first social work college course was in 1898 at Columbia University. At the time, there was seen a need for individuals to serve a needy public — and to bring some of the problems of society to the public’s attention, as presented by the National Organization of Social Workers.

Benefits Provided by Social Workers

Anyone wanting to see how important social workers are need look no further than the civil rights movement. Social workers joined forces with the public and with the government in making sure that all people, regardless of gender or faith or sexual orientation or race, would be given equal protection.
Another aspect of our modern life that came to fruition because of the efforts of both social workers and the government can be found in Social Security, as well as Medicaid and Medicare.
Social workers have also always been at the forefront of bringing awareness of issues such as child abuse and neglect to the public’s attention.

There truly is not a typical day in the life of a social worker because social workers work in an ever-changing, ever-challenging environment.

Just as there is no typical day of a social worker, there isn’t a typical social worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes social workers into various distinct groups.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers
Substance abuse and mental health issues are serious problems in our society. The social worker is one of the unsung heroes who are out there, working with disenfranchised people to get them the help they need. After public awareness spotlighted issues within certain law enforcement agencies, social workers were selected to work with law enforcement in order to help de-escalate violence in the community.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are more clinically trained social workers in the mental health field than psychiatrists and psychologists combined. Social workers provide the virtual backbone of many mental health organizations, working to constantly provide better service and assistance to those in need.

Healthcare social workers
The social workers who are involved with healthcare are out there, in the neighborhoods, helping people understand what medical treatments are available to them, what agencies can assist them when it comes to financial aid in the event they are unable to pay for their medicines, and they also work closely with insurance companies to figure out the best way to provide cost-effective health care to those who need it.

Child, family, and school social workers

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This is one area where social workers really shine. These are the people who are out there, with the children and the families, doing whatever it takes to help them. At times, they help out with financial aid to keep families from becoming homeless, and they also look for early warns signs of different kinds of abuses in children, working to prevent further trauma to the children.

VA social workers
The social workers involved with VA affairs are in charge of a wide range of responsibilities to help out those individuals who have served their country. Veterans can suffer from a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional problems and the social workers involved with them can do anything from helping with financial assistance or working to find them adequate housing. They help individuals navigate the VA system and also work with the caregivers of those living with the veterans.

What does the future demand for social work look like?

Looking at the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s going to be at least an 11% growth in the social work field in the period between 2018 and 2028. The different areas of social work have varying degrees of job growth, with mental health and substance abuse social workers looking at a 17% growth rate, while child, family, and school social workers will likely only see a 12% rate.

The Changing Landscape

Social workers work closely within the legal system in order to help out their charges. States such as New York are recommending programs be instituted to license and train social workers to help provide legal services for some of their clients. In addition to helping reduce some of the backlog in cases within the system, it helps to form a solid foundation between the social worker and the individuals in need of legal assistance. Other areas looking to find ways to incorporate social workers into their operations are healthcare professionals and mental health organizations.

What’s the length of time required to become a social worker?

The length of time required is between 4 and 6 years. The first four years are spent obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work, followed by two years getting a master’s degree. If a social worker wants to work in a clinical setting, they also need to have a minimum of two years of supervised work experience before they’re able to earn a license. Social workers choosing to go into a clinical setting often command higher salaries than their non-clinical counterparts.

What attributes go into being a social worker?

Many social workers are drawn to the field because of their compassion and empathy. When those two characteristics are merged with a desire for social justice and a willingness to put in long hours and sacrifice personal time, a social worker is usually created. Since most social workers tend to work multiple cases at one time, it’s also very important to be organized. Social workers are detail oriented and are able to effectively multitask.

Social Workers and the Pandemic

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When the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 struck, social workers saw their day-to-day activities change drastically. While many offices were forced to shut down for weeks and months, social workers were part of the “essential worker” task force and found themselves literally on the front line of what was, arguably, one of the worst pandemics ever seen.
Social workers soon discovered there was a need for them beyond their normal scope. Those social workers in nursing homes, for example, dealt with the loss of human lives on a daily basis, causing them serious emotional and physical overload.
As the pandemic gradually became more manageable, social workers played an instrumental role in working to get society back to as much a state of normalcy as possible.
An article presented by Oxford Academic detailed how social workers were able to literally create brand-new policy and initiatives in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible, as well as presenting issues that need to be addressed in a post-Covid-19 era.

Technology and Social Workers

With advances in technology, social workers increasingly find themselves armed with new weapons to use in their daily battles. While many people were forced to quarantine themselves during Covid-19, social workers were able to monitor home situations for abused and neglected children via computers and smartphones. Information is able to be shared quickly through different agencies through these devices, making data collection more efficient and less time-consuming.


The demanding nature of the social worker’s job makes it important to practice compassionate self-care on a consistent basis. Social workers are under daily stress and if the worker isn’t careful, that stress can eventually lead to burnout. A study published by the University of St. Catherine detailing social workers and burnout listed the symptoms of burnout as being exhausted emotionally, having low feelings of self-worth, displaying little interest in work, and feeling depersonalized.

Support System

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In order to stave off the effects of burnout, it’s important that a typical day of a social worker contain some sort of support system at the end of the day. Whether it’s relaxing in a warm bath or reading a book or spending time with friends and family, the social worker needs to remember to always take care of their mental health and to monitor their physical and emotional well-being.

Today’s typical day of a social worker will very likely be completely different from tomorrow’s typical day. There will be different challenges that need to be faced, different problems needing to be addressed, different reserves of mental, emotional, and physical strength to be called upon. Social workers understand how important their roles are to individuals and society and consistently find new ways to rise up and face each day with compassion, empathy, and perseverance.

What is the average salary of a social worker?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for a social worker is a little over $50,000 a year or about $24.26 per hour. Since there are different kinds of social workers, the pay scale also is varied. The more advanced and in-demand social workers, such as those needed in mental health areas, have higher salaries than those who are just basic social workers without a clear specialty.

Familiarity with the daily activities of a social worker allows a person to set some expectations for their future. The knowledge could also help a person determine if their particular strengths and preferences are well-suited to the routine job duties that social workers have. Understanding, “What is a typical day for a social worker?” facilitates the selection of classes, a major and the type of work environment for an individual who plans to earn a degree and license in order to be a social worker.

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