I'm in high school—what do I need to do?
Social work as a career field is growing rapidly. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 16% increase in jobs by the year 2026. That means there will be a lot of opportunities for you to enter this field after graduating from high school.
It’s never too early to start planning for your social work career. In fact, you can get started as early as your freshman year of high school. Here are three tips for high school students interested in social work.
1. Focus on your schoolworkTo be successful, social workers need a variety of skills, ranging from communication to foreign languages. Get a head start by studying hard in these classes:
- Public speaking or debate: If you become a social worker, you’ll need to communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds. By becoming a confident public speaker, you’ll gain the skills needed to communicate effectively with any community member who needs your help.
- Government: Taking this course will provide a foundation for understanding the history, structure, and functions of government. You can apply your understanding when voting, advocating for others, and speaking publicly.
- Foreign languages (especially Spanish): There are an estimated 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the United States, and another 11.6 million people are bilingual Spanish speakers. Work on your Spanish skills so you're prepared to ensure that all community members get the support they need, whether they speak English or Spanish.
- Mathematics (especially statistics): Managing data is essential for social workers. A strong base in social sciences and statistics will help you gain the knowledge you’ll need to assess the efficacy of treatment plans, services, and programs.
- Psychology: Take an introductory psychology class to learn the basics and begin to understand what leads people to act the way they do. Then continue with advanced psychology courses when you’re in college.
|The social work community is all about helping people, and volunteering is an excellent way to do just that. Your local community is bound to be full of volunteer opportunities. Consider contacting hospitals, schools, or other community organizations that may need help. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to learn more about what social workers do, which will prepare you for the field education (or internship) component of a social work degree.
Additionally, some high schools offer peer counseling programs. Volunteering as a student peer counselor can introduce you to the skills and information needed to build effective mentoring relationships and provide a foundation for a career in social work. Speak to your high school guidance counselor to see what options are available in your school.
3. Plan aheadWhen creating your list of colleges of interest, make sure each university/college has an accredited social work program. Browse the Council on Social Work Education’s Directory of Accredited Programs to see which schools and programs are accredited. Then, you can start researching programs and build a plan to knock the applications and requirements out of the park by the time you are applying for college.
As you can see, there’s no reason to wait until college or graduate school to get started on your social work path. Start today, and you’ll be well on the way to a great career of helping others!