Healthcare social workers help clients suffering from health issues understand and cope with a diagnosis and make any necessary lifestyle changes. They provide information about health care services and support groups that can help clients manage and cope with their illness or disease. Healthcare social workers may specialize in gerontological social work, which focuses on the needs of senior citizens and their families, or hospice and palliative care, which focuses on patients with serious or terminal health complications. Some general responsibilities of healthcare social workers include:
- Assist patients with a diagnosed medical condition with any necessary lifestyle, housing, or health care changes
- Provide patients with information about home health care and support groups
- Help doctors and other medical professionals understand the emotional impact disease and illness on a patient's mental and emotional health
- Help patients and families plan for potential health problems
The BLS predicts faster than average job growth in the next decade for social workers. As the world's population over 60 years of age grows, doubling to 22% by 2050, the need for healthcare social workers who can assist aging baby boomers with health-related issues will also increase.
Job Growth for
Healthcare Social Worker
- Annual Pay National Average
- Hourly Pay National Average
Becoming a Healthcare Social Worker
Healthcare social workers, like all clinical social workers, must hold a master's degree in social work (MSW) and be state-licensed. MSW degree programs typically take two years to complete. Online MSW degree programs without a supervised, on-ground residency requirement are not sufficient for licensure as a clinical social worker. More information about licensing requirements by state is available from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
Online master's degree programs in social work will include a supervised residency requirement. The University of Southern California (USC) offers a highly-ranked online master's of social work degree with a concentration on health to students anywhere in the country. Students can complete the program's residency requirements in their community. Some of the foundation courses in USC's master's of social work program include:
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Policy and Practice in Social Service Organizations
- Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families
- Social Work Practice with Groups and Complex Cases
After licensure, additional certification can provide healthcare social workers with career opportunities and advancement. The National Association of Social Workers offers three credentials and seven specialty certifications for social work degree holders. Be aware that certification can enhance but does not take the place of state-licensure.