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Medical Social Worker


Medical social workers help patients and their families who are in the midst of a medical crisis. There are quite a few areas you can go into—pediatrics or geriatrics, inpatient or mental health care, hospice or palliative, and more. You may want to specialize even further in a micro-niche such as neonatal or organ transplant. It’s OK if you don’t already have an area in mind: Those are decisions you reach either during your educational process or once you’ve been working for awhile.

Medical social work can be extremely hectic and emotional. If you’re good at keeping your feelings in check and your files organized, then medical or clinical social work could be the career for you.

What Medical Social Workers Do

Medical social work is also called clinical social work, and the most popular specialty in this branch of the field is mental health. In fact, almost half of the counselors seeing patients for mental health-related issues are medical/clinical social workers, and the rest of psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians. Regardless of the specialty, most medical social workers have similar duties, which are to:

  • Collaborate with the patient’s medical team.
  • Perform patient assessment.
  • Help to develop a plan of action around the patient’s care.
  • Inform and educate the patient’s family and other caregivers on the plan.
  • In some instances, make living arrangements, whether permanent or temporary, for the patient.
  • Help with patient discharge and follow-up care.

Your patients will run the gamut. They may be homeless, or on the verge of discharge from the hospital.

What your actual duties are will depend on where you work and your level of experience. Most often, you’ll be put on a case at the request of a physician, especially if you work in a hospital environment.

How To Become A Medical Social Worker

Most hiring managers will look for candidates with a master’s degree in social work. You have a few different options if you want to become a medical social worker.

  • Graduate from high school or get your GED.
  • Get your bachelor’s in social work from an accredited program.
  • OR, you can get a bachelor’s in a related field such as psychology or sociology.
  • At this point, you may be able to find employment as a caseworker or mental health assistant. If you’re wanting to be a clinical social worker, then you’ll gain some experience and head off to an accredited master’s degree program.
  • Your program will require fieldwork, so you’ll have to have an internship or some other type of supervised work-related experience.
  • A master’s in social work will take two years to complete; this includes your supervised internship.

You do NOT need a bachelor’s in social work to enter the master’s degree program; most other related fields are accepted. There are some programs that, with a bachelor’s in social work, will allow you to complete your master’s in one year. All programs MUST be accredited, or you will not be eligible to get your license to practice.

Other Types Of Social Work Specialties

There are quite a few areas of specialty for social workers to consider, beyond medical. All will still need bachelor’s and master’s in social work to find employment.

  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Work
  • Child and Family Social Work
  • School Social Work
  • Healthcare Social Work
  • Military and Veterans Social Work
  • Community Social Work
  • Criminal Justice Social Work
  • Palliative and Hospice Social Work
  • Administration, Policy, and Research Social Work
  • Gerontology Social Work
  • Psychiatric Social Work
  • Pediatric Social Work

Every specialty has its own unique client base. Licensing for each specialty is required, and differs in each state. Check with your state’s boards to find out exactly what you’ll need to do.

Job Outlook And Salary Of Medical Social Workers

Social work careers across the board are expected to grow 16 percent through 2026, which means there will be more than 109,000 new positions opening during that time. Specific to medical social work, there is an expected 35,400 new jobs that will be available. The growth is due to an increase in demand for medical workers of all types.

The salary range for medical social work in the U.S. is between $56,000 and $67,000, with the average falling at $62,249. The salary you’ll receive will be determined by the amount of experience you have, which industry you’re in, and what state you live in.