It’s fairly common knowledge that the health field has some of the best paying jobs, brightest career futures, and strongest professional benefits. It also offers people the chance to enjoy knowing that they have had a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of others. But there are numerous areas that one can enter within the field, including a career as a public health social worker.
These professionals help work towards improving the health of their community, and it is a unique position within the health field that more people are taking a look at. If you think that you may want to become a public health social worker, keep reading to find out more about what it involves and what it may offer you.
What Is a Public Health Social Worker?
A public health social worker is a type of social worker who concentrates on working with groups of populations and communities instead of in a one on one setting. While traditional social workers focus on helping individuals or families who are having difficulty for one reason or another, a public health social worker focuses on improving the overall wellbeing of everyone in a community through a variety of different methods.
The different things that public health social workers may focus on include overcoming issues like teen pregnancy, substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, poor educational opportunities, and more.
Job duties for these professionals may include:
- Assessing current health and wellbeing situations in a community and determining problem areas
- Developing programs and educational resources that can assist in combating different issues. Examples include outreach programs, prevention programs, and more.
- Implementing and monitoring those programs in order to ensure that the right improvement is gained
- Coordinate with community governments, health organizations, and nonprofits in order to better serve the community
There are some specific personal characteristics that can help one thrive as a public health social worker. Education and training from a respected school will make the biggest impact, but some personal traits can certainly help one thrive even more in the position.
Here are some areas that it helps to be strong in if entering the public health field as a social worker.
- Empathy – Simply put, being able to empathize with those that you’re helping is important for maintaining the motivation needed to excel in the job.
- Good Communication Skills – Public health social workers discuss scenarios and plans with others in the field and also educate the public about initiatives. As such, they should be able to communicate effectively in the written word and through speaking.
- Strong Organizational Abilities – Those who work in this field must manage a large amount of information and their own reports. As such, being able to effectively organize is a must.
- Good Self Confidence – Part of a social worker’s job is to develop programs and policies that will impact the entire community. As such, it’s important that those in the field have the self-confidence needed to develop these strategies and have faith in them.
Nature of the Work
The majority of the work a public health social worker will do involves studying data, statistics, and research. Interviews with the community and direct research may be required as well. The information gathered is then used to determine what major issues exist and how they can be remedied.
The social worker will take the data and develop programs, educational resources, and outreach plans that can help overcome community health and wellness issues. For instance, nutritional education may be set up to combat a community’s childhood obesity issue. Outreach centers may be set up to help with substance abuse. Those in the field will regularly meet with community leaders and local governments to help further develop and implement the strategies that they come up with.
Education and Training
In order to enter the field as a public health social worker, the primary requisite will be completion of a bachelor’s degree program and licensure. However, many governments prefer those with master’s degrees over those with bachelor’s degrees, and usually completion of more than 1,000 hours of fieldwork will be required to earn a master’s degree in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average salaries for those in this field are roughly $51,460 annually. Specific wages will vary depending on location, employer, experience, and more.