If you enjoy helping others through life challenges, social work may be for you. Social workers provide direct service to help people with their daily lives, or they offer clinical services to diagnose and treat emotional, behavior and mental health problems. While you may find social work work very rewarding, you must be aware of ethical issues present in this field. Most social work licensing boards follow the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Failure to follow ethics standards can result in losing your job or even criminal charges.
Keep Your Boundaries
Social workers set boundaries with clients to avoid inappropriate relationships. You should avoid having dual relationships with current and past clients, such as a friendship, romance or business relationship. Never share personal information with clients such as your private phone number or home address. Be careful not to develop dependency by doing too much for your client or using your own funds to help them out.
Social workers interact with a variety of individuals from different walks of life. As you work with clients, be respectful of religious or cultural practices. Never impose your own beliefs and opinions on clients. You should be accepting of clients who have a lower standard of living or poor personal hygiene. If you need to address their living conditions or self care, do so in a respectful way to maintain your client's dignity and self worth.
Social work providers learn very private and intimate details of their clients' personal lives. Never divulge client information to family and friends. If you provide services to different family members or have clients that know one another, never share information or discuss the other client. If your employer allows you to take documentation out of the office, always secure it in a locked bag or briefcase to prevent others from reading private information. When it is necessary to share client information with other service providers such as doctors or schools, follow relevant regulations and your employer's protocol to obtain your client's consent first.
It is very important for social workers to accurately document their work with clients. Intentional falsification of records is almost always grounds for termination. You need complete documentation in the event another social worker works with your client or if a judge subpenas records. If you believe a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, or feel a client is in danger of harming herself or others, you must notify proper authorities as well as clearly document your reasons for concern.
2016 Salary Information for Social Workers
Social workers earned a median annual salary of $47,460 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, social workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,790, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $60,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 682,000 people were employed in the U.S. as social workers.
- National Association of Social Workers: NASW Office of Ethics and Professional Review
- National Association of Social Workers: Code of Ethics
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers
- Career Trend: Social Workers
Sharon O'Neil has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published on various websites, including Walden University's Think+Up. She has worked in international business and is a licensed customs broker. She is currently a supervisor with a social service agency that works with families to prevent child abuse and neglect. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University.