Last month we discussed the family and community social work track. This month, we will explore social work careers within the school system. Many universities offer specialties and certifications in school social work and many, but not all, school districts require such credentials to practice within a school setting. School social work is a dynamic specialty that addresses social, economic, and family issues within the context of academic achievement. School social workers are an important part of the academic communities of elementary, middle, and high schools. School social work may involve social education, counseling, and acting as a community liaison.
Often times, social workers in schools work as “Social Educators”. In this capacity, school social workers are charged with creating programming and educational series meant to help foster a positive social environment for students. Social education is a broad distinction that can include everything from anti-bullying campaigns to sexual education. Ideally, teachers, administrators, and other staff members would play an important role in implementing these programs, as well. An example of the collaboration school social workers and teachers may have is a “sex education” class. While it may be appropriate for a biology or anatomy teacher to explain the physical effects of sexual activity, social workers have expertise in explaining the social and emotional impact of sexual activity.
Another aspect of school social work may be counseling. As public schools face increasing financial strain, social workers may be increasingly looked upon to provide services traditionally reserved for guidance counselors and school psychologists. Though many schools still employ guidance counselors and psychologists, some depend on school social workers to provide academic guidance and counseling services. Depending on the school district, social workers in these capacities may require additional certifications in counseling or mental health. A school social worker may also be required to hold an education certification or degree in order to provide the services of a guidance counselor. School social workers may perform counseling services to individuals or to groups. Children who are experiencing behavioral or emotional difficulties may also be referred to the school social worker for counseling services.
The final aspect of school social work that we will discuss is that of a community liaison. Though the word “school” is a part of the professional title, school social workers are not limited to working inside the confines of a school building. School social workers often work with community partners to provide a wide array of resources for students and their families. School social workers may provide referrals to community camps, food pantries, and career services, etc.
School social workers are important parts of the academic community. These special social workers have expertise in providing students with the social, emotional, and community supports that they need to have a greater chance at achieving personal and academic success. School social workers should be creative, approachable, and collaborative. If you enjoy interdisciplinary work with children and families, in a school setting, school social work may be for you.