A career as a social worker can be extremely rewarding. If you’re considering getting into this field, have you considered exploring the career of a pediatric social worker? Unlike some other areas of social work, pediatric social work focuses primarily on children and families. Children are among the most vulnerable populations, which is why this type of social work is always in high demand.
But following this career path requires some specific education and training. We’ll look at what steps you should take to succeed as a pediatric social worker. We’ll also look at the overall job outlook to show you that this career is psychologically rewarding and can also be financially rewarding.
Key career development steps
When you’re sifting through lists of careers, the options can be overwhelming. It can be confusing just to figure out what all a specific career requires. To clarify things, let’s break down some of the key career development steps for pediatric social work.
- Get a bachelor’s degree: Think about majoring in social work. It’s not uncommon for psychology and sociology majors to pursue pediatric social work, either.
- Get some real-world experience: The best way to set yourself up for success is to combine your academic knowledge with real-world experience. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to look for entry-level jobs specializing in pediatric social work. While they might not be the most glamorous, they will help you solidify your understanding of what it takes to master the skills you need to succeed.
- Get a master’s degree: After getting some experience under your belt, you should head back to academia to polish off your learning. A master’s degree is pretty much must-have if you want to pursue this career. While it might sound daunting, it’s a worthwhile challenge. Find a school that offers a pediatric-oriented master of social work degree.
- Get your license: Most states require a license for professional social workers. The requirements for licensure vary by state. Get familiar with what your state requires. For most states, a master’s degree is mandatory with at least two years’ experience (~3000 hours) to qualify for licensure eligibility.
What is a pediatric social worker?
A pediatric social worker differs from other social work specializations. If you choose to pursue this career, you’ll be working closely with children and family units to improve their lives. It’s not uncommon to find pediatric social workers in schools, hospitals, and counseling centers.
There are many different issues that pediatric social workers look for when they work with children. From adoption to homelessness, you’ll find that this job encompasses a wide range of child welfare focuses. The following list is not comprehensive, but shows some of the things you’ll be looking for:
- Poverty and its impacts on education and nutrition
- Chronic medical issues
- Trauma and grief counseling
- Adoption/foster care
The best part of being a pediatric social worker is the rewarding experience of improving children’s lives. Some days, you might be counseling children on how to cope with grief or trauma. On others, you might be working with children to match them with the perfect set of adoptive parents. This is especially true if you decide to work as part of a practice focused on counseling.
Pediatric social work requirements, skills, and experience
Pediatric social work isn’t for everyone. It requires a unique set of work requirements, skills, and experience. Working with children every day requires a skill set that can’t always be taught. While there are many things that formal education can teach you, here are a few of the soft skills you need to focus on to be the most effective pediatric social worker:
- Listening, learning, and interpreting
- Empathy and compassion
- Ethical professionalism
In addition to these soft skills, you’ll also need formal education a few years of experience before you can get licensed as a professional. You will need to obtain both and bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In most states, this means you’ll need to work at least 3000 hours under the supervision of a qualified pediatric social worker. For some specialties, like becoming a child therapist or counselor, you might need a doctoral degree.
What do pediatric social workers do?
If you think pediatric social work is limited to government jobs, think again. There is a wide variety of positions that you can hold. From schools to hospice centers, you’ll be able to find a job that fits your passion and leaves you feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.
A day in the life of a pediatric social worker can be challenging. You often work side by side with medical teams to coordinate the best plan of medical action. You might also play a role in crisis interventions and emotional counseling.
Not only are you often facing an uphill battle to improve the lives of your patients, but you might also run into obstacles within the medical administrative system. As many professionals will attest to, the challenges can make your days difficult, but it makes the rewards that much sweeter.
Pediatric social worker job description
Interested in what a job might look like for you? Here’s a real-life example of a pediatric social worker job posting:
Counselor – pediatric mental health
The therapist will be responsible for providing individual psychotherapy for children of all ages, family psychotherapy, and timely and thorough clinical documentation.
Qualifications for this position include:
1. A master’s degree or higher from a university program leading to licensure as a mental health professional (master’s in professional counseling or master’s in social work.)
2. CPR and First Aid Certification.
3. Excellent team membership skills and a positive attitude to complement our fine team.
Job Type: Full-time
- Dental insurance
- Health insurance
- Paid time off
- Vision insurance
- Schedule: Monday to Friday
- License: Licensed professional counselor, a licensed professional clinical counselor, or licensed clinical social worker. LPC or LPCC
If you’re looking into becoming a pediatric social worker, you probably understand the importance of supporting mental health. But, if you’d rather focus on another aspect of this career field, there is a vast amount of jobs available for different interests.
Instead of focusing on therapy, you might pursue a job as a child medical social worker. Or you might be interested in a position as a pediatric case manager. Whatever your interests, you are bound to find a job that fits you within this broad field of study.
Certificates or special training required for pediatric social work
Formal education is a must if you want to be a pediatric social worker. In addition to a bachelor’s and master’s degree, you will also need the following licenses and certifications:
- Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker (CAPSW): This is the post-master’s degree licensure that all social workers are required to pass.
- Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Master’s level exam: After you complete practical experience and finish your master’s degree, you will need to sit and pass this exam for licensure in your state.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker: States also have specific licensing requirements to become a licensed clinical social worker.
- Certified Independent Practice Social Worker (CIPSW): This is often the highest licensure level you can obtain. In addition to passing the ASWB, you will also need more practical experience and a certain amount of supervised work hours to qualify.
Before committing to a certification program, check to see what is required in your area. Even if it’s not required, you might find that additional certifications can help increase your salary or increase your appeal to potential employers.
Outlook for pediatric social work
In general, the need for social workers will continue to grow. However, in pediatric social work alone, the numbers are staggering. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for pediatric and child social workers is projected to increase by over 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. The growth in demand in this sector is well above average (nearly twice as much) and is projected to add nearly 45,000 new jobs during this decade.
How much do pediatric social workers make?
The starting salaries for pediatric social workers are relatively comparable to other social workers’ salaries. The average starting salary for an entry-level job is around $28,000. While this might not seem like enough, there are several ways that you can continue to grow your salary as you build experience.
With each degree earned, the average salary increases. The average salary for professionals with bachelor’s degrees is $46,872. Professionals with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees can earn up to $80,000. Additionally, those that pursue doctoral degrees for psychiatry and counseling purposes might earn even more than that.