Medical and Public Health Social Workers Overview
Job prospects for medical and public health social workers are projected to be favorable, especially in rural areas and for those specializing in the aging population. About 54 percent of jobs are found in social assistance and healthcare while 31 percent are in government. Employment should grow faster than average. Most medical and public health social workers need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level work, but a masters degree is often required for more advanced positions.
Nature of the Work for Medical and Public Health Social Workers
Medical and public health social workers must have a strong desire to improve other’s lives. They help the cope with issues and solve them whether personal problems or relationship issues. Medical and public health social workers may work with clients who have life-threatening diseases or a disability for example. Social workers sometimes conduct research, get involved in policy development or advocate for improved services. With a state mandated license, medical and public health social workers may be called licensed clinical social workers.
To help individuals, families or vulnerable populations cope with terminal, chronic or acute illness such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, medical and public health social workers provide psychological support. They may help plan for a patient’s post-hospital life, counsel patients or advise family caregivers. On occasion medical and public health social workers need to arrange for at-home services such as care or meals-on-wheels. Some work on a specific population such as organ transplant patients or geriatric care.
Some medical and public health social workers may specialize in services for senior citizens and their families. They run support groups for adult children of aging patients and coordinate and monitor services including transportation, long-term care and housing. Often these medical and public health social workers are referred to as gerontological social workers.
Jobs for medical and public health social workers are usually found at hospitals, governments, individual and family services agencies and nursing and personal care facilities.
Typically, medical and public health social workers work in an office or residential facility. However, sometimes they must travel locally to meet patients or attend meetings. Even though the job is satisfying, it’s often filled with stress and challenges. Many organizations are understaffed adding heavy caseloads to medical and public health social workers. A 40-hour workweek is common, but night and weekend hours are typical occasionally, too.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Medical and Public Health Social Workers
Usually to start work as a medical and public health social workers, a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is needed. Sociology, psychology and related fields sometimes suffice at the entry level. For advanced positions, medical and public health social workers need an advanced degree. A masters degree in social work (MSW) is required for medical and public health social workers in health settings and required for clinical work. The same goes for supervisory, administrative and staff training positions.
Masters degree programs usually allows students to take a course load of concentration in their chosen field, such as medical and public health social workers. This way, they can learn to manage large caseloads, perform clinical assessments, explore new social services methods and take on supervisory roles. These programs take 2 to 4 years. Students do not need a BSW to enroll but a background in sociology, biology, political science, economics, social work and psychology is recommended.
Some form of license, certification or registration is required in all states. Most states require 2 years or 3,000 hours of experience for medical and public health social workers to become licensed. However, states vary, so prospective medical and public health social workers should check on state requirements.
In addition, medical and public health social workers should be sensitive, objective and emotionally mature. They must be able to handle responsibility, maintain good working relationships and work independently. Paid or volunteer positions as a social work aide can give medical and public health social workers a taste of the job before committing to a degree.
With experience and an advanced degree medical and public health social workers can advance to supervisor, assistant director, executive director or program manager positions. Others may go into private practice, providing psychotherapy.
Top 10 Most Popular Social Work Schools
1. Springfield College (Springfield, Massachusetts)
2. New York University (New York, New York)
3. Columbia University in the City of New York (New York, New York)
4. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
5. Fordham University, Bronx (Bronx, New York)
6. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California)
7. Indiana University, Bloomington (Bloomington, Indiana)
8. SUNY Empire State College (Saratoga Springs, New York)
9. Metropolitan College of New York (New York, New York)
10. Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis (Indianapolis, Indiana)
See All Social Work Schools
Online School: Saint Leo University Online
Employment and Job Outlook for Medical and Public Health Social Workers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).
About 642,000 social workers have jobs and 138,700 of them are medical and public health social workers. Most work in cities or suburbs.
Medical and public health social workers should see an employment jump of about 22 percent, which is much faster than average for all occupations, and faster than most social work specialties as well. One of the biggest reasons for this growth is the rise of the elderly population. The aging population and their families will rely on medical and public health social workers to help find the best care and assistance and provide support. A background in gerontology, therefore, should lead to excellent employment opportunities, especially as the number of senior-living and assisted-living communities grows. The demand for medical and public health social workers in long-term care facilities, hospices, home care agencies and nursing homes will increase as well.
In addition, many jobs will arise due to workers leaving the occupation. Competition will be greater in cities where social worker training programs are prevalent. A background in gerontology will lead to some of the best job opportunities in social work.
Earnings and Salary for Medical and Public Health Social Workers
The median annual wages for medical and public health social workers are $46,300. The highest 10 percent earn above $71,190, the lowest 10 percent earn under $28,600 and the middle 50 percent earn between $36,090 and $58,490. Broken down by the top industries employing medical and public health social workers, wages are as follows:
Individual and family services: $38,370
Nursing care facilities: $41,080
Local government: $44,140
Home health care services: $46,930
General medical and surgical hospitals: $51,470
Annual Salary for Medical and Public Health Social Workers
On average, Medical and Public Health Social Workers earn $46,300 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook