What Does a Case Worker Do? (With Education, Skills and Salary)
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Case workers generally help to improve the lives of others in the community. They often assist a community's most vulnerable members, which can require case workers to be compassionate, empathetic and pragmatic. If you enjoy helping people in your community, it may be a good career path for you to consider. In this article, we answer the question 'what does a case worker do?', explore some of their relevant skills and provide a guide on how you can become one.
What does a case worker do?
To answer the question 'what does a case worker do?', a case worker helps their clients access the support they need which may improve their situation. For example, a case worker may regularly visit their client's home to ensure they're coping well. They may also set specific goals that they can periodically monitor to determine how their client is progressing. Alternate job titles for case workers include social worker and case manager.
Case workers usually spend a lot of their workday out of the office, visiting clients in their homes. When case workers are in the office, they can complete administrative work. Being a case worker may require resilience, courage and hard work because the bulk of the role commonly involves helping to change peoples' lives.
Typical tasks of a case worker
Given the broad range of services that fall within the remit of a caseworker, daily activities can vary widely depending on the type of client and the issues they are facing. Usually, tasks involve helping people face-to-face and then following up each discussion with the appropriate administrative support required.
Some examples of the types of tasks you might expect as a case worker can include:
Conducting home visits: Case workers can perform home visits to examine a client's living circumstance.
Documenting and reporting: Case workers may record evidence and report any abuse, neglect or other illegal activity to the appropriate authorities.
Conducting risk assessments: These professionals can asses risk for anyone who may need protection (for example, young people).
Providing information: Case workers can offer educational information on public resources and referral programs that may help to improve a client's situation.
Offering counselling support: Case workers can provide counselling to their clients on creating a safer, healthier and more productive home environment.
Listening to clients: These professionals can listen to clients to ensure they understand their clients' situation and needs.
Liaising with Community Services: They can coordinate support services after liaising with Community Services when required (for example, housing, training or employment services).
Advocating for clients: Case workers can advocate for their clients to community services, government and public interest groups.
Responding to client emergencies: They can respond to any emergencies, which may occur outside of standard business hours.
Creating safety and wellbeing plans: Case workers can create plans for at-risk clients for ongoing review and assessment to ensure their clients' safety and wellbeing.
Attending court proceedings: They may prepare court documents, provide evidence and attend court.
Do case workers specialise in distinct industries?
A case worker can specialise in supporting people experiencing a range of social problems. They may work within several different community services, for example, family services, aged care or youth support.
Depending on what area of the community a case worker supports, their responsibilities and tasks might vary. For example, a case worker involved in supporting a child may work with the child's parents to help improve the overall quality of their home life by offering guidance, support and education. A caseworker specialising in drug or alcohol addiction can organise rehabilitation programs and counselling support.
Related: 15 Important Jobs that Help People
How to become a case worker
Here are the steps you can take to pursue a career as a case worker:
1. Pursue education
A formal qualification is not necessarily required, although many employers may prefer candidates to have a diploma or a degree. Here are some of the qualifications you can consider:
TAFE certificate or diploma
You may consider completing a TAFE certificate or diploma. Many of these types of courses can provide you with beneficial skills for working in a role within community services. Usually, there are no minimum admission requirements.
You may have several different options for undertaking a bachelor's degree, which can include Applied Social Science (Community Services), Community Services or Social Work. These courses can take three to four years to complete, with entry requirements typically based on completing year 12 (or via special permission). These types of courses often offer a fully guided practical component, allowing students to get real-life experience in a work setting. Placement programs can help students understand what areas of specialisation they may wish to consider once they graduate.
Completing a master's degree can demonstrate to potential employers your commitment to working and advancing in the industry. It can also provide access to new role opportunities. For example, you may consider becoming a licensed clinical social worker, a school social worker or a health care social worker.
2. Become a member of the Australian Association of Social Worker
Some employers may specify in the job description they require caseworkers (or social workers) to be members of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). Membership is usually available to candidates who have completed an approved qualification from a university or an overseas course that the AASW recognises as comparable. Having membership essentially means that the AASW has assessed you, which can give potential employers satisfaction with your level of qualifications.
3. Organise your Working with Children Check (WWCC)
If you plan to work with children, a WWCC is typically a requirement for any paid or voluntary work. Each state usually has their version of a WWCC and different application processes. For example, in New South Wales, it's called the WWCC and in Queensland, it's referred to as a Blue Card. All states generally conduct the checks as a safety precaution for anyone working with children.
4. Gain relevant work experience
Next, you can gain relevant work experience. Being a case worker is a job that usually relies heavily on problem-solving and analytical skills in natural world settings. Gaining experience in different specialist community settings can allow you to build on your knowledge and determine what areas of specialisation may be a good fit for you.
5. Develop essential administrative skills
Being a good administrator and having good organisation skills is generally a critical element to being a successful case worker. If you're considering improving your computer skills, it may be worth investigating some local computer literacy courses that you can complete. Local libraries can be a good resource and may offer free courses.
6. Work on your resume
When creating your resume, it may be helpful to emphasise relevant skills, highlighting the specific abilities that you believe make you a successful caseworker. You can include your interpersonal skills, organisational aptitude and ability to work well under pressure. You may consider highlighting relevant work and volunteer experience with at-risk individuals, including outcomes that demonstrate your impact.
Skills a good case worker may need
Helping people who may be in complicated situations can require a wide range of soft skills. Some of the main skills that can be critical for a case worker to have might include:
Empathy: High levels of empathy (and emotional intelligence) can be important for being a case worker. Understanding a clients' situation so that you can try to offer practical ways to support them can be a vital part of the role.
Cultural awareness (and sensitivity): Having a good understanding of cultural differences (and respect for those differences) can help to build relationships based on mutual respect and trust.
Organisation: Case workers often work with multiple clients with a variety of different needs and schedules. Because of this, organisation skills can be an essential skill to help ensure no missed meetings or problems occur.
Analytical thinking and problem solving: Having the ability to problem-solve in time-critical situations can be useful, as can having the ability to analyse all the information you have to help you make informed decisions.
Communication: A large part of a case worker's role can be to communicate effectively with clients and their families. Having good communication skills as a case worker often helps clients to understand the options available to them.
Administrative skills: A large part of the role can consist of administrative duties. Good administrative skills can help you ensure that files are up to date, notes are present from each meeting and outcomes are recorded accurately.
How much do case workers earn?
The average salary of a case worker is $80,576 per year. Salaries may vary, depending on where you live and your level of education. Other considerations affecting salary include your type of specialisation and the amount of experience you have.
Related: Your Guide to Careers in Counselling
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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