Autism Social Worker

With about one in 54 children diagnosed with autism every year, the need for social workers with special skills or expertise in this area has never been greater. Social workers can be grouped into two categories based on their education and experience, and workers from both categories are needed to help families with autistic members.

Workers in the first category are referred to as bachelor’s social workers, and people in the second category are called master’s or clinical social workers. Social workers in the second category have additional expertise and clinical experience, so they can work directly with doctors and medical staff to determine the needs of an autistic person. Bachelor’s social workers do not have the experience to treat or diagnose illnesses, but they can help the families of autistic people acquire the resources they need for a comfortable and secure life.

Related resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Salary

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for social workers is $47,980. Half of all social workers earn more than that amount, and half earn less. As a new bachelor’s social worker, you can expect to start out earning around $30,000 to $40,000 per year. With advanced education and training, you can expect to earn $80,000 or more.

Clinical social workers earn the highest salaries because they have the most extensive education, the most clinical experience, and the training and expertise needed to meet the special needs of autism patients. Social workers at the high end of the pay scale may need to work long hours and take on additional responsibilities such as communicating with medical staff around the clock and staying in touch with the autistic patients they serve.

Key Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a social worker are clear-cut and straightforward. A social worker’s job is very important for disadvantaged people who require assistance obtaining the resources they need for everyday life. One of a social worker’s key responsibilities is to identify people who need assistance, beginning with the most vulnerable members of the community. Often, the people most in need of help are burdened with many problems that they don’t know how to manage. These are the people social workers interact with most often. As a social worker specializing in serving autistic people, your main responsibility will be to assist low-income families with autistic children. Many families lack the means to properly care for children, and social workers try to ease this burden by locating resources and services for families to take advantage of. When parents are unable to care for their children, a social worker may need to begin the process of putting the child into foster care.

Necessary Skills

Social workers who work with autistic patients need to be very organized and observant. The job of a social worker is to pick up the slack of people who are struggling, so social workers can’t afford to be disorganized or forgetful. They also need to be very knowledgeable about community resources and assistance programs available for people who need help. Part of a social worker’s job is to find people who are vulnerable and in need, so investigative research is another must-have skill. Other essential skills include communicating effectively, dealing with people, planning and strategizing, and writing clearly. It can also be a big help to speak a foreign language or two as many of the people in need of assistance are immigrants.

Degree and Education Requirements

Becoming a bachelor’s social worker requires a four-year bachelor’s degree, and becoming a master’s social worker requires bachelor’s and master’s degrees. To become a licensed clinical social worker, you must have a master’s degree as well as two years of clinical training under the supervision of a senior clinical social worker. A college degree program in social work provides students with the training and knowledge needed to begin working in their communities immediately after college. A master’s degree qualifies a social worker to take on more responsibility than a bachelor’s social worker, but additional training and certification is needed to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Pros and Cons of the Position

The profession of social work is ideal for compassionate people who love dealing with other people throughout their workday. The benefits of this job are the relative autonomy of social workers, the meaningful work they do, and the gratitude of the people they help. A few of the drawbacks include the potentially long hours, somewhat stressful work, and slightly low pay. Obtaining advanced education can lead to salary increases and additional responsibility. Most people who enter the field of social work find that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, so they stay in the profession and continue to do the work.

Getting Started

To get started in the field of social work, you must obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you’re enrolled in a social work degree program, you can get started by applying for internships and working with experienced social workers in the field. If you’re currently in high school, a good way to begin preparing for a career in social work is to take as many advanced placement courses as possible and study hard to earn the highest score you can on your exams and standardized tests. The better prepared you are for college, the more you’ll learn throughout your post-secondary education.

Future Outlook

The field of social work is projected to grow by 16 percent over the next 10 years, according to the BLS. This rate is much faster than average. The increased need for social workers will be driven by an aging population with greater health care needs as well as increased standards of care for disadvantaged people. Social work is one of the professions that cannot be affected by automation because it is completely reliant on face-to-face contact between social workers and vulnerable members of the community, especially in cases dealing with autism. The barrier to entry into this profession is relatively low, and the potential for advancement is very good.

When it comes to working with people who need help, no one is better suited to the job than a social worker. With better diagnoses and treatment for autism, more social workers will be needed to work with families and individuals affected by this condition.